We remember our Grandmother Florence always having homemade liqueurs on hand for an after-dinner drink with coffee & dessert, especially around the holidays. Our favorite was Finocchietto (fennel) which she touted as a good digestif drink. We were only allowed a sip for taste…but liked it even then.
On our trip to Italy back in 2018, we had dinner at a farm in Naples. After dinner, we had a choice of Limoncello or Finocchietto. Of course, we chose the Finocchietto and it sure did bring back good memories of Grandma.
After having great success with making our own Limoncello, I decided to send away for the Italian Wild Fennel seeds and make my own. Teresa and I along with my good friend, Jane Hall, planted the fennel seeds. We watched the seedlings grow big & strong then planted them outside in a side garden my husband Gary prepared for us. They were doing beautifully and even survived Hurricane Florence but low and behold they didn’t seem to survive the deer!!!!!!! We were pleasantly surprised the following season and proceeded to make our own liqueur. You wouldn’t believe how many umbrella flowers we had with just 2 plants that survived. This year it’s even more! Fennel has a wonderful anise-like/licorice taste and you can use the green fronds to garnish a salad or even infuse with some olive oil. I don’t remove the fennel bulb because it will cause the demise of the plant, although I may this year!
Note: Harvesting starts towards the end of June through August here in North Carolina. Fennel plants create umbrella-like flower buds similar to Queen Anne’s Lace. I pick the yellow flower umbrellas once the yellow flowers begin to open.
Ingredients for about 2 liters
2-3 large handfuls of wild fennel flower umbrellas. ( I fill a 32-oz mason jar 1/2 to 3/4 high with the flowers)
1 liter of Everclear (151 proof – grain alcohol) Please do not use rubbing alcohol!
800 grams of sugar (about 3 1/3 to 3 1/2 cups)
2-liter jar that closes hermetically (We used hermetically sealed lemonade bottles from Aldi)
Funnel- wide mouth
Immediately after picking the flowers, wash and let dry thoroughly on a clean dish towel.
Place all the flowers in the jar and pour the grain alcohol into the jar, making sure all flowers are covered. Close the jar and place it in a dark place for at least 30 days. ( I use my closet)
Keep the bottle out of direct sunlight. All the color will leach out into the alcohol turning the alcohol a green color. No problem if you leave it longer than 30 days.
After the 30 days or longer are up, prepare the sugar syrup.
Make a simple syrup by boiling 1 liter of water with 800 grams of sugar for 15 minutes. Let it cool before the next step. (about an hour)
While the syrup is cooling down, filter the alcohol. Using a wide-mouth funnel, place into another mason jar and place the cheesecloth in the funnel.
Pour the alcohol through the funnel making sure none of the fennel plants get through.
Mix the cooled sugar syrup into the filtered alcohol. Pour into a clean 2-liter hermetically sealing jar (the one you used before is fine, just make sure it’s clean & dry first.
Let it sit another 4-5 days in a cool, dark place.
Now we filter again and bottle.
Put a regular funnel in the bottle with another piece of cheesecloth and pour the mixture into the bottle or use a small ladle so it doesn’t spill everywhere.
There might be some organic matter caught in the cheesecloth. Wash the cloth for re-use.
In a cool dark place, store the bottled fennel for at least another 3 months. The longer it sits the clearer it gets.
Italian Wild Fennel growing on the side of Barbara’s house
Almost 7 feet tall!
