Working on a Christmas gift has led me to looking at old family photo albums, mainly from my grandma’s house. It’s the craziest thing – when I look at these photos I remember the moment with all of my senses. The way the dining room chairs felt, the smell of her garage, the taste of freshly made pancakes. I remember it all so vividly.
For instance, I have a very clear memory of childhood Christmases. Of walking down the stairs, into the basement, around the corner past the tv room and into the pantry. My grandma’s basement pantry was huge! Hidden behind a pink and white curtain, it housed jars and jars of canned vegetables (grown the previous summer), boxes of honey wafers for my aunt, and enough boxes of pasta to feed a small Italian army.
There was also a large deep freezer on one end of the room. One of those white ones with the door that opened up like a chest, with a chasm great enough that you’d have to dive in looking for things. Free floating, balancing on your stomach, feet up in the air.
Something that was always easy to find this time of year? A bucket of brandy slush. We had it at every family gathering around the holidays (or, quite possibly, any time of year). I remember my dad wanting another glass and me begging to got and get it. I remember the cool concrete floor under my socks, the scraping of the spoon shaving off bits of slush into his cup, struggling to fill the remaining space with soda. A big bottle always on the low shelf near the entrance of the pantry. Then making my way back upstairs, only after stealing a few sips.
Now, I don’t have to steal sips. I can make my own bucket of slush by following my grandma’s handwritten recipe (and put that old ice cream container to good use).
Brandy Slush (makes 1 gallon)
9 cups water
2 cups sugar
4 black tea bags (I used Irish Breakfast)
1 12-oz. container orange juice concentrate
1 12-oz. container lemonade concentrate
2 – 4 cups brandy (more or less depending on how strong you like it)
Bring water and sugar to boil, whisking to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Steep according to package instructions before removing and discarding. Cool mixture to room temperature.
When cool, stir in the orange juice, lemonade, and brandy. Stir to combine.
Pour into large Tupperware container and freeze overnight.
To serve: fill glass halfway with slush, top with lemon-lime soda and garnish with fruit, if desired.