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Nigella Lawson: From Hamster to Domestic Goddess

Wednesday, 16 Dec 2009 07:13 AM

 

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In my defense, I was sipping on an empty stomach. And I was with Nigella Lawson, a beautiful woman who has made a career of bringing out the steamy side of cooking.

We were at the posh Soho House, sitting in overstuffed easy chairs and chatting about her new book, "Nigella Christmas." At least for a few minutes. "There is something very comforting about making a festival out of something that relies on cold and darkness," she said.

"People are always told you can have a stress-free holiday. You can't," she added. "Cooking and family. You bring the two things together and it's incendiary."

Yet, she firmly believes it's possible to bring joy if not to the world, at least to your friends and family. That is, after all, the point of her book. "People are predisposed to have a great time," she said. "You almost have to go out of your way to have a horrible time."

At that point, things got a bit fuzzy.

We were sipping a cocktail she recently was swooning over and had asked the bartender to recreate, a sort of vodka gimlet made with elderberry liqueur and served straight up in a martini glass. It was sweet, strong and beautiful.

The discussion rambled pleasantly from our kids to ghosts of Christmas past, including her stint playing the all-important hamster in her school's nativity play as a child. We never did get back to her book, which left me with not much to write.

So I decided to recreate her vodka elderberry gimlet and use that in lieu of a story. And I worked hard at it. First, because elderberry liqueur is hard to find. Second, because the drink I kept making looked nothing like what we drank together.

But it was tasty. To be sure, I e-mailed her the recipe. She was polite about my stupidity.

"Well, ours was just two parts vodka to one part elderflower (not elderberry) cordial," she wrote. "But your version sounds good: I just think that 3 ounces of vodka is quite a lot; a usual shot is 1 ounce, and I think I wouldn't go above 2 ounces!"

Doh! Elderflower liqueur is a subtly floral, pale drink. Elderberry most often shows up as a syrup used in cough medicine.

Fearing vodka on the brain may have tainted other memories of the conversation, I checked that she hadn't really said she'd been the nativity elephant.

"While I said that I was the hamster — you know that crucial part of the nativity story — I rather think my sister and I were chipmunks. Yes, chipmunks," she said.

It felt good to know I wasn't the only one whose brain was mush. And so I offer both cocktails.

——

THE NIGELLA

Start to finish: 5 minutes

Servings: 1

2 ounces vodka

1 ounce elderflower liqueur

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients. Cover and shake, then strain into a cocktail glass.

(Recipe provided by Nigella Lawson)

——

THE NIGELLA (TAKE TWO)

Start to finish: 5 minutes

Servings: 1

3 ounces vodka

1/2 ounce elderberry extract (be sure to use one that contains no other flavorings)

1/4 ounce lemon juice

2 ounces ginger ale or ginger beer (the former has a more mild ginger taste)

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients. Cover and shake, then strain into a cocktail glass.

(Recipe inspired by Nigella Lawson)

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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