when life gives you lemons (and lavender and vodka)

I am in California this week for work, so another Californian (who is also one of my dearest dearest friends) has a recipe to share. This lady just made a big life change, moving thousands of miles from chilly Boston to the shores of the West Coast. I am so proud of her and the journey she is on. We got to spend the day together on Sunday and enjoyed a long walk, really tasty food, and lots of laughs. Here we are at the Palace of Fine Arts . (Has anyone else been here? Unbelievable that this thing is just hanging out in the middle of a bustling city.)

Without further ado, meet Isabel!

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When Alyssa first asked me to do a guest post, I was honored, yet understandably intimidated. Week after week I am impressed by the delicious and creative concoctions she comes up with, and always rapt by the personable and witty repartee that goes along with them. So, I’ve cleverly avoided the possibility of comparison and decided to stray from the beaten path of food! Food brings the party, but drinks make the party if you ask me.

I came upon this recipe in an ironically very Tuesday fashion. I recently made the move from the East to West coast, and have landed in beautiful San Francisco. Not only is it not 0 degrees right now (Hi East Coast friends! Come visit!), but the mild weather means fresh fruits and veggies are in abundance year round. When my new roommate casually informed me of the lemon tree growing in our back garden, I was beyond smitten. (Yes, I have a back garden in San Francisco. Yes, there is a lemon tree that is currently producing fresh lemons.) Upon further investigation, I learned that not only is there a lemon tree, but also a beautiful herb garden growing very happily alongside it. One of the largest plants in that garden is a lavender bush. Lavender has forever been one of my favorites, so it was time to get creative.

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Here was my challenge: What could I make that incorporates both lemons and lavender while letting each ingredient shine? A beautiful Saturday was coming up, and friends were coming over to enjoy the sunshine. The answer became obvious — vodka spiked lavender lemonade. This recipe is super simple, crazy delicious, and an instant crowd pleaser. Be forewarned…the drinkability of this can sneak up on you. Trust me.

simple syrup ingredients:

  • 6-10 sprigs of fresh lavender blossoms
  • 4-8 springs of fresh lavender leaves
  • 1 ¼ c. sugar (I recommend white if you want a clear syrup, but raw tastes great too)
  • 1 c. water

simple syrup directions:

Strip blossoms and leaves from the lavender sprigs and roughly chop. Simmer sugar, water, and lavender over medium heat until all sugar is dissolved. For a thicker syrup, add more sugar and simmer longer, but no need to go over 10 minutes. Take off of heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain out lavender and set aside, or bottle separately and add to all sorts of drinks you want to experiment with.

lemonade ingredients:

  • 4-5 ripe lemons (fresh from the tree if you’re lucky enough)
  • 4 c. ice
  • 5 c. water
  • ½ c. lavender simple syrup
  • your favorite vodka, to taste

Squeeze out all of the juice from the lemons making sure to scoop out any seeds. A little pulp adds a homemade touch; I kept mine. Keep one half of a lemon to slice thinly for garnish. Add water, lemon juice, ice, simple syrup, and vodka in a pitcher and stir. Add the sliced lemon to the pitcher or to individual cups. Pour over more ice and add a sprig of lavender. Add more simple syrup for a sweeter drink. (For those not into vodka or alcohol in general, this simple syrup is also deliscious in sparkling water.)

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