For no apparent reason other than maybe a subconscious longing for carefree college summers, the grape ape has been on my mind lately.
I’m not kidding.
When I’m in the mood for a cocktail at the bar, I lack the confidence of a signature drink and usually spend five to ten minutes consulting with my cohorts or weighing the merits of tequila versus vodka (tequila usually wins) or purusing the cocktail list, if there is one. So maybe it was in the context of that dilemma that my love of purple, sugar-laden grape apes at The Corner Bar or Sgt. Preston’s came to me in utmost clarity. Not necessarily a good thing, when we’re talking about college flashbacks.
Nine years later, my wine-drinking, cheese-loving, avoid-loud-bars-at-all-costs self is signing up to get in on Billy’s explosive popsicle week. We’re talking the ultimate in food blogging theme weeks, with over 60 popsicle participants in 2015, and who knows how many when 2016 is all said and done. There’s popsicle-eating Mariah art, and everywhere (or at least on every social media platform) you look, #popsicleweek is giving you a million and one ideas for just WHAT to pour into that semi-spendy, single use kitchen gadget, the very type of gadget that most of us food bloggers usually rant against.
So the obvious explanation for my weird grape ape memories (err, nightmares) is that I’m supposed to turn them into popsicles this week!!! When I sit back and look at my food blogging patterns thus far, I’m not even surprised that that revelation occurred to me in the shower on a random Wednesday morning.
If you’re new to NCK and popsicle week is what brought you here, welcome. Let me explain a couple things before I continue, if you’re still reading and aren’t off collecting ingredients for grape ape popsicles and ordering popsicle molds (don’t forget the sticks). I write pretty long blog posts, and I like to dive deep into the stories and science of my recipes. With that in mind, here we go.
Two major questions presented themselves after the grape ape popsicle idea came to fruition: 1) do booze popsicles actually freeze? and 2) how are we going to get these bad boys to turn purple while leaving out the gross college-style purple liquor?
It didn’t take much clicking around in past popsicle weeks to discover that, yes, booze popsicles freeze just fine and there is, in fact, no better way to get cool and tipsy on a sticky summer day, assuming you’re an adequately speedy licker. My testing also revealed that one popsicle will not get you drunk (although you’ll definitely feel it if your tolerance is as shameful as mine), but if you have half the tray you might be in business. Since I upgraded the often cheap grape ape cocktail ingredients to more natural options, gut rot shouldn’t be an issue, so these frozen treats might even be a viable way to kick those nasty booze-sugar hangovers.
Onto the second issue: how do I get purple popsicles without a bunch of artificial dye? My existing food knowledge told me that grapes alone will probably result in a brown popsicle (confirmed during testing). Roaming the aisles of Trader Joe’s for purple, natural, grape-y ingredients, the answer was simple and obvious: grape juice. I used all-natural, no-sugar-added, organic concord grape juice, and the color was perfect straight out of the bottle. Not the pure purple of UV grape, your three-year-old’s juice box, or grape Jell-o, but as close as it can get without adding any of the aforementioned ingredients.
The popsicle “batter” came out tasty enough that you can straight up drink it over ice as a grown-up grape ape, dabbling from a safe distance in your college escapades. And definitely save and freeze the grapes used to infuse the grape simple syrup–they’re pictured in the photos and make excellent ice cubes or sangria fruit!
In case you missed it up top, here’s the link to my popsicle mold, which I found to be incredibly satisfactory.
- 1 C purple grape juice (unsweetened)
- ⅔ C cane sugar
- 1 C halved grapes
- 1 C fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
- ½ C fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)
- ½ C vodka (such as Tito's)
- Combine juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture simmers gently. Remove from heat and add grapes. Let stand uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes, at room temperature. Strain grapes from the liquid.
- To the grape simple syrup (the liquid), add lemon juice, lime juice, and vodka. Strain again (to remove any citrus pulp) and refrigerate until chilled. Pour chilled liquid into popsicle molds and freeze for one to two hours. Insert sticks: if they pop out or tip over, continue freezing the popsicles in half hour increments then try again. Freeze until solid, preferably overnight.
- Run hot water over molds to help release popsicles without pulling the sticks out, then consume immediately. If you need to make a large batch ahead of time, I'd recommend buying extra molds, not attempting to transfer the popsicles to a container. Even in my very chilly freezer, they didn't hold together well after removing from the molds. Cheers!
- Freeze without sticks for 45 minutes, then add sticks and freeze (preferably overnight) until solid.
- Batch 3: heat ½ C juice plus ½ C sugar until dissolved. Add ½ C halved grapes and steep for 15 minutes. Stir in ½ C lemon juice, ¼ C lime juice, ⅓ C vodka. Strain. into molds. Chilled mixture before adding and froze much faster than first 2.
Chilling the popsicle batter proved to be an important step, so try not to skip it. If you do, your popsicles likely won't freeze well.
Note: This page contains affiliate links. It does NOT contain sponsored content. Affiliate links (to products I recommend, on Amazon) offset my ingredient and website maintenance costs, so I can keep bringing you popsicle recipes like this one. Thanks!