I’d like to propose a toast. A toast to the upcoming holidays, family and friends, and all the incredible things we have to be thankful for. I cannot tell you how lucky I feel, this year more than ever, to be living the life I’m living.
Two years ago, around this time, I was laying in a hospital bed with doctors and nurses eyeing my chart quizzically, with no real idea of what was wrong or how to proceed. I had been sick for the better part of a year, and was finally starting to feel better. I was feeling better, that is, right up until I found myself crumpled on the floor, shaking violently. Fine one minute, unable to move the next.
Up until this point, I thought I had already undergone all the tests they could throw at me — all the scans, and shots, and pokes, and prods — until the nurse wrote on the whiteboard on the wall of my room: spinal tap, IV antibiotics, (and later) surgery.
The first thing they did was put me on a new strain of antibiotics… which they quickly discovered I was allergic to. The pain that filled my chest was incredible, as if a fire had been lit in my lungs and a boulder set on my chest, all at once. It started slow — what’s this, is it getting harder to breathe? — and then quickly escalated. I remember the nurse holding me firmly by the shoulders and telling me it was okay, the room suddenly filling with nurses and interns, my husband (back then he was only The Boyfriend) squeezing my hand in both of his, and somewhere in the back of the room my mother, quietly loosing her mind.
This must’ve lasted a good minute or so before the benadryl kicked in and relief flooded through my veins, but it felt like an eternity. I was screaming with what little air I had left, but in my head there was this calm voice telling me, it’s okay. Any minute now you’ll either pass out or die, and then everything will be okay. I wasn’t afraid, or sad, or confused… I just wanted it to stop.
And yet, I didn’t pass out, and (spoiler alert!) I didn’t die. Instead, the pain dissipated, and for a moment I thought, thank goodness! Now I can go home! … before remembering why I had come to the hospital in the first place. Before I knew it, I was on to the next test, the next drug, the next specialist…
After a solid week in the hospital, sleeping only with the help of the painkillers they gave me every four hours, things started to look up. Between some minor surgery and a lot of (other) antibiotics, my body was recovering from what they finally determined was an internal infection, and I was, at last, allowed to go home.
It was Christmas Eve.
Now, coming up to Thanksgiving almost a full two years later, I am more thankful than ever for what I have. My life. My health. My family and friends, and most of all, my incredible husband, who sat with me every moment I was in pain, or too incoherent to talk to the doctors. Who got me home, cooked me dinner, and helped bring me back to my full self again. Sometimes I think back and I don’t know if it was medicine that saved me, or him.
So, I would like to propose a toast. Here’s to life, and the people who make it wonderful. Here’s to not taking anything for granted. Cheers!
(And here’s to my mother, for not strangling the hospital intern who gave me that antibiotic.)
As you may have noticed, I’m not a huge drinker. In fact, this is the first cocktail I’ve shared — but you can bet it’s a good one!
Every now and then, and especially around the holidays, I like to have a little something to sip on. Actually, what I really like is when other people have drinks, and I can taste them all. I enjoy savoring all the little nuances of different liquors, without having to commit to a full glass. Every once and a while, though, something comes along that is so good, I have to have one all to myself. Or two.
Meet the Pomegranate Ginger Fizz. A sparkling, festive twist on a margarita. I keep seeing cranberry cocktails popping up for the holidays, but since this is pomegranate week (and since pomegranates are so underrated around the holidays), I knew I had to make them center stage.
Oh, and for those non-alcohol drinkers and kids at the holidays, these are just as delicious without the booze. There’s no reason everyone can’t enjoy them!
The first step to making this drink, is homemade Grenadine Syrup.
Grenadine is probably most famous for its appearance in the classic Shirley Temple, or for lending its bright color to a Tequila Sunrise. Most people seem to think it is a cherry flavored syrup, but really it is made from pomegranates (grenade is the French word for pomegranate). Or, I should say, it used to be made from pomegranates.
Now a’days, store-bought grenadine is composed of high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, flavorings, and dyes… mm-mm! This reminds me of the maraschino cherries I wrote about a couple of months ago. Why must we take such good, simple products and replace them with chemical substitutes? I will never understand this.
Luckily for us, grenadine is incredibly simple to make at home. Here are five reasons you should:
- it’s inexpensive
- it’s quick and easy (only a few ingredients)
- you can control the level of sweetness and play with the flavors
- impress your friends!
- contains no corn syrup, preservatives, artificial flavors, or dyes
Oh… and it’s delicious! If you think grenadine is only for cocktails, think again. It would also be great over ice cream, in a pie filling, or whisked into a homemade vinaigrette. Of course, cocktails are always good, too…
Here’s what you’ll need…
Homemade Grenadine Syrup
Makes about 3/4 cup
1 cup pomegranate juice (fresh, or store-bought — be sure to look for 100% unsweetened pomegranate juice)
1/2-3/4 cup granulated sugar (I like mine a little tart with just 1/2 cup sugar, but you can increase this if you’d like)
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the pomegranate juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes, or until thickened just enough to coat the back of a spoon. You can also test the syrup by drizzling a small amount onto a cool plate, and tipping the plate to the side, or running your finger through the syrup to check the consistency.
2. Remove from heat, and stir in the lemon juice (this will bring back some of the zing that fresh pomegranates have).
3. Let cool, and store in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a few weeks.
Notes: there are a lot of recipes out there which call for pomegranate molasses, orange blossom water, or hibiscus flowers to be added to the syrup. I prefer to keep my grenadine simple, and add other flavors later, but feel free to add a little bit of whatever sounds good. That’s the beauty of making things from scratch!
Pomegranate Ginger Fizz
Ingredients per serving – easily doubled, tripled, etc.
1 oz. (2 TBSP) homemade grenadine (recipe above)
1-2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 oz. white tequila*
1/2-1 oz. orange liquor, such as grand marnier *
1/2-3/4 cup cold ginger ale, to taste
Fresh pomegranate arils (seeds), lime wedges, or mint leaves, for garnish
Wedge of lime and granulated sugar, for rimming glasses (optional – doesn’t it look like Santa’s hat?)
*can be increased or decrease if you prefer your drink stronger or weaker. To make these kid-friendly, leave the alcohol out all together.
1. (Optional) To rim the glass, rub a wedge of lime around the rim, then dip the glass, upside down, into a shallow dish of sugar.
2. In the bottom of the glass, mix together the grenadine, lime juice, and liquors. Add the ice.
3. Slowly pour in the ginger ale. To create a pink gradient (where the color is darker at the bottom of the cup and lighter at the top), hold a spoon inside the glass, upside down, and pour the ginger ale over it slowly. (This makes a nice presentation, and can be stirred before drinking).
4. Garnish with fresh pomegranate arils, lime, or mint leaves. Serve!
Notes: if you want to mix this drink for a crowd, you could easily triple or quadruple the recipe, shake the grenadine, lime juice, and liquors with ice, pour, and top with ginger ale and garnish.