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Recipe: lychee martini

It’s the 18th. One week until Christmas. But I’m not stressing because we don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s not that I didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas, because in my non-religious family’s house – we celebrated the hell out of Christmas. My mother always made a phenomenal spread for dinner with lots of snacks sprinkled throughout the day to keep us out of the kitchen. As I’ve said before, my family does not have a baking tradition – *I* am the baker. But I do remember that my mom would make cookies once a year: puffy hearts and rings. I think it was a kind of cream puff dough, shaped into… hearts and rings, and spread with pink and green frosting and sprinkled with almond slivers. That frosting contained almond extract, which I looooooooved. I thought my mom was the best baker in the world! Kind of like when I thought my paternal grandmother had really stumbled onto something when she made me my first piece of toast :)

a snapshot from christmas past

And what was Christmas without some sailing? My hyper-active father (and you wonder where I get it from) would load me and Kris onto the boat and go sailing on Christmas day unless the marina was frozen over… Even then, he’d stand on the dock seriously contemplating how to break the ice around the boat. But usually, Virginia delivered a lovely 70°F day and Dad got his Christmas wish and Mom was left to work the kitchen magic in peace – her Christmas wish. The house would be decked out in lights and the “traditional” electric candles in each window that all Colonial homes were pretty much expected to have in Williamsburg. We still managed with our contemporary-style house. I used to love curling up in the corner of the living room at night with my sister, whispering by the light of the Christmas tree. As we got older the conversation topics wandered from toys to boys to college to boys to life.

About ten years ago, Jeremy and I went ski backpacking in Yosemite over Christmas. Looking up through the fog of my breath, I could see all of the brilliant stars sparkling in the night sky… snow-mantled pines surrounding our winter white camp. It was just us, nature, the elements, and enough gear to fit in our packs. Our gift to each other: each other. And not just on Christmas, but everyday. I rather like it that way.

My mom has written me three separate times this year to emphasize that they do not want gifts. “Don’t send us anything, we are old. Old people don’t need things.” That statement is so ridiculous, but cute. It’s even more ridiculous because the last one came with a big fat check despite my insistence that we don’t want gifts. Mom says she just wants a phone call from time to time and a card. I know what my mom wants for Christmas – she wants me to be healthy and she wants Kris back. I can neither promise nor deliver on those two things and it makes me feel helpless. Instead, I sent my parents some sweets I made. A gesture of love more than anything else. We will visit them in the spring, although visits with my family always involve a hefty dash of Crazy.

Today is my parents’ wedding anniversary. They have been together for over forty years. While my mom and dad are high energy and intense individuals, there has never been a lack of love in our family. Sure we argued. Sure we drove each other insane. But we have laughed until we were falling out of our chairs, we went fishing at 3 am to catch The Big One (and we did!), we danced together, we cooked together, we humored each other, and we have suffered unbearable loss together. I can only hope to be with Jeremy for as long as my parents have been a couple. And I will consider myself lucky to look half as good as my parents when I am their age.

check out my mom’s 18-inch waist!

happy anniversary, mom and dad

I am not much of a boozer, but I thought a cocktail would be an appropriate recipe given that my parents entertain often, are frequent fliers on the Cocktail Party Circuit in their social circles, and because my mom said the martini I made when my friend was visiting looked good.

i’m thinking lychee, much to mark’s dismay

First off, I want to say that I have been looking for martini glasses for months and the majority of them are hideous. What is the aversion to plain, clean lines? And what lush drinks a martini with the capacity of a bath tub (I’m referring to the oversized martini glasses)? I like Reidel’s martini glasses, but I like even more the idea of not having a heart attack when a glass or a dish breaks. Crate and Barrel came through for me in the form of Maude, an 8-ounce classic martini – on sale! Wooooooo!

reserve some whole lychees for garnish

It’s not the season for fresh lychees and I would only use the fresh ones for garnish anyway. Whenever I swing by Trader Joes or an Asian grocery store, I stock up on canned lychees because Jeremy loves them. He also loves martinis. He really loves the lychee martini at The Kitchen. My original plan was to squeeze out some lychee juice from canned lychees to flavor the cocktail, and boil the syrup that comes in the can down to a more concentrated liquid.

