It’s Everclear to the Store Clerk
I carefully peeled the lemons, following Anna’s instructions to leave the pith on the lemons, not on the peels. Then I put the peels into a glass jug, and pulled out the grain alcohol. Yep. Anna told me the only way to make really good homemade lemoncello is to use grain alcohol, not vodka. So I looked and looked and found a bottle of Everclear at a local liquor store a few weeks earlier and put it aside at home until I could get the lemons. At the time, the clerk was intrigued and helpful and cautionary about the strength of grain alcohol when I told him what I planned to use it to make.
With his warning in my brain and vaguely remembering old college friends and the vats of cool aid and grain alcohol punch they talked about drinking at frat parties, I treated the stuff cautiously, never having tasted it. I easily unscrewed the lid, measured the amount of grain out and poured it over the lemon peels, readying the lemony mix for a nice dark spot under the kitchen sink where it would steep for the next two weeks.
Just before I screwed the cap back on, I decided, oh, what the heck, to taste the stuff. Cautiously I sniffed the bottle. Nothing. It really didn’t smell like much of anything. “Funny that, “ I thought.
Hm. Sticking my finger into the bottle I tilted it and my finger met the liquid. Withdrawing the finger I popped it into my mouth for a quick taste. At 10 am on a weekday morning I was taking a chance if this stuff is as powerful as I’d always heard it was.
Hm. Not really a taste at all. Kinda watery, if anything.
Puzzled, I tried another fingerful. Hm. Same old.
I called Mike at work. “Mike, I’m making the lemoncello and I tasted the grain. It kinda tastes like nothing. Have you ever tasted the stuff?” I asked.
“No, I never did. Do you think you got a bad bottle or something?” he asked.
I shrug, thinking “Bad bottle? Is there such a thing?
“It’s probably fine. No big deal,” I said and hung up.
I put the mixture under the sink and went about my day, but the niggling kept up in the back of my brain. It was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure out what.
The next morning I followed Anna’s instructions “Shake once a day for 2 weeks”and shook the jar with the lemon skins and grain in it.
And, still puzzled, I unscrewed the lid and took another sniff. Nothing.
And I stuck my finger in the liquid and tasted it. Nothing.
Shrugging, I put the jug back under the sink to keep steeping.
Later on, I had to go near the liquor store where I bought the grain so I tucked the opened bottle in my purse, figuring I’d stop by and have them check it out for me.
I walked into the store. Looking around, I didn’t see anyone to help me right off so I wandered back to where the store clerk had shown me the grain on the shelf. Surprise! He was nearby, stocking shelves.
“Hi,” I said smiling. “I don’t know if you remember me. . .”
Smiling back, the young guy replied,”Yeah. You came in looking for the grain alcohol to make homemade lemoncello. How’d that work out for you?”
“Well, I peeled the lemon and measured out the grain and mixed it up to steep. And when I did, I tasted the grain since I had never tasted it before. You told me how strong it is and I’d heard tales over my college years about how it could knock you on your butt. Funny thing is that I’m wondering if I got a bad batch or something.” With that I took the bottle out of my purse and held it up for him to see.
Puzzled, he asked, “A bad batch? What do you mean?”
“It really doesn’t smell like much and it really doesn’t taste like much so. . .” I trailed off watching the expressions skitter across his face: surprise, disbelief, suspicion.
“May I?” he asked, taking the bottle out of my hand.
He sniffed, he stuck his finger in and tasted, and he smiled. Looking at me, he asked, “Do you have teenagers?”
“Yes. Why?” I asked, simply not ‘getting it.’
“Because this is water. Someone replaced the grain alcohol with water.”
He must have had a great time watching MY face as the emotions skittered across it: confusion, disbelief, shock.
“Water,” he replied
“So, what are you gonna do to him or her?” he asked with a grin, likely remembering his own misspent youth.
Dazed, disappointed and distraught, I replied, “His name is Max. He’s seventeen. And I’ll let you know after I figure it out.”
P.S. I heard it was some party. . .