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Down Home Punch Made at Home

Jack Daniels makes a number of bottled beverages and one of them is called Down Home Punch, Tiffany happens to be a big fan of this which created a little bit of a problem when she moved from Virginia to live with me in North Carolina, it’s not sold here!  The other “problem” is this is a pricier bottled beverage, it typically would run about $7.99 + tax for a 6 pack, which at face value isn’t terrible, but the bottles are only 10.5 oz. rather than the far more typical 12 oz bottle.  We thought about importing it from Virginia when we were up there, but we were concerned with the legality of the whole enterprise.  That meant that she could only have her favorite bottled beverage when we were in Virginia, to me that seemed a crying shame, so I learned how to make it.

The benefits of making it yourself are pretty obvious, first of all you can tailor it to your specific liking, like it sweeter? add an extra dash of Grenadine, like it Peachier? add a little more peach schnapps, and a few other tips I’ll share with you in just a minute.  The basic formula for Jack Daniels Down Home Punch goes as follows:

  • 1 part Jack Daniels whiskey
  • 1 part Peach Schnapps
  • 1 part Sour Mix
  • 2 parts Orange Juice
  • 1 dash Grenadine
  • 1 part Lemon Lime soda – such as 7up or Sprite

Assembling the drink seems intimidating at first glance but once you’ve done it a time or two it’s a breeze.  Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker  full of ice with the exception of the soda (as a rule you never shake soda when making a drink because it will remove the fizz), shake vigorously and then pour it in a glass with ice and the lemon lime soda.

It’s actually not cheaper to make this drink yourself, I was kind of surprised when I did the math, the bottled beverage runs about $0.14/ounce and making it yourself runs about $0.15/ounce it’s close but not quite cheaper.  If you lived in a state that had really cheap liquor, North Carolina does not fall in that category, you can probably drop the price a bit.  If you used a lower grade whiskey I’m sure it could drop the price quite a bit, and in a drink like this you’d probably not be able to tell the difference, but then it wouldn’t be Jack Daniels Down Home Punch.

Both Tiffany and I like to eat healthy, experiment and find ways we can remove calories and unnecessary carbs. In that category it is a big nod to the home made concoction.  Low calorie and alcohol are at odds with each other, there is no way to have calorie free alcohol, but you can reduce the mixers calories pretty easily.  Make your own sour mix with artificial sweetener (or purchase sugar free sour mix), low cal OJ, sugar free Grenadine, and diet soda and you drastically cut the calories from sugar in this drink.

The other nice thing about making it yourself is it just tastes better, I don’t know if it’s the taste of pride from making it, using fresher ingredients or what, but we tried the bottled version next to the home made punch and you can tell they are the same beverage but the bottled one tastes less complex and flavorful in comparison.

Regarding this drink in general, it’s light, fruity and refreshing, you can’t really tell there is Jack Daniels in it which is great for people who don’t really like Jack Daniels.  I tend to enjoy small batch bourbon’s served neat or on the rocks so this is way too sweet for my palette but the few times I’ve tried one it’s enjoyable, just too sweet to drink regularly.I haven’t tried it yet but I’m quite sure you could use a cheaper whiskey and you’d never be able to tell the difference, I also think vodka would work well making a cheaper, lighter version of this punch and it would be a cousin to Sex on the Beach. Tiffany really enjoys this drink, they are fun to make and I highly recommend giving it a shot if you’re looking for a new fruity drink to try – cheers!

Cranberry Cordial

One of the traditional beverages we prepare this time of year is Cranberry Cordial, and have been doing so for years. If you enjoy sipping on a sweet, slightly thick, light and fruity beverage after your Thanksgiving meal (or even before and during), Cranberry Cordial is for you. Every year it is a big hit in our household, among our friends, and holiday guests. It only requires three ingredients but does take a bit of advance preparation.

Cranberry Cordial

All you need is four cups of cranberries (frozen and thawed work fine), three cups of sugar, and a large bottle of white wine (I like using  Rhine). Empty half of the wine out of the bottle into a clean container (you will have some extra left over) and add the sugar to the remaining wine, shaking to mix well.

Cranberry Cordial Ingredients

Place the cranberries in the food processor and chop until you get a good mash (you don’t want to liquify the cranberries, just chop them up really well). Spoon the cranberries into the bottle, then add some of the wine back in making sure to leave a little space for shaking the mixture every few days, cap and place in the refrigerator.

After three weeks your cordial will be ready. Strain and serve cold in cordial glasses. You and your guests will enjoy its ruby red hue and lightly syrupy fruity flavor. Mine is in the refrigerator right now and I can hardly wait, but I will because waiting makes it better, and it’s definitely worth it!