pressing the rest in the food mill for lychee juice

not much juice from a can of lychees

I accidentally boiled the liquid down to a concentrated mess. But that was okay since I didn’t (don’t) know what I was (am) doing, so I wung it. The first go around was lychee juice, gin, and vermouth because I am not a huge fan of vodka. I thought it was really strong and Jeremy liked it. What I failed to do was mix it with ice. Oops. I doused mine with (another can’s) lychee syrup (about 1:1) and that was quite lovely. My friend agreed with me. But as we were putting our booze away, I saw a bottle of lemon lychee infused vodka I had picked up at the Santa Fe Trader Joes in November. Huh.

choices choices…

So the second go around involved just the lemon lychee vodka and lychee syrup (1:1) and I think it tastes like paint remover. I’m not sure what Jeremy will think of it (I put it in a jar in the fridge for him to finish when he gets home tomorrow), but I’m guessing he will prefer the gin martini because he isn’t a huge vodka fan either. [So why did I buy the vodka? I thought the bottle was cute and it had LYCHEE in it.] I’m sure my dad could spruce this up properly. He didn’t have a fully stocked wet bar for 30 years for nothing :)

it just looks so swanky, doesn’t it?

I’ll definitely have to experiment more with this and perhaps get my hands on real lychee syrup. Honestly though, one 8-ounce martini is enough to wipe out one year of graduate school in my brain. I shall include the real martini recipe below, and then I will add my wimp-version for those of us without Commonwealth Livers.

cheers to my parents!

Lychee Martini
[print recipe]

1/2 oz. dry vermouth
3 1/2 oz. gin (or vodka)
2 oz. lychee juice, strained from puréed lychees (optional)
2 oz. lychee syrup, from canned lychees
2 whole lychees for garnish

My bartender’s guide recipe for a normal martini says to mix the vermouth and gin with ice and then strain it into a chilled glass. I’m guessing that is the way to do it. Pour in the lychee syrup and juice if using, and garnish with whole lychees.

jen’s pansy version
serves 2

1/2 oz. dry vermouth
3 1/2 oz. gin
4 oz. lychee juice, strained from puréed lychees
8 oz. lychee syrup, from canned lychees
4 whole lychees for garnish

Follow above instructions and split between two martini glasses.

43 nibbles at “savor”

  1. Melissa says:

    Congratulations to your parents! I can only hope I succeed as they have as well.

    Your family sounds like mine. Parents, two girls, close, crazy, high emotional energy, but with tons of love and laughs.

    Thanks for sharing this. :)

  2. jennywenny says:

    Cheers to your folks. I hope you get to give them their christmas wish this year and stay well next year.

    What a wonderful story!

  3. Rosa says:

    Congratulation to your parents and Happy Anniversary!

    These cocktails looks wonderful! I love lychees…



  4. Irene says:

    Happy anniversary to your parents! Your mom is so beautiful.

  5. barbara says:

    A lovely post Jen. Congrats to your parents.

  6. Debbie Green says:

    Very nice post. Very touching.

  7. Graeme says:

    I’m not a boozer either, but if it’s Lychees you bear, then your offer is acceptable.

    Your dad looks like he knows something really cool, but he’s not saying…but what…

  8. peabody says:

    Cheers to your parents!
    18″ waist…um, I’m not even sure my thighs are that small.

  9. Collette says:

    Very sweet tribute to your parents. Happy Anniversary to them!

  10. Culinarywannabe says:

    Lychees make everything better! :) Congrats to your parents!

  11. Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary says:

    Great post!

  12. Kathleen says:

    What a wonderful homage to parents who are obviously incredible….

    Happy Anniversary.

    I love people in love. Especially years on down the road……..still walking the same one.

  13. Nirmala says:

    Have been a regular reader since few months but commenting only now. This is one of lovely posts from you in the recent days. I adore your parent’s togetherness and wish them many more happy returns! And may you mom get waht she wishes for (Your good health). Prayers for you! Take care.

  14. Christina says:

    Happy Anniversary to your parents! The pictures are lovely =)

    That last picture is amazing.

  15. Chez Us says:

    OHHH, I love Lychee martinis!!!!

    Happy Anniversary to your parents – fantastic photos!!

  16. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy says:

    Happy Anniversary to your parents, Jen. I wish them many, many more. They look like a very lovely and loving couple!

