We’ve all been down with colds this weekend, nothing really serious, just uncomfortable. Or rather, nothing really serious in my estimation. My husband, on the other hand, is always pretty sure he might be dying whenever any minor virus hits him. So far, though, he’s still alive and seems to be more or less ok.
What Eric does inevitably get when he gets sick is the lingering cough. This is no fun, of course – but it does have its compensations. One of them is the homemade cough syrup. Most studies show that over-the-counter cough medicines are fairly ineffective – one found that a glass of water worked as well to sooth children’s coughs. Another that the fairly hefty alcohol content was the main factor in aiding people with bad coughs to get to sleep. This last one freed us up a bit. Now cough syrups are disgusting – most of them taste like fermented koolaid. But not all alcoholic things are icky…
For the kids, we use honey as a cough medcine (not appropriate for children under 1 year because of the botulism risk) – dilute with a bit of lemon juice and give them a spoonful. They consider it a huge treat and it inevitably soothes things and calms them down, not to mention being a pleasant distraction. This works really well for adults who don’t like or can’t use alcohol as well. But those of us who can are free, then, to experiment with the mixing of alcohol and other tasty treats.
Now technically a pitcher of margaritas would probably do just fine – high in vitamin C, alcoholic – and had someone proffered some I would not have demurred (yeah, yeah, I know it is Eric who has the cough, but I was sick too ;-)). But margaritas are not a winter drink (ok, they can be, but not when you are sick) and what one wants in a cough suppressant is soothing qualities. So purely in the interest of medicinal knowledge, Eric and I set to experiment as to the best of all homemade cough treatments.
I fear, however, that we may be accused in the paper we will, of course, inevitably write, of bias and methodological limitations. It was late and we had no particular desire to drive the 14 miles to the nearest liquor store (yes, this is the tragic part of living out in the country). I had read that bourbon was the best of all cough suppressant liquors, but we don’t own any bourbon. What we had was gin, applejack, homemade black currant vodka, homemade raspberry vodka. We obviously needed to compare and contrast, and well, we only had three evenings to do it (and since we’re middle aged parents, not 20 year old college students, our goal was to get mildly relaxed, not drunk, so we weren’t going to try more than one a night) so we took the gin out of contention (gin and tonic not having that “toddy” quality to it).
We compared hot cider with a shot of applejack and spices, straight raspberry vodka and black currant vodka mixed with homegrown currant juice with 2 tablespoons of honey and half a lemon added. All three did an excellent job of soothing Eric’s cough, relaxing both of us enough to be able to sleep and easing my annoyance at the sheer volume of his cold related snoring ;-). Taste-wise, both of us liked the cider best, but for pure cough reduction, the currant mixture with the honey lemon won hands down.
There you have it folks – even when offline and under the weather, your tireless blogiste is working for the betterment of human knowledge and the improvement of the common good. Selfless humanitarian that I am, I do swear that the next time we get sick, we’ll explore other tasty remedies tirelessly as well, particularly since we’re now out of raspberry vodka.
How do I make raspberry and currant vodka, you ask? You too can learn the mysterious power of turning cheap-ass vodka into something much better, for purely medicinal purposes, of course. Basically, I take cheap vodka (you can use cheap other alcohol, but it will have more of a taste), 2 liters to every quart of fruit (you can do it with less fruit, but I like the stronger flavor). Chop or mash the fruit depending on its nature. Add herbs or spices that appeal to you, and 1/2 cup (you can add more if you like) sugar. Pour vodka over fruit, herb and sugar mixture until everything is covered, cap and ignore for 3-6 months, stirring once or twice in the first few weeks.
This makes a somewhat sweet (but not cloyingly so) and utterly wonderful fruit flavored liqueur – far better than most of the ones you can buy in the store. My apprentice group can testify that the raspberry-lemon-lemon verbena was pretty awesome. I’ve also enjoyed raspberry cinnamon, quince-cinnamon, red currant-lime and plenty of others. I’ve never actually had a bad batch of this stuff, although some were definitely better than others. I’ve had people try and steal the bottles from me, which I consider a compliment.