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Archive for Cocktails & Spirits

TIP OF THE DAY: The New Bloody Mary Garnishes

Aquavit Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary Crab Claw

Garnished Bloody Mary

TOP PHOTO: Aquavit Bloody Mary with beets, a half-sour pickle spear and fresh dill; photo Flavor & The Menu. MIDDLE PHOTO: Mary garnished with crab claw and dilly beans from Ramos House. BOTTOM PHOTO: Surf and Turf Bloody Mary with bacon and shrimp, plus an antipasto skewer and, as a nod to the past, a celery stalk. From The Wayfarer | NYC.

 

As if everyone who drinks didn’t have enough on New Year’s Eve, January 1st is National Bloody Mary Day. Each year we feature a different Bloody Mary recipe.

Some time ago we read about a famed Bloody Mary served at Ramos House in San Juan Capistrano, California.

It was made with shochu instead of vodka, lower-proof and lower in calories. It was garnished with lots of dilly beans (pickled green beans) and a crab claw.

So today’s tip is: Move past the celery stalk to more interesting Bloody Mary garnishes.
 
RECIPE: ADAPTED FROM THE RAMOS HOUSE
BLOODY MARY RECIPE

Ingredients For 2.25 Quarts

  • 1 liter tomato juice*
  • .5 liter clam juice*
  • 1 bottle (750ml) vodka
  • 1 ounce prepared horseradish (from the refrigerator section
    of your market)
  • 1.5 ounces hot sauce
  • 1/4 tablespoon ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • Zest of 1-1/2 lemons
  • 6 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Garnish: crab claws, lobster claws or shrimp; dilly beans and/or pickled asparagus†
  • Optional garnishes: bacon strips and/or “antipasto skewers” (a cheese cube, grape tomato mozzarella ball, olive, pickled onion, sausage chunk or other antipasto ingredients—see bottom photo above)
  • Optional: ice cubes
  • Optional: cocktail straws‡
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients (except for garnishes) in a pitcher and chill before serving.

    2. FILL glasses with ice cubes, as desired. We prefer to pre-chill the drink rather than dilute it with ice cubes. Another option: Make the ice cubes from tomato juice.

    3. POUR into tall glasses, 3/4 full. Arrange the garnishes on top.
    _______________________________________________
    *Mott’s Clamato Juice is packed with HFCS—so sweet you could churn it into sorbet (see our review). It’s easy to mix plain tomato juice with plain clam juice.

    †We buy Tillen Farms’ Crispy Dilly Beans and Crispy Asparagus by the case, but you can pickle your own vegetables in just an hour or two. Here’s how to pickle vegetables.

    ‡If you pack the top with garnishes, a straw makes it easy to get to the drink below. How about these red cocktail straws? You can also provide inexpensive bamboo cocktail forks if your guests are too formal to eat the garnish with their fingers.

     
    MORE BLOODY MARYNESS

  • Bloody Mary Drink Bar Or Cart
  • Bloody Mary Ice Pops
  • Bloody Mary History
  • Bloody Mary Variations: Bloody Bull, Bloody Maria, Danish Mary, Highland Mary, Russian Mary
    and numerous others
  • BLT Bloody Mary
  • Deconstructed Bloody Mary
  • Michelada
  • More Bloody Mary Garnishes
  •  
    If you have a favorite Bloody Mary creation, please share.
     
    HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE NIBBLE!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Know Your Eggnog!

    Eggnog or egg nog is a descendant of milk-and-wine punches that had long been part of European celebrations when colonists arrived in the Americas. Rum, a New World distillation, enabled a spirited substitution for the wine.

    Eggnog became a popular wintertime drink throughout Colonial America. Then as now, people loved the rich, spicy, alcoholic brew. President George Washington was quite a fan of eggnog. His own recipe, which included rye whiskey, rum and sherry, was reputed to be so stiff a drink that only the most courageous could down it.

    Brandy joined rum in the basic recipe much later—as part of a book promotion! In the 1820s, Pierce Egan wrote a book called “Life of London: or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne, Esq. and His Elegant Friend Corinthina Tom.” You can pick up a copy on Amazon.

    Just as today’s mixologists and publicists know how to generate buzz with a new cocktail, Egan created a variation of eggnog he called the “Tom and Jerry.” The half ounce of brandy he added to the basic recipe furthered egg nog’s popularity—and fortunately, the original name prevailed.
     
