• Kate

Smokey Lemon Meringue Pie Cocktail

Every year during the holiday season, during Thanksgiving, one of our traditional desserts is Lemon Meringue Pie. Our dessert table was always a sight to behold, pies, cakes and cookies as far as the eye could see. There were always the basics: pumpkin pie, lemon meringue, pecan, something chocolate, and an experiment.

But the toasted peaks of the meringue, reaching for the sky like a cloud trying to go home, that was one of my favorites. I cherished the tart lemon custard after the heavy meal with a cup of coffee.

One year instead of structured peaks sitting on top of a thick custard a soupy mess came out of the oven, when the meringue sweats all is lost. It was a simple mistake but you can bet Cindy was never allowed to make this pie again. We just couldn’t trust her anymore, she has to earn that trust back.

I was very disappointed to miss out on this tradition this year, since I am not a baker I was going to have to accept that I would most likely not have a lemon meringue pie this season. However, I do like to experiment with cocktails and decided that I would not settle for missing out on the lemon meringue pie experience. I was going to make a cocktail to capture all the flavors!

Out came the big yellow Gourmet Cookbook Edited by Ruth Reichl (pg764) to learn what exactly went into this pie. I followed most of the directions for a traditional pie filling, however, I adapted it to create a cocktail instead of a custard.

For Juice

  • 1 C Sugar

  • ¼ Tsp Salt

  • 1 C Water

  • ½ C Whole Milk

  • 1 Tbsp Butter

  • ⅔ C Lemon Juice

  • 2 Tsp Lemon Zest

I hate lemon zesters. I hate them. Maybe I don’t have a good one. But I hate the one I have. It is a pain to clean, the zest gets stuck in the nooks and crannies. I feel like most of my zest is never going to make it where I want it. Instead, I use a small toothed cheese grater and I believe it works so much better, the zest may be a little larger but at least I know I will get the job done. Use a grater, or bless your heart a zester, to zest the skin of your lemons until you have 2 Tsp of aromatic zest.

Next, roll out your lemons on a hard surface to break up the pulp below the skin. I find that this makes it easier to squeeze out the juice especially if you don't have a juicer and will be using your hands. I used about 4 Meyer lemons to get ½ C of juice, cutting them, ripping them, then squeezing the bejesus out of them. It may have looked like a lemon massacre on my cutting board.

Tip: Now that you have many open lemons, use them to clean your cutting boards. The acid will draw out the flavors lingering on your cooking surfaces and since there are no chemicals they are safe to use immediately without excessive washing. Simply rinse to get rid of any residue pulp and stickiness.

In a medium saucepan melt sugar and salt with water, stirring occasionally as to not burn the bottom of the sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, about 10 minutes.

Once all your sugar has melted add milk, butter, and remove from heat to slowly stir in your lemon juice. We don’t want the acidic lemon juice to curdle the milk. Once combined return to low heat, add zest and cook for another 10 minutes to reduce slightly.

Allow to come to room temperature before moving to an airtight container and storing in your refrigerator.

For Meringue

  • 3 Egg Whites

  • 3 Tbsp Sugar

  • ¼ Tsp Cream of Tartar

  • ⅛ Tsp Salt

It is not lemon meringue pie without those glorious peaks! I have never made meringue and I have heard a lot of horror stories about making meringue and having them be flat or having them sweat while they baked. I was a little nervous but I was about to conquer this step to make some awesome garnishes. I wanted little meringue icebergs floating in my cocktail.

I was over thinking it, I was worried I would make these disks on a cookie sheet then they would melt in the oven and spread out to a flat mess. I thought I was brilliant when I decided to bake the disks in a muffin tin, that way they would be contained. I was just setting up my things, sizing up my ingredients, waiting for my eggs to warm to room temperature (I did know not to whip cold egg whites) when my savior called. My Mommom!

I told her of my endeavor, that I was going to half the recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook to make my meringue all the way to 6 Tbsp of sugar. I expressed how I was worried that was too much but since it was baking and baking to me is science I didn’t want to mess with the recipe worried that if I changed it, it would fail. “Oh no Kate, that’s too much. You can probably get away with 2 Tbsp.” Well if Mommom said it is okay then I am sure it is.

She also talked me down from using my muffin tin. They would have been a pain to remove and the meringue should hold on a flat surface. I just had to make sure I grease the pan and be sure that my meringue is set before I move forward. She told me how to test that if it was truly done was to hold the bowl upside down. Um...I don’ t want meringue on my floor Mommom. But I trusted her and timidly turned my bowl upside down. Guess what? My floor remained clean!

After this needed talk with my Mommom, I was ready to conquer my kitchen! I separated my yolks from my whites, making sure not have one speck of yolk contaminate my whites. If there is any fat in your meringue they will not stiffen up. Accidents can happen so I recommend doing one at a time and then adding the whites together in a separate bowl. That way if your final yolk breaks while you are separating you won't ruin your other two whites. Save the yolks!

Your whites are sitting in a clean, dry bowl and they are ready to be whipped. Add cream of tartar and salt and whip on medium speed until you have soft peaks. Soft peaks mean the whites are frothy and gather on your beaters when you lift them straight out of the bowl. When you turn the beater side up the peaks are a little saggy but they are still noticeable.

I had Bill over for dinner and he asked how exactly you make meringue, he’s the baker so I was surprised he did not know. I told him it was made from whipping egg whites with sugar and cream of tartar. He is a curious man and followed up with “What is cream of tartar? I use it sometimes but I actually don’t know what it is”. I turned from what I was doing to look him in the eye and said: “I don’t know”. I never questioned what this thing was, it just sits on my spice rack and I use it when needed. So Bill (and anyone else) here is what All Recipes says about cream of tartar:

It's a dry, powdery, acidic byproduct of fermenting grapes into wine. Its sciency name is potassium bitartrate, aka potassium hydrogen tartrate or tartaric acid (hence the commercial name). But you can find it in the spice aisle labeled as plain ol' cream of tartar.

Cream of Tartar is primarily used to speed up the process of frothing egg whites while adding stabilization to the very tiny air bubbles you are creating. Hope that helps Bill, you are a chemist.

Once you have soft peaks add your sugar one Tbsp at a time and mix on medium-high speed until you have stiff peaks. They should reach to the sky when you turn your beater upside down and not collapse against gravity. You can also, as my Mommom suggests, turn the bowl upside down and hope that it all stays in the bowl.

My Mommom’s last set of advice was to cook the meringue slow to prevent sweating. No more then 350℉. Then allow it to come to room temperature before putting them in the fridge.

Using a scooping rubber spatula I created 6 disks of meringue about 3” wide on a well-greased pan. Create peaks by pulling the spatula up from the meringue, the white foam will cling on then release but continue to reach to the sky.

Place the pan in the middle of your oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are toasted. Allow to cool before removing them from your try, making sure they are not sticking to the surface. If they do stick do not fear! Gently take a sharp knife and run it along the bottom of the meringue.

Per Cocktail

  • 1 ½ Oz Lemon Meringue Pie Juice

  • 2 Oz Mezcal

  • 1 Egg Yolk

  • One Meringue Iceberg

  • Lemon Zest

It is time to put this pie cocktail together, in a shaker combine juice, mezcal, and egg yolk over ice. I decided to use mezcal to create a smokey quality to the drink to cut the sweetness of the pie filling.

Shake, shake, shake!

Strain into a chilled glass, float a meringue iceberg at the edge and top with freshly grated lemon zest. Enjoy after a meal in place of dessert, trust me you won’t need it!

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