“What are you in the middle of?” my neighbor asked at one of our recent happy hours. In our tiny pocket of houses, where the streets come together like spokes on wheel, homes line only one side of the street. With a city address, we have plenty of privacy due to this street formation. But it’s not conducive to seeing your neighbor, unless you count the blurry sightings in the periphery. So a couple neighbors organized a permanent happy hour every third Thursday of the month. Women only. We sit across a table so we can actually see each other and answer question’s like: what are you in the middle of? Starting an Airbnb, hosting a graduation party, finding a new home for aging parents, writing a book, memorizing medical devices.
I love happy hour, but small talk always makes me a little anxious at first. Thinking of open-ended questions on the spot is not my best trait. I’m the friend you invite over to bring cocktails, not to start conversations. Speaking of cocktails, I’m working on my large batch cocktail game, like these Lemon Thyme Raspberry Vodkas. Because every third Thursday I get the call: what cocktail should we make? I’m as tongue-tied as I am at the start of happy hour.
I’ve come to realize that I’m just not that good on the spot unless I’ve prepped in advance—whether it’s a cocktail recipe or an open-ended question. So I’m collecting some of each. This large batch, make ahead Lemon Thyme Raspberry Vodka recipe is ready for August’s happy hour. As for questions, I’ve pocketed: what are you in the middle of? My other favorite question to ask: what’s the first song you memorized? I’ll answer first: Whoomp There It Is by Tag Team. Tell me yours! And while you’re at it, what’s your favorite open-ended question?
If you’re in Minnesota, don’t forget to enter the #BerryTogether giveaway here. Pack me in your suitcase and we’ll #BerryTogether over Lemon Thyme Raspberry Vodkas on the lake shore. Cheers!
This large batch cocktail is tart from the lemon, floral from the thyme, and pink from the raspberries. It can easily scale up for larger parties and be made in advance. Note: this drink is on the tart side, which I love. If you prefer drinks less tart, start by adding in 3/4 cup of the lemon juice and tasting.
Raspberry Thyme Simple Syrup
1/2 c. pure cane sugar
1/2 c. water
3 hunky sprigs of thyme
1/4 c. Driscoll raspberries, rinsed
scant 1 c. fresh squeezed lemon (about 8 large lemons)
1/2–3/4 c. good quality vodka (choose your own strength)
4 Driscoll raspberries
4 skinny sprigs of thyme
Make the Raspberry Thyme Simple Syrup. In a small saucepan, add the sugar, water, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and heat until sugar is completely dissolved (about 4 minutes), stirring occasionally. Once ready, remove from heat and add in raspberries. Smash and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the drink elements. Juice the lemons and measure out the vodka. Set aside.
Once the simple syrup is ready, strain through a fine mesh sieve. Allow to cool to room temperature before using. To speed up the time, place in the freezer. Once cooled, stir together the simple syrup, lemon juice, and vodka. This can be made 2 days in advance.
To serve, fill four skinny highball glasses with ice. Pour in drink and top with a raspberry and a skinny sprig of thyme.
• For pretty ice, use a square ice mold. Tuck raspberries into the mold just before freezing for an extra pretty presentation.
• Recipe inspired by Martha Stewart. I had a version of her Vodka-Thyme Lemonade at the NYC Alt Summit in 2012.