    FROM THE BEGINNING: A PARTY DRINK

    The research site InDepthInfo.com notes that “Egg nog, in the 1800s, was nearly always made in large quantities and nearly always used as a social drink. It was commonly served at holiday parties and it was noted by an English visitor in 1866, [that] ‘Christmas is not properly observed unless you brew egg nogg for all comers; everybody calls on everybody else; and each call is celebrated by a solemn egg-nogging…It is made cold and is drunk cold and is to be commended.’”

    Baltimore initiated a tradition where young men made the rounds of their friends on New Year’s Day, enjoying a bracing cup of eggnog at each home. The more homes one visited, the more “braced” one became. It was considered a feat to actually finish one’s rounds. How times change! Aside from today’s attitudes toward moderation, would anyone give up football to continue the tradition?
     
    HOW EGGNOG GOT ITS NAME

       

    Cup Of Eggnog

    Glass Of Eggnog

    TOP PHOTO: Eggnog served old-school, in a fancy punch cup. Photo courtesy AllWhitesEggWhites.com. BOTTOM PHOTO: No punch bowl? Serve eggnog in a juice glass, rocks glass, Martini glass or whatever you have.

     

    As with most things in the murky past, there are different stories on the origins of eggnog. The “egg” part is easy: There are eggs in the recipe (along with sugar, rum, milk, whiskey/bourbon/rum/brandy, heavy cream, vanilla and ground nutmeg).

    The two contenders for the “nog” portion:

  • In England and Colonial America, grog* was slang for rum. Thus the description of the beverage, “egg-and-grog,” could be corrupted to egg‘n’grog and then to egg nog and its more modern spelling, eggnog.
  • A nog is a small mug or cup. It was used to serve drinks at table in taverns (while drinks beside the fire were served in tankards). It is much easier to see how an egg-based drink in a noggin would become egg nog.
  •  
    Regardless, the unusual charm of the name only enhances the rich charm of the beverage. Now if we only could do something about those calories!

     
    *The term grog is named after Old Grog, the nickname of Edward Vernon (1684-1757), a British admiral who ordered that diluted rum be served to his sailors. The nickname is derived from grogram, after his habit of wearing a grogram cloak—a coarse fabric made of silk, mohair, wool, or a blend of them. Isn’t etymology fascinating?

     

    Egg Nog & Cookies

    A glass of eggnog served with eggnog wreath
    cookies
    . Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.

     

    EGGNOG VARIATIONS

    Conventional eggnog recipes vary by type of spirits used, or how elaborate they get, from topping with simple whipped cream to ice cream and chocolate shavings. If you don’t have a family eggnog recipe, ask your friends. Or take a look at these:

  • Classic Rum Eggnog Recipe
  • Chocolate Eggnog Recipe
  • Coconut Eggnog Recipe
  • Diet Eggnog Recipe
  •  
    If you don’t want classic eggnog, how about an eggnog cocktail? Here are two:

  • Eggnog Martini Recipe
  • Eggnog White Russian Recipe
  •  
    EGGNOG FOR BREAKFAST

  • Eggnog French Toast Recipe #1
  • Eggnog French Toast Recipe #2
  •  
    EGGNOG FOR DESSERT

    For the holidays, serve one or more eggnog desserts. Start with eggnog ice cream from your grocer, and continue on to:

  • Eggnog Crumble Bars Recipe
  • Eggnog Mini Bundts Recipe
  • Eggnog Mini Cheesecakes Recipe
  • Eggnog Panna Cotta Recipe Recipe
  • Eggnog Pound Cake Recipe
  • Eggnog Truffles Recipe
  • Eggnog Whipped Cream Recipe
  • Eggnog Wreath Cookies Recipe
  • White Chocolate Eggnog Fudge Recipe
  •  
    If you have a favorite eggnog recipe, please share!

    And HAPPY NEW YEAR from THE NIBBLE.

      

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    RECIPE: Eggnog Martini

    For Christmas or New Year’s Eve, how about a fun and flavorful Eggnog Martini?

    You can buy eggnog in the supermarket and mix multiple portions in a pitcher.

    RECIPE: EGG NOG MARTINI

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 3-1/2 ounces eggnog
  • 1-1/2 ounces vanilla vodka (make it or buy it)
  • Splash of cinnamon liqueur (see below)
  • Garnish: dash of nutmeg or rim of crushed graham crackers
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FILL a 5-ounce Martini glass with ice to chill it.

    2. COMBINE the eggnog, vanilla vodka and cinnamon liqueur in a shaker with ice, and shake to blend.

    3. DISCARD the ice in the glass and strain the cocktail into it.

    4. GARNISH as desired and serve.

       

    Eggnog Martini

    An Eggnog Martini with a rim of crushed graham crackers. Photo courtesy Cedar Mill Liquor.

