The UPside of Lock DOWN

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Last time this year…one of our first zoom aperitivi

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Always with a cocktail , Barbara at her mountain house in Northern Italy, Oma in Iowa and me in Georgia

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Barbara with a cap on , she was henna-ing her hair, I told her she looked like a tellatubbie…

Ciao everyone! By now you all know that I am here in Italy. Spring has sprung, and I await summer with bated breath. As I reflect on 1 year ago when we were locked in the house, frightened and had no idea what was about to come, I can’t help but think about all the good things that came from this apocalyptic event. I always look at the bright side, even if there appears to be zero. But spending loads of time with my husband and pets, the ability to test new recipes for my new book, La Fortezza Cookbook, write recipes and do research, made the lock down bearable.

And the one thing that was a lifesaver and a constant (it kept me sane) was the Zoom Aperitivo every Saturday at 8:30 pm CET, in Italy and 2:30 ET  in the US. with dear girlfriends Barbara and Oma. I can’t even remember how it actually started, most likely a split-second idea that blossomed into a weekly event, an event I truly looked forward to, and one that kept me going through the endless lockdown weeks on the calendar.

At first, we invited many friends and girlfriends to join, but our weekly Aperitivo eventually came down to just us, the core 3, the original gang, the best friends. One in Italy, Barbara, one in the US, Oma, and me either in the US or Italy. We have been religiously meeting every Saturday with few exceptions for 1 year. One year of sharing, complaining, laughing, worrying, giving advice. One year of loads of cocktails and glasses of wine.

We watched the seasons change together, and Presidents come and go. We talked about the world, the pandemic, politics, our children, our husbands, our work or lack of work. Occasionally one of the family members would stop by say to hi, or just walk through and wave as we zoomed our troubles away. It was less lonely, and gave us all a reason to show up for each other.

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Sometimes things were just stressful, Oma with one of her signature expressions…

I love these ladies, more than I did before the Zoom Aperitivi, and believe me, I loved them a lot before the pandemic. But showing up for each other at a time of uncertainty and making each other laugh really took the edge off an uncertain time. It is a reason to celebrate our 1 year anniversary. We made it. I am sure as the summer approaches and things get better, this ritual will have had its run, but I sure hope not. Maybe we can switch to once a month, but right now it’s still going strong. I still look forward to the conversations, words of wisdom, and emotional support these Aperitivi provide…

The UPside to the lock DOWN was this Zoom Aperitivo, and I will never ever forget what a gift it was and is…

Happy Anniversary, Tanti Auguri on our 1 year milestone. I love you ladies and I always will.

Cin CIn. x

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The pink drink:: the best Valentine’s Day cocktail

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Here’s the perfect pink drink recipe for Valentine’s Day. It’s such a gorgeous color! The balance of grapefruit to pomegranate juice makes for a lovely pairing. Enjoy this week celebrating Valentine’s Day. May today and the rest of the week be filled with love and pink drinks! xx

The Pink Drink
serves 8 (make a pitcher and enjoy it throughout the week!)

You will need:
– Ice
– 6 cups ruby red grapefruit juice
– 1 cup pomegranate juice
– 1 cup ice-cold vodka
– Fresh mint sprigs

To prepare:

Fill large pitcher halfway with ice. Add grapefruit juice, pomegranate juice, vodka, and some fresh mint leaves. Stir to mix. Serve in chilled glasses. Garnish with mint sprig. Makes 8 servings.

Note: For a nonalcoholic version, omit grapefruit juice and vodka. Replace with 7 cups raspberry lemonade. Combine as directed.

From: Traditional Home

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Easy Brunch Cocktail

This is the best cocktail for Christmas brunch, but it's also perfect for any party this season. It's great for a crowd too!

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend, and I am thrilled to be guest posting today to bring you a festive holiday cocktail: pear prosecco punch.

In my house, I always make a huge Christmas brunch to enjoy after opening presents. The feast starts with sausage balls & pigs-in-a-blanket (oldies but goodies) and coffee for breakfast while we all tear through gifts. Late morning, I pop everything in the oven, and we sit down to a huge brunch complete with berry French toast, quiche, fruit, and of course, a festive cocktail. There are only three of us every year, but we always manage to have a full-fledged feast. This is the best cocktail for Christmas brunch.

One trick: freeze a bag of cranberries and keep them on hand in your freezer. Warm prosecco isn’t tasty. Frozen cranberries can be used in place of ice to keep your cocktails cold. They won’t water-down your beverage, and they’ll look festive, too!

Pear Prosecco Holiday Cocktail

Let me know if you give this a try! I’d love to hear what you think. Happy holidays!

xo, Nicole

Pear Prosecco Punch
serves 1

You will need:

– 2 oz Pear concentrate (I use Looza)
– 4 oz Prosecco
– Rosemary sprigs & frozen cranberries for garnish

To prepare:

Pour pear concentrate into a champagne or wine glass. Top with prosecco. Add a rosemary sprig and frozen cranberries for garnish.

photos by Nicole Letts

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Thanksgiving Cocktail

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I have always loved Frangelico; it is a hazelnut liqueur that is traditionally served as an after-dinner digestivo. There is a legend that Frangelico was made by Friars in the Piedmont region of Italy where hazelnuts are abundant, it has a beautiful, nutty flavor profile.

Even if you’re hosting an intimate, family-only gathering, it’s a good idea to make a batch Thanksgiving cocktail. For one, you can make it ahead of time, and for another, everyone can fill their own glasses, leaving you more time to gather with your guests.

This recipe for the pumpkin monk is a palette pleaser. It’s not too sweet because of the citrus notes, and it has a lovely mouthfeel. It’s a delicious way to enjoy the flavors of the season.

Thanksgiving Cocktail: Pumpkin Monk
serves 16 (or 2 cocktails per person for 8!)

You will need:

– A large punch bowl
– 16 oz. Frangelico
– 16 oz. Appleton Reserve Rum
– 12 oz. lemon juice
– 8 oz. pumpkin spice syrup

To prepare:
Pour all ingredients into a large punch bowl and stir well. Serve over ice in a rocks glass or serve up in a coupe. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

For the Pumpkin Spice Syrup
*
this makes 1 cup which is 16 servings

You will need:
– 4 teaspoons cinnamon
– 2 teaspoons ginger
– 1 teaspoon nutmeg
– 1 teaspoon allspice
– 1 cup water
– 1 cup sugar

To prepare:
Place in a pot, then bring to a boil and reduce about 10 minutes, set aside to cool.

Photo Credit: Dane Sponberg

xx Annette

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Bourbon Apple Cider for Two

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A few years ago, chef and author Virginia Willis was a guest on the blog. She shared an absolutely delicious apple bourbon cider recipe, and today, I’m reviving it from the archives. It will be perfect for a fall weekend spent outdoors whether you’re trick-or-treating or not.

Bourbon Apple Cider
Serves 2

– 3/4 cup freshly pressed apple cider
– 1/3 cup Bourbon
– 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 2 thin slices fresh ginger
– 2 thin slices apple, for garnish
– 2 sprigs thyme, for garnish.

Combine apple cider, bourbon, and lemon juice in a shaker. Shake to combine. Pour into rocks glass over ice. Garnish with ginger, apples, and thyme. Enjoy!

photos by Jona Willis

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