Another angle of growing fennel that’s 2 years old now
Wash & Dry the umbrella flowers
Place the wash & dried flowers in a 32 oz mason jar
Cover flowers with Everclear 151 grain alcohol
The alcohol starts leaching color after only an hour
Fennel umbrella flower
My bottle from last year with my own label along with new batch
Two years ago Barbara bought a small chocolate mint potted plant because she loved the smell of it. She left it in the original 3-inch pot so it never grew much. There were enough leaves for maybe a few cups of tea every now and then. This year she decided to transplant it in the early spring into a much larger pot. She now has so much chocolate mint that we decided to try a new cocktail. Our Chocolate Mint Mojito was born! If your a fan of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, this delicious cocktail is for you and it can be enjoyed all summer long. ❤️ ❤️
16 fresh chocolate mint leaves (regular mint may be substituted)
2 ounces Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice
2 ounces Torani Dark Chocolate syrup
4 ounces Bacardi Coconut Rum (substitute with plain light rum if you’re not a fan of coconut)
6-12 ice cubes
4 ounces club soda
sprig of mint for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint leaves with the lime juice.
Stir in the chocolate syrup and rum. Add the ice.
Shake at least 30 seconds. Stir in the club soda (don’t shake once you add the club soda).
Pour into a highball glass or your favorite martini glass.
Garnish with a lime slice and a sprig of mint. Enjoy!
After having a bumper crop of wild fennel, my friend Jane & I turned that crop into the most delicious homemade fennel liqueur. As Teresa and I have been experimenting with martini flavors, I turned to my gallons of homemade fennel liqueur and hence the birth of the Wild Fenneltini! It's delicious with either vodka (me) or gin (Teresa). Originally we made it like our Limoncello Drop Martini but it was a tad too strong so we took out the Triple Sec reducing the alcohol content. By all means, add it back in if you're brave!! If you like the taste of anise or black licorice you will love this martini. Enjoy!❤️ 🍸 🤣
1 ½ oz vodka or gin
1/2 oz Fennel Liqueur (homemade or store-bought)
1/2 oz Triple Sec (only if you’re brave)
juice of 1/2 a lime
1/8 cup lemon/lime seltzer
1/2 tsp caster sugar (granulated sugar is fine to use also)
5-7 ice cubes
lemon or lime twist
slice of lemon or lime for garnish (optional)
a sprig of fennel (optional)
Rub lemon or lime slice around the rim of a martini glass.
Place caster sugar on a flat plate. Take lemon or lime rimmed martini glass and dip into sugar. Store in refrigerator or freezer until ready to pour into glasses.
Place ice in a shaker & add the vodka or gin, fennel liqueur, triple sec, lime seltzer, and sugar.
Shake at least 30 seconds then pour into a martini glass.
Garnish with lemon or lime slice, lemon or lime twist, or a sprig of fennel then enjoy!
Since we're going to be home for a while during our stay-at-home mandate, we decided to try a decadent, dessert-style drink. For anyone who loves chocolate, our chocolate martini is heavenly. Mmmm, Mmmm good. These just might be the best liquid dessert ever...give it a try...it's delicious. Stay safe & healthy. ❤️ 🍸 😋
3 oz Godiva original chocolate liqueur
3 oz Cream de Cacao (dark)
1 oz Absolute Vanilla Vodka
5 oz heavy cream (substitute with half & half optional)
5-7 cubes ice
2 well-chilled martini glasses
Torani chocolate syrup to dust rim of a martini glass (optional)
Rim the glasses in the chocolate syrup and chill.
In a shaker, place the ice cubes, vodka, Godiva liqueur, half & half, and cream de cacao. shake well for at least 30 seconds.
Remove chilled glasses and strain the martini into each glass. Enjoy!
Note: Can be garnished with chocolate curls, chocolate shavings, fresh raspberries or strawberries, or drizzles of chocolate syrup on top. Get creative with your favorite toppings.
Lately we have lots of time on our hands due to the current shelter at home mandate across the country. This was the perfect time for us to experiment with some cocktails to add to our Cocktail segment. We know you’ll find this drink to be refreshing and delicious. Give it a try. Enjoy!❤️ 🍸😋
3-4 oz vodka
1/4 cup fresh raspberries + more for garnish
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice + slices for garnish
4 Tablespoons caster sugar (granulated sugar is fine to use also)
1/4 cup lemon/lime seltzer
5-7 ice cubes
In a small bowl, muddle the raspberries with the sugar. Press through a mesh strainer to remove seeds, pressing down to release as much raspberry juice as possible.