     

    Goldschlager Cinnamon Liqueur

    Dramatic and delicious: Goldschläger
    cinnamon schnaps with gold flakes. Photo
    courtesy Global Brands.

     

    MAKE VANILLA VODKA

    Infusion method: Add a vanilla bean to a bottle of decent vodka. Cap tightly and let the vanilla infuse for 1-2 weeks in a cool, dark place. Gently shake the bottle every other day.

    Quick solution: Add vanilla extract to vodka, 1/4 teaspoon per two ounces. For a 750 ml bottle of vodka, that’s 3 teaspoons. Shake well to blend.

     
    CORDIAL, EAU DE VIE, LIQUEUR, SCHNAPPS:
    THE DIFFERENCE

    Cinnamon liqueur can be added to coffee and tea (hot or cold), made into adult hot chocolate, sipped on the rocks, drunk as shooters and mixed into cocktails. If you buy a bottle for this recipe, you’ll find numerous opportunities to use it

    Some brands are meant to burn like Red Hots candy. You want something more elegant. Our favorite is Goldschläger cinnamon schnaps with gold flakes. It looks magical in shots and clear cocktails.

     
    So what’s the difference between cordial, eau de vie, liqueur and schnapps?

    While many people use these terms interchangeably, and they are all flavored spirits, there are differences in terms of sweetness and color.

  • Liqueur (lih-CUR, the French pronunciation) is made by steeping fruits in alcohol after the fruit has been fermented; the result is then distilled. Liqueurs are typically sweeter and more syrupy than schnapps.
  • Schnapps (SHNOPS) is made by fermenting the fruit, herb or spice along with a base spirit, usually brandy; the product is then distilled. This process creates a stronger, often clear, distilled spirit similar to a lightly flavored vodka. “Schnapps” is German for “snap,” and in this context denotes both a clear brandy distilled from fermented fruits, plus a shot of that spirit. Classic schnapps have no added sugar, and are thus less sweet than liqueur. But note that some manufacturers add sugar to please the palates of American customers.
  • Eau de vie (oh-duh-VEE), French for “water of life,” this is unsweetened fruit brandy—i.e.,schnapps.
  • Cordial has a different meaning in the U.S. than in the U.K., where it is a non-alcoholic, sweet, syrupy drink. In the U.S, a cordial is a sweet, syrupy, alcoholic beverage: liqueur.
  •  
    In sum: If you want a less sweet, clear spirit, choose schnapps/eau de vie over liqueur. For something sweet and syrupy, go for liqueur/cordial.
     
    What about fruit-flavored brandy?

  • Liqueur is sweeter, and made from a grain-based alcohol.
  • Fruit-flavored brandy is made from a grape-based alcohol. Be sure to buy one that is all natural, i.e., made with real fruit instead of flavored syrup. With a quality brand, the fruit is macerated in the alcohol, then filtered out prior to bottling.
  •  
    FOOD 101

    THE HISTORY OF EGGNOG

    THE HISTORY OF THE MARTINI
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Special Christmas Punch

    When we first received this recipe, we thought: Readers of The Nibble won’t want to buy or make the oleo saccharum. Holiday season is busy enough as it is.

    But we loved the recipe, and decided to make it for our own holiday celebration. We tasted the test batch and thought: We’ll be shortchanging our readers if we don’t share this.

    The recipe was created by Masahiro Urushido, an award-winning New York City bartender. He used Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch, Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur and Lejay Creme de Cassis.

    This punch is inspired by traditional Scottish Christmas pudding, made with dried fruits such as raisins and apricots.

    Masa calls his recipe Pepperdier Christmas Punch, adapting the name of a friend. But since that can be confusing to the rest of us (we tried to research “Pepperdier” online), we’ll rename it slightly to Scotch Christmas Punch, acknowledging both the country of inspiration and the Scotch whisky in the recipe.

    RECIPE: SINGLE MALT CHRISTMAS PUNCH

    Ingredients For 8 To 10 Servings

  • 1/4 cup raisins or sultanas
  • 6 ounces Scotch Whisky
  • 8 ounces Scottish Breakfast Tea (it’s malty Assam tea, but you can substitute any classic black tea)
  • 6 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ounces Dubonnet Rouge (substitute sweet vermouth)
  • 2 ounces apricot liqueur
  • 1 ounce creme de cassis
  • 3 tablespoons oleo saccharum syrup (citrus sugar syrup—see below)
  • Sparkling wine*
  • Garnishes: rosemary sprigs, whole cranberries, orange slices and bay leaves
  •    

    Christmas Punch

    Oleo Saccharum Syrup

    TOP PHOTO: Christmas punch. Photo by Gabi Porter. BOTTOM PHOTO: Oleo saccharum, a big-sounding name for citrus sugar syrup. Photo courtesy Cocktail & Sons.