    If I ever get any lychees from my tree, I’m packing them up and heading over to your place for a martini party! ;)

  17. Fin says:

    Hey, regarding vodka – I used to really dislike it as well until I stumbled onto Hangar One. These guys are *real* artisan distillers / boozehounds, I kid you not. After one sip of their Straight vodka, I became a believer – their Buddha’s Hand citron blew my mind. Might be worth a shot (har!) if you can find it.

  18. Pearl says:

    congrats to your parents! and that cocktail looks amaaazing.

  19. manisha says:

    Your pictures are the best martini pics I have ever seen! Gin wins over vodka any day! However, for the past several years I have noticed that it gives me a headache. I just want to be drunk, you know? Not a drunk with a headache, so I switched to vodka in my martinis. :-D I’ve got to make this over the Holidays. You have me craving for lychee martini!

    Congrats to your parents! I hope we grow old as gracefully and in as much good health as they have!

  20. Manggy says:

    Oh, you mean you don’t like the urine-yellow martini glasses with tiny air bubbles incorporated into the glass? Or maybe the electric blue one with the gradated fade and the spiral stem? :P But seriously, that is the awesomest martini pic ever. I don’t drink but it is sooo enticing. Take that, gin and vermouth advertisers.

    I see your dad was more submissive towards photo-ops then :P Happy anniversary to your parents!

  21. joanne at frutto della passione says:

    What an amazing photo (the black and white) they were so cool and hip and gorgeous! They still look great, congratulations to them on 40 years.

  22. rose says:

    jen, you’re very lucky. your parents are great and happy anniversary to the. i think they know you love them very much and that’s the most important. Toast to them, what a cocktail! Love lychees…

  23. Sally says:

    Loved the black and white photo, they still look absolutely great, and their love for each other shows in both pictures

    great post!

    congratulations to your Mom and Dad!

  24. Hande says:

    “I know what my mom wants for Christmas – she wants me to be healthy and she wants Kris back.” That sentence sent the tears rolling.

  25. Mrs Ergül says:

    Congratulations to Yu pa-pa and Yu a-ma!

    Jen, tian xia fu mu xin (天下父母心). It isn’t easy for any of you. But being surrounded by such loving family sure helps :) xxoo

    PS: I really like the elegant smile on your mom’s face in that first photo ;)

  26. Fiona says:

    It must be something in the air. Our dinner guests last night have been married about 40 years. They’re inspiring – and so are your parents.

    I love martinis, but only with gin. And I’m a big fan of the old-fashioned version. Yours looks delish, though.

  27. annie says:

    Jen, I’ve never commented on your blog but I check it daily. Today’s post caused me to well up a little bit and I wanted to let you know that you have another blog fan who you’ve touched. You are an inspiration. Happy Holidays!

  28. parsnips aplenty says:

    Lychees from Trader Joe’s? What has the world come to? Swanky, indeed.

  29. Maya says:

    Your mom is beautiful. Congratulations to your parents!
    That is one swanky picture :)

  30. Kathy says:

    Congratulations to your parents. It is wonderful to have them laughing and loving, after all these years.

  31. Nate says:

    Cheers and congratulations to your parents!

  32. Tartelette says:

    Congrats to your parents! They are so adorable and gosh you look just like your mom!
    The martinis are going to be necessary next week, what a shame I can’t pop by for one of these!

  33. Mollie says:

    C&B is always my go to for simple, clean dishes and serving pieces that you won’t have a heart attack over! And they make your food look great. :)

    Congrats to you mom and dad… and to you too honey!

  34. Maja says:

    Congratulations to your parents! :)
    Growing in a now ex-socialist country we didn’t celebrate christmas either, we had the atheist equivalent, which was celebrating new year’s eve and waiting for “grandpa frost”, dedek mraz, who wears a warm long coat made of sheep fur, ornated with slovenian motives, a fur hat and a white beard ( for a picture and some other info :)) and brings presents to children, of course. Religious families still celebrated christmas and many people, religious or non, celebrated and celebrate both holidays and give out gifts for both santa clause and grandpa frost. Because Dedek Mraz lives under our tallest mountain, rides sleigh with horses and is realistically dressed and quite a vital old man, who was in my mind around from always (only when i grew up and was interested in where he came from i realized he’s practically a newborn, pushing only 80 years), the image of him makes the holidays special, becasue it brings in mind so many memories of sitting in a crowded huge room with other kids and their parents, shouting for dedek mraz and hoping he will hear us if we’re really loud … it’s still a tradition to have a new year’s celebration late in december for employee’s kids, companies (from schools to big firms) organize a program for childern and dedek mraz calls up each kid individually and talks to him and gives him presents. Good times. :)
    Btw, i never cared much for lychee until i ate some really good fresh ones, now i’m officially a lychee fan, which means i definitely see this martini in my future. :)

  35. Steph says:

    aww. Do you always hear that you look a lot like your parents? :) Such a lovely family, congratulations to your parents.