Using a cocktail shaker add the raspberry purée, vodka, seltzer, lemon juice, and ice.
Shake at least 30 seconds then pour into a martini glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist and raspberries on a bamboo cocktail stick and enjoy.
Note: If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic cocktail, you can make it alcohol-free by substituting the vodka with lemon seltzer.
The time is now to get creative with some delicious cocktails to enjoy after dinner (or while cooking)! I was first introduced to a Lemon Drop Martini at one of our local restaurants (which escapes my memory right now). To my surprise, it was so delicious! On my next visit to the same restaurant, I again ordered their signature Lemon Drop Martini only this time I was disappointed. I guess it's true, the bartender/mixologist makes all the difference. Maybe he/she was off the night of my second visit. So Teresa and I set out to make the perfect Lemon Drop Martini. Through experimentation we found adding our homemade limoncello was the key ingredient for us. If you're not inclined to try making your own limoncello, you can buy a good quality bottle from your favorite liquor store. If you're like us who love anything with lemon, then this martini is for you. Give it a try...it's delicious. Enjoy!❤️ 🍸 🤣
After our trip to Italy in 2018 we came back with an abundance of inspiration, one of which was making our own Limoncello as we became so fond of drinking it at the end of each meal while traveling throughout Italy. We even bought lemon trees to grow our own lemons ( photo on left shows the beautiful flower lemon trees produce). We’re not sure if they will ever bear fruit but we are trying. Limoncello has its roots in southern Italy, more specifically, the Amalfi coast, Capri & Sorrento. Of course you can buy it in any liquor store for less money but where’s the fun in that?
While at Barbara’s monthly neighborhood bowling night she was sharing her new-found love of Limoncello with the girls. Jane said “Lets have a Limoncello Party at your house” and so we did! The night was filled with fun and laughter despite the many spills and messy kitchen… but it was worth it. My only regret was not having enough room to invite the whole neighborhood.
The bottle should be kept in the freezer along with some shot glasses as Limoncello is best served in frozen glasses. It is served like this all over Italy. The colder the liqueur the smoother the taste.
Note: I decided I wanted to grow my own fennel to make delicious fennel liqueur; which we also sampled in Naples at a farmhouse dinner. Although the flavor is different from Limoncello, it’s just as good. So Jane, Teresa and I planted the fennel seeds. We watched the seedlings grow big & strong then planted them outside in a side garden. They were doing beautifully and even survived Hurricane Florence but low and behold they didn’t survive the deer!!!!!!! We will try again. 🤞
Using a small sharp knife, peel off the lemon zest as thin as possible avoiding the white pith, which is bitter.
Place all the lemon peels directly into the bottle of alcohol.
Leave to macerate for a minimum of 4 weeks or more in a dark closet. Keep bottle our of direct sunlight.
After maceration is complete, prepare the sugar syrup.
Mix water and sugar in a saucepan on medium heat. Continue to stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
Bring syrup to a simmer until boiling. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, about 1 hr.
In a large saucepan or container big enough add the liter of alcohol.
Continuously stirring, start adding the sugar syrup. Once you’ve added 4 cups, taste it. The Limoncello will be pretty strong. Add more sugar syrup and taste again. Add more sugar syrup for a milder taste, or reduce it for a stronger taste. It is not recommended to dilute the alcohol base too much. Authentic Italian homemade limoncello is about 38% vol or 76 Proof.
Once you’ve reached the perfect flavor, bottle your limoncello in glass bottle using a funnel.
Always store limoncello in the freezer! It’ll have an amazing “creamy” taste. Fresh made limoncello reaches its perfection in a few days after bottling.
The ladies of Meadow Park “Distillery”: Jane, Ellen, Stephanie, Vickie, Lois, Janis, Diane, Barbara. Teresa was taking the pictures!