     
    *We happened to have a good bottle of Lambrusco—a red sparkling wine—on hand and it went great with this recipe. Most people will use Cava, Prosecco or another sparkling white wine.
     
    Preparation

    1. SOAK the raisins in the Scotch for several hours or overnight.

    2. MAKE the oleo saccharum if you aren’t purchasing it (recipe).

    3. MIX all ingredients except the sparkling wine in a punch bowl. Garnish with rosemary, cranberries, orange slices and bay leaves. Top with sparkling wine and serve.
     
    No Punch Bowl?

    If you don’t have a punch bowl, mix all ingredients except the sparkling wine in a pitcher. To serve, pour the punch into individual glasses, top with sparkling wine and garnish with an orange slice.
     

     

    Harney Scottish Breakfast Tea

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/scottish breakfast tea blend jenierteas 230r

    Both of these are Scottish breakfast teas, yet
    look at the difference in the blends. The top
    photo is Scottish Morn from Harney & Sons.
    The bottom photo is Scottish Breakfast tea
    blend from Jenier Teas.

     

    WHAT IS OLEO SACCHARUM?

    Oleo saccharum is citrus oil blended with sugar. In Latin, oleo means oil and saccharum means sugar. It became prominent in the 19th-century as a way to provide a subtle citrus flavor and aroma to sweetened drinks, instead of plain sugar syrup (simple syrup).

    Oleo saccharum is made from orange and/or lemon peels (lime peels have too much bitterness) that are muddled (crushed) to release the oils. Sugar is added to the muddled peel and mixes with the citrus oil that emerges from the skins. The peel is strained out, leaving sugared citrus oil.

    You can use it to add an elegant citrus note to any cocktail that requires sugar/simple syrup, and can blend it with club soda for a refreshing non-alcoholic drink.

    The bottled oleo saccharum from Cocktail & Sons, featured in the photo above, is a citrus syrup enriched with fresh lemongrass, toasted green cardamom and ginger. You can buy it on Amazon.com.

    Or, it’s easy enough to make your own. Here’s a recipe.
     
    WHAT IS SCOTTISH BREAKFAST TEA?

    Here’s something that few people outside the tea industry realize: Breakfast teas, notably English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast and Scottish Breakfast, are simply strong black tea blends.

    The blends have more flavor to stand up to milk or cream, complement British breakfast foods (eggs, porridge, ham, bacon, etc.) and provide heartiness (more body and caffeine) to energize the drinker in the morning. Afternoon tea blends tend to be lighter and smoother, to pair with sweets and tea sandwiches.

     

    The British first imported tea from China in the 17th century, to great public appreciation. Coffee was available at the time, but otherwise beer and stout were drunk by everyone, including children, because of contaminated water sources.

    The British became avid tea drinkers, and since the 18th century have been among the world’s greatest per capita tea consumers.

    In China tea is drunk plain, but in the 1720s, the British began to add sugar and milk or cream to create a more comforting beverage. Black tea came to exceed green tea in popularity, as it goes better with sugar and milk. (The same pattern occurred in the Thirteen Colonies.)
     
    The Different Types Of Breakfast Tea

    In order of robust flavor and body:

  • English Breakfast Tea is the mildest of the strong teas. It can be a blend of teas from Africa, India (Assam), Indonesia and Sri Lanka (Ceylon), with a base of Chinese congou tea. Originally, before tea cultivation expanded beyond China, it was unblended congou tea.
  • Irish Breakfast Tea has a good amount of Assam, giving it Assam’s malty flavor notes and reddish color. It often contain others black teas, including Darjeeling, to balance the intense flavors of Assam.
  • Scottish Breakfast Tea is the strongest of the three, with a base of Assam plus the smoother Keemun tea from China, among other teas in the blend.
  •  
    It’s important to note that there is no standard formula for any of these blends and no governing body specifying what each should contain. The blends evolved over time, likely as one vendor sought to copy a popular blend offered by another vendor.