  36. Passionate Eater says:

    From those pictures, it is clear that your mom and dad look fabulous at any age! And I know what you are saying about Christmas traditions and how they change as we age and weather hardships and challenges like the passing of life. My parents too, refuse to accept gifts, because they cherish more intimate things like hearing our voice and being with us, more than any simple material gift. Their request helps me to reflect on the real importance of the season, and life. Merry Christmas, and thank you for the post.

  37. bee says:

    what a beautiful couple. you have awesome genes.

  38. jenyu says:

    Melissa – Same here :) Thanks!

    Jennywenny – thanks, you are very sweet.

    Rosa – thank you. I love lychees too!!

    Irene – thanks. She really is!

    Barbara – thank you, love.

    Debbie Green – thanks.

    Graeme – oh, you’re an easy one! :) That’s funny – my Dad… if he knows something cool, he’ll blurt it out to anyone and everyone immediately! ha ha!

    Peabody – thanks :) And yeah, I’m looking at my quad and thinking… 18 inches?

    Collette – thank you.

    Culinarywannabe – yes, I would have to agree!

    Kathleen – it’s pretty remarkable, especially in this age of divorce and bad relationships!

    Lisa – thanks.

    Nirmala – thank you, you are very kind.

    Christina – thanks :)

    Chez Us – lychee anything, really – but martinis – YES! :)

    Susan – thanks sweetheart. If you get lychees on your tree, I’ll pack you up and bring you to Colorado for a HUGE party :)

    Fin – ooh, very good tip. I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks!!

    Pearl – thank you!

    Manisha – I’m a huge gin fan, but I can only sip at a martini and make Jeremy finish it. Didn’t know about the headache! Thanks for the info :) Now we’ll have to get together and booze it up ;)

    Manggy – ha! Yes, I hate ornate dishes, they make me nuts. It’s the FOOD that matters :) thanks!

    Joanne – I know, isn’t that cute? Thanks :)

    Rose – aww, thank you.

    Sally – thanks.

    Hande – oh hon, I didn’t mean to make you cry. Sending a big hug.

    Mrs E – thank you, my friend. You are so sweet.

    Fiona – I love a dirty gin martini :)

    Annie – that’s really nice of you to say and I’m glad that you enjoy the blog. Thanks.

    Parsnips – Now if only a Trader Joes would come to Colorado!

    Maya – thanks :)

    Kathy – indeed, it is. Thank you!

    Nate – thanks, hon!

    Tartelette – hmmm, those words are music to my ears. Growing up, I’ve always been told that I look like my dad ;) Martinis are necessary as are you. Get over here, will ya? :)

    Mollie – yup, I like their line of simple serveware. Thanks, sweetie.

    Maja – thanks for the background, that info is very cool :) Yes, make yourself a treat with a lychee martini!!

    Steph – usually my dad, which made my sister and I cry ;) But to hear that I look like my mom gives me hope! hee hee. Thanks.

    Passionate Eater – yes, they have VERY GOOD GENES :) Glad that you and your folks can enjoy each other without the distraction of materialism and other stupid things at this time of year. The importance is life and love :)

    Bee – thanks, love.

  39. Irene says:

    your photos are always beautiful, but the martini shots are astounding

  40. jenyu says:

    Irene – thank you!

  41. peter says:

    you must use Fresh Lychee from Florida
    and you only have a few weeks left in the season
    in your area try Whole Foods
    be sure to ask the produce manager and don’t be shy – it’s their job to make you happy!
    peel & freeze the lychee with seed (5 per drink)
    drop them in the cocktail shaker
    pour over vodka that’s been in the freezer
    shake to macerate the fruit
    empty shaker through fine mesh into chilled glass


  42. jenyu says:

    Peter – I’ve had fresh lychee when in California on many occasion. They’re lovely. Thanks for the cocktail!

  43. Bern says:

    I like Sake, lychee, vodka martini.

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