Yes, that is Everclear.
Yes, that is 2250 ml of Everclear on my kitchen counter.
Yes, that is two and a quarter liters of the hard stuff.
There is a big fat warning on the front label that states "overconsumption may endanger your health".
The guy at the liquor store told me not to take shots of it because it will burn my esophagus. Dude, do I really look like the kind of gal who is interested in taking shots of 190 Proof grain alcohol? I can hardly take a shot of a Buttery Nipple. Puh-leeze. I prefer to slowly nurse my Buttery Nipple.
To make up for the terrible cookie baking experiment the night before, I decided to host a Krupnikas making party to help ring in the season. You see, Krupnikas is a traditional Lithuanian spiced honey liqueur that my father always served after dinner on Christmas Eve.
In recent years, he began crafting his own Krupnikas and had gifted us with a few bottles here and there.
We slowly began sharing it with friends over the same recent years at poker parties and the like. This stuff is not for everyone. It'll grow hair on your chest, friends. Clearly there are plenty of men in our lives who don't mind the extra hair.
And so began a small cult following of the pungent sweet stuff. And before I knew it, these Krupnikas aficionados began asking to craft their own. So there we were, a week before Christmas, brewing our own spiced honey liqueur.
We laughed about the drink causing the women to make funny faces upon every tiny sip.
We dreamed up t-shirts with Krupnikas slogans for next year's party.
We even found a few memorabilia items pre-designed at Cafe Press.
And we started the kitchen on fire.
Someone calmly said, "Is that a fire in your oven?" To which I replied, "FIRE. FIRE. SALT. SALT. Where's the SALT? Get the SALT." And then proceeded to dump half the container over the open flames rising from the basin of my oven. And then the fire concern was over and done with for just a moment.
(This recipe is adapted from the heirloom cookbook Popular Lithuanian Recipes by Josephine Dauzvardis.)
1 TBS caraway seeds
10 whole allspice
2 sticks cinnamon
1 stick vanilla
4 thin slices ginger
10 cardamom pods
3 strips orange rind
3 strips lemon rind
pinch of saffron
4 cups water
2 lbs clover honey
1 quart grain alcohol
Side note: If you have any questions about Everclear being gluten-free check out this post at No Gluten No Problem. This cleared a few things up for me on the "grain alcohol" concern.
Crack cardamom pods, nutmeg, and cinnamon with mortar and pestle. Or pound on them with a rolling pin. Either way.
Place caraway seeds, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, cardamom pods and nutmeg in heavy stock pot. Roast dry spices over medium heat until fragrant.
Add 2 cups water and remaining ingredients EXCEPT the honey and alcohol.
Mark your wooden spoon with the water line. This is where you will boil the water down to.
Add remaining 2 cups of water. Cover and boil over medium heat. Check on the water level regularly. When it gets to the mark on your spoon, it is ready to be strained.
In a separate pot, boil the honey. A foam will collect at the top. Skim this off.
Now pour the spiced liquid into the honey. Stir to combine. Allow it to cool just a bit.
Here's the heart racing part of the recipe and perhaps the most fun. Remove the heavy pot as far away from the heat source as possible. You can expect explosions, fires and other panic inducing scenarios if you don't heed this advice. Slowly pour in the alcohol. Stir to combine.
Replace the pot on the stovetop on very low heat. Simply heat the mixture for 15 minutes. But be careful not to simmer or boil.
Remove from heat. Cool. Pour into glass bottles.
Allow to sit overnight. In the morning you will see a thick sediment collected at the bottom. Filter this sediment out with a coffee filter and paper towel before you allow the bottle to age. The sediment is very fine.
Age a minimum of two weeks in a cool, dark place. I hear the best Krupnikas is aged two years.
When ready to partake in the nectar of the Gods, be sure to filter one more time with a coffee filter and paper towel. By filtering twice you will achieve a very clear spirit.
Here's a toast to a joyous holiday filled with love, family, friends, laughter, dancing in the kitchen and sweet honey liqueur!
An old favorite.
Stevie Wonder - Someday at Christmas