SodaStream Genesis – Review

By this point I suspect most of you have seen the SodaStream on display at various big box stores, they typically are at an end cap.  I saw them at this type of store and thought to myself, that seems cool but totally useless.  I am a soda drinker, I am mildly addicted to Diet Pepsi and in a pinch drink Diet Coke though I often find the off brand name soda’s to be unpleasing.  Initially I thought the SodaStream system(s) were a gimmick and the current snake oil of the month, I was mistaken!

My parents drink more soda than I do and they purchased one from a local Bed Bath and Beyond using one of the famous 20% of coupon’s bringing the purchase price to around $80.  This kit includes pretty much everything you need to make your own soda, minus the water itself.  When I saw it sitting at my parents house I just shook my head and laughed thinking, I guess there is one born every minute.  Then they showed it to me and gave me a demo and a sample, I was more interested.  Then they explained the environmental benefits on just purchasing the syrup compared to shipping the heavy liquids, this benefit is I think one of the best values with the SodaStream.  The energy saved by not shipping water (which is what the bulk of soda is) is huge, this starts with the large distributors, then the retail outlets themselves and finally you when you’re bringing the soda home, all in all it leads to a large decrease in fuel consumed to get the soda from the plant to you.

I try to be environmentally conscious, but I also don’t like to be fooled by hype.  In this case the environmental benefits seem pretty clear, shipping weight burns fuel, reducing the weight being shipped significantly reduces the fuel burned to get your soda to you – seems about as simple as it gets!

The next benefit of this system is the cost savings, yes they exist too!  I was very skeptical about this so I did quite a bit of research, computed what my average soda drinking cost, what it would cost using the SodaStream system and in about 18 months I’ll have broken even on the original purchase price.  This break even point varies from one drinker to another, it depends how much you drink, what soda flavor’s you drink, some of them cost more or less than others.  The regular soda drinker will break even in 12-24 months of the purchase price.  While this is far from a great investment it is a decent way to save a little cash in the long term.  To me the real benefit is knowing that I’m being environmentally smart while saving a little money and having fresh soda.

Now let’s get onto the soda making itself, I ended up going with the Soda Stream Genesis.  The kit is pretty simple to use, I am typically very handy and intuitive when it comes to building things and putting the Genesis together was no exception.  I didn’t even need instructions to put the kit together, it just makes sense.  It’s also helpful there are only 4-5 pieces needed to initially construct the kits.  From there it couldn’t get much simpler, chill water in the supplied 1 liter bottles – two come with the Genesis kit.  Then screw them into the Genesis base and pulse the only button about 3 times or until you hear it make a change in the tone of the carbonation, I believe it uses a blow off valve once a specified pressure is reached within the bottle it stops filling the water with CO2.  This makes it simple and very consistent, you never get overly bubbly or under carbonated soda, it’s always just right.  To give you an idea of how simple it is, I can typically do this entire process in about 20 seconds from the time I get the bottle from the refrigerator to the point I’m unscrewing it from the Genesis with a full 1 liter of carbonated water.

I used to drink a fair amount of club soda, if I still drank that the savings would be even greater, because at this point you just carbonated your home drinking water and made club soda for pennies.  However, most of us purchase this kit to make flavored soda or our own custom concoction.  If you’re using the SodaStream Flavorings it’s a breeze and very affordable.  Or you can get more creative and find your own extracts, sweeteners or virtually anything else you’d like to make a sparkling beverage.  You can even buy the name brand syrups from your local Pepsi or Coca-Cola distributor if it’s a must have for you, the only problem is they typically come in large bags and are difficult to make smaller portions of, they are typically designed to work with commercial soda fountains.  When it comes to the flavorings or sources for them the sky is really the limit, let your creativity run wild!

As I mentioned above I’m a diet cola drinker and thankfully the SodaStream diet cola is good, it’s a little earthier than Pepsi but still has that slightly overly sweet taste that I enjoy.  What’s odd with my diet soda obsession is that as  whole I don’t particularly like sweet things, but back to the soda stream.  I’m also a fan of energy drinks when I need a little extra pep in my step, which is more often than I want to think about these days.  The problem is they are really expensive, SodaStream has a great RedBull knock-off with their energy drink, again I get the diet and it seems to accomplish the same thing for a fraction of the price.  Even though the energy drink from SodaStream is a little more money than the regular flavors it’s still a fantastic deal.  If I drank more of that style drink I could probably bring my break even point down to 8-10 months.

