With so many options, it can be difficult to find a good Spirit, let alone something to pair it with. Much like wine; the region, reputation, production methods, aging, and quality of ingredients all need to be considered when choosing a Spirit and food pairing. I recently joined "The Occasional Spirit Council", a group of writers and photographers who review Spirits from all over the world in an effort to better our palate and discover the best possible options in this diverse and often confusing category.
Here are 5 delicious and unique Spirits we discovered appropriate to savor anytime, along with my to-die-for recipe for Organic Lemon Thyme Bars.
1. Vita Fruit Cocktails- Lemonade- $12
Vita Frute has the first line of ready-to-drink organic cocktails. This organic hard Lemonade is packed with so much bright, fresh flavor, I would have guessed it was made to order. It has the perfect balance of sweet and tart with a finish that isn’t overpowering. Did this really come from a bottle? Made with fresh lemons and agave nectar, it is under 125 calories per serving and 30 proof. A Duck Street Taco with Hoisin and Asian Slaw pairs wonderfully and adds an intense, refreshing brightness to the finish. It was a pleasant surprise for the entire Spirits Council, earning the 2nd place favorite with the group.
2. Vita Frute Cocktails- Margarita- $12
This is another successful creation by Vita Frute in their line of ready-to-drink, “party organically” cocktails. The Margarita is blended with premium tequila, lemon and lime juices, and agave nectar. It is by far the best bottled Margarita I have ever tasted. All it needs is ice, a salt-rimmed glass, and a twist of fresh lime juice. Under 125 calories per serving, 30 proof. It pairs with the classic Guacamole and Chips, but I also enjoyed it with Shrimp Cocktail.
3. Ocean Vodka, Maui- $34
Ocean Vodka is handcrafted in small batches in Maui and “is the only vodka in the world distilled from organic sugar cane and blended with deep ocean mineral water”. It is 100% certified organic, non-GMO, and Gluten-Free. Ocean Vodka comes from a sustainable farm and distillery in Maui and they use solar power for 100% of their operations. The smell of the ocean pouring out of the bottle is intoxicating. It is superbly clean vodka that is a pleasure to drink absolutely plain, but would mix well with just about anything. It pairs great with Lemon Thyme Bars, and with Baby Roasted Red Potatoes topped with Crème Fresh and Caviar.
4. VDKA6100- $44.99
VDKA6100 premium Vodka, co-created by Actor Robert De Niro, is” crafted in Australia, sculpted in France, distilled in New Zealand, and designed in New York”. It is charcoal filtered vodka made with seasonal Whey from grass-fed New Zealand cows, and natural spring water. The first thing I notice is there is no aroma, but there is a nice burst of light floral and citrus with a silky smooth texture at first taste. It pairs with everything I throw its way including Caviar, Duck Tacos, Shrimp Cocktail, and Lemon Thyme Bars. VDKA6100 is the #1 group pick of the tasting lineup.
5. VillaMassa Limoncello- $27
“The traditional Limoncello of Sorrento is made according to an ancient family recipe. By guaranteeing the respect of the tradition and the strict selection of the raw materials Villa Massa is the leader in the production of the Limoncello.” The candied lemon aroma and flavor is mouthwatering. I have tried many different Limoncellos, and though a bit sweet, it is top-ranking in my book. It is a pleasure to sip on, but would also be very good with a splash of champagne. Optimum perfection is achieved when paired with my Organic Lemon Thyme Bars, which tone down the sweetness a bit. See recipe below.
Carmen’s Organic Lemon Thyme Bars
Suggested Pairing: Villa Massa Limoncello
1 Stick Unsalted Organic Butter, room temperature (not melted)
1 cup Organic All-Purpose Flour
2 & 1/2 TBSP finely chopped fresh organic Thyme
½ tsp Sea Salt
½ Cup Organic Powdered Sugar
3 TBSP fresh squeezed organic Lemon Juice
½ tsp. Organic Vanilla Extract or scrape out 1 good size Vanilla Bean
For the Glaze: 3-4TBSP fresh organic Lemon juice (depending on your taste), ¼ tsp. lemon zest, and 2/3 cup powdered sugar.
- Combine Flour, Thyme, and Salt in a bowl, set aside
- Beat the Butter, and Powdered Sugar on high until light and fluffy (about a minute)
- Add the Vanilla and Lemon Juice and beat on high until combined
- Add the flour mixture in 3 parts on low speed, allowing the flour to be completely mixed in before adding more.
- Press the dough into an 8X8 inch pan, glass is best
- Bake for approx 30 minutes at 325 degrees (give or take 2-3 minutes) until barely light golden
- Cool completely, approx. 1 hour
- After cooled, mix the 3 glaze ingredients and pour over the top. Allow to set (approx. 30 minutes)
- Cut into Bars. Makes 12-16
- Store at room temperature.