    Thus, teas of the same name—English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Jasmine, etc.—can vary slightly in taste, aroma and appearance from vendor to vendor, and country to country. Names can also vary for the same type of blend. [Source]

    For example, fine tea vendor Harney & Sons calls its Scottish Breakfast Tea “Scottish Morn.” Describing the blend, which was made to the specifications of the American Scottish Foundation, Harney says:

    “A mixture of dark brown leaves, the smaller pieces of Assam and Ceylon and [the] CTC (cut, tear, curl) method make for a stronger tea. This is one of our darkest teas, brewing a very dark brown color. Many Scots would lighten it with milk. Aroma is not the point of this tea, so there are only hints of suggestions of malt. It is caffeinated [and] a very full bodied tea…perhaps the strongest tea we offer. Strong and simple, this tea is meant to be drunk with milk.”

    And now you know about Scottish Breakfast Tea and its kin, English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast. Enjoy the teas…and the punch!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Create A Special Christmas Mocktail

    Ocean Spray Mocktail

    strawberry-mint-lemonade-asweetpeachef-230

    A fun mocktail is a treat for non-drinkers. Top photo courtesy Ocean Spray. Bottom photo courtesy ASweetPeaChef.com.

     

    If you serve alcohol at parties, you’re bound to have some non-drinkers, designated drivers, and probably, drinkers who shouldn’t have another.

    Most hosts address the need with soft drinks and mineral water. But special occasions merit an extra step: a holiday mocktail.

    It’s easy to make it look and taste interesting, and those who can’t drink will feel special.

    For your Christmas mocktail, we suggest something red and green: a red- or rosy-hued drink with a green garnish.

  • Determine on the proportions, e.g. 2 parts cranberry juice and 1 part soft drink.
  • Decide if you want to serve a tall or short drink.
  • Consider a low-calorie option: The juice and soft drink ingredients both have diet versions, which will be especially appreciated by calorie-counting guests.
  •  
    CHRISTMAS MOCKTAIL #1: CRANBERRY GINGER

    Ingredients

  • Cranberry juice*
  • Ginger ale
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: stemmed cherry†, lime wheel or mint leaves
  •  
    CHRISTMAS MOCKTAIL #2: CRANBERRY ORANGE

    Ingredients

  • Cranberry juice*
  • Orange soda‡
  • Garnish: stemmed cherry†, lime wheel or mint leaves
  •  
    You can make the drinks a deeper red color with grenadine.
    _____________________________________________
    *Our favorite cranberry juice is Knudsen’s. Ocean Spray has several 100% juice flavors: plain or blended with blueberry-blackberry, cherry, grape, orange, pomegranate, raspberry, etc. Use 100% juice instead of “juice cocktails” or “juice drinks,” which are typically sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

    †The best maraschino cherries by far are the all-natural (and kosher-certified) Tillen Farms Merry Maraschino Cherries. They are “maraschino red” in color but taste great—nothing like the traditional varieties. The company also makes Bada Bing Cherries, with the deep burgundy hue of bing cherries. If you buy multiple packs online, use the extras as stocking stuffers.

    ‡San Pellegrino Aranciata (orange) and Aranciata Rossa (blood orange), and Boylan’s Orange, are the only ones we’ve found that use sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. San Pellegrino is less sweet and more elegant; Boylan’s is conventionally sweet.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: A Flavored Shots Party

    Pinnacle Peppermint Bark Vodka

    Plastic Shot Glasses

    TOP PHOTO: Pinnacle Vodka has 40 flavors, including holiday flavors like Peppermint Bark and Pumpkin Pie. BOTTOM PHOTO: One-ounce, colored shot glasses are the way to go. Photo courtesy Party Essentials.

     

    Looking to do something different for a holiday get-together with friends? While there’s always a holiday drinks menu, here’s an idea that requires no mixing: flavored shots.

    The flavored spirits category is “on fire,” according to Liquor.com. a website for industry professionals. You can now find flavored bourbons and ryes*, in addition to the pioneer category of flavored vodka and the flavored tequilas† that followed vodka’s success.

    Now before the angry comments begin, let us emphasize that this is not a lets-get-loaded shots party. It’s a responsible let’s-taste-some-flavored-spirits-straight opportunity. The novelty for many people is tasting flavored spirits outside of a mixed drink.

    In fact, sipping from a shot glass is our favorite way to enjoy flavored spirits. And for planning purposes, four different flavors are about as much as people should have in an evening, even with designated drivers. While a standard shot is 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) for 80 proof distilled spirits, take it down to 1 ounce.

    What if people want more than four ounces? Flavored club soda or spritzers.
     
    WHERE DO YOU GET THE SHOT GLASSES?

    You can buy clear one-ounce plastic shot glasses or two-ounce shot glasses. They can be washed and reused for another occasion.

    But if you’re serving vodka or tequila, since the sprits are clear, we think colored shot glasses are all-around