Overall my experience has been superb, I have no complaints about the system or idea and now that I’ve lived with it for a few months I enjoy it and it is easier leaving the big, heavy soda at the store.  I enjoy some of the flavors more than other’s but overall I think it’s a good purchase for a regular soda drinker.  The beauty of the kit I received is that it was a gift – so I’m saving right away and doing good to the environment!  If you’re the sort of person who already has everything this is a great new gadget that you’ll use, enjoy and save money in the process – not to mention doing a small part at protecting the environment!

Labor Day Party

Humans are social creatures. Each one of us is an individual with our own particular preferences and peculiarities, but I believe for all our differences, we share far more similarities. One of these similarities is that we enjoy being around other people. So we look forward to the occasions that offer opportunities for us to gather together with our family, friends, and neighbors.

Many of these opportunities come during holidays, such as Labor Day. This is one of those days that many people traditionally have off from work. Just type into your favorite search engine the words ‘labor day events’ and you will likely find lists of activities planned for your part of the country (if you live in the U. S. anyway). For instance, I live in Houston, Texas and I found sites for events in Houston as well as in other parts of Texas.

For Labor Day this year at our home we have invited family and friends over for a cookout. For the food, here are our plans so far:

Since it has been so hot and dry this season in our part of the country, our plans are for cooking outside and to provide plenty of refreshing foods. You need to have something for your guests to munch on until everyone arrives and the meal is ready, so I recommend having them prepared and ready before people start to arrive. The starters for this party will include chips, dips, with cold drinks such as beer for the adults and lemonade.

Dip and Chips

One of my favorite dips is Onion Dip, and here is my recipe:


1 T Instant Beef Bouillon
2 T Minced onions
¼ t Garlic powder
½ t Chives, dried
½ t Parsley, dried
¼ t Onion, powdered
1 c Sour cream

Combine ingredients and let sit in refrigerator for one hour before serving.

This, along with fresh homemade salsa, will be served with chips.


For lemonade I make it using simple syrup, lemon juice and water. I make simple syrup ahead of time by heating 1 part water and 1 part sugar until the sugar completely dissolves. (2 cups sugar plus 2 cups water heated yields 3 cups simple syrup.) This I keep in the refrigerator until need. Then to make lemonade I add 2 parts simple syrup to 2 parts lemon juice and 12 parts cold water (hint: 2 oz. (1/4 cup) simple syrup + 2 oz. (1/4 cup) lemon juice + 12 oz. (1 1/2 cups) water = 1 pint). Simple syrup is easy to make and use because it mixes so well with the other ingredients (much better than plain sugar). Plus it can be used for making Mint Juleps.


For the meal I am planning on smoking a brisket. This year I will be using a dry rub and mop sauce and cooking the brisket in a smoker I have used for years, primarily for smoking turkey for our family’s Thanksgiving meal. I will be trying a method I recently found at a site called The Smoker King which advertises itself as a site for ‘BBQing Recipes and Techniques, Texas Style!!’ At this site are instructions for preparing the brisket (between the rub and smoking, this will be a 24+ hour commitment) with recipes for the rub and mop sauce. Along with the brisket we will be serving potato salad and BBQ beans.

Blue Bell Ice Cream

For dessert we will be enjoying Blue Bell Ice Cream (this is a Texas brand, which we think is the best anywhere, but other regions of the country may think otherwise) sundaes. I am always on the lookout for good discounts on items I can reasonably add to my pantry to have on hand for special occasions. For the sundaes I have M&Ms and Heath Bars (that I either got on sale or had a coupon for) hidden away that will be among the options for toppings. Also will be freshly whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

The secret to successful whipped cream is to start with everything cold. This helps the stiffening of the milkfat thus enabling the incorporation of air. Before whipping I put everything in the freezer to chill: bowl, beater, and even the cream itself (be careful not to let the cream freeze). Here is my recipe for whipped topping:


1 c Heavy cream
2 T Ice, finely crushed or shaved
2 T sugar

Place bowl and beaters in freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to chill well. Place the cream in the freezer for 5 minutes to chill. Pour the cream into the chilled bowl. Add the ice to the cream and whip to soft peaks.

Gently fold in the sugar and whip until the cream forms firm peaks.

Do not over whip, or you will have butter.

Keeping everything cold is essential to keep the fat droplets firm around the air bubbles to produce firm whipped topping.

Keep covered in the refrigerator. Fats are great holders and carriers of flavor and will easily pick up tastes and odors from other items in the refrigerator.

Check back with us and I will let you know how everything went for our party. We at Lukewarm Legumes would love to hear about your party plans for Labor Day. Please let us know about it either on our website, Facebook or through Twitter and remember to ‘Like’ us and follow us as well. Links to our Facebook and Twitter accounts can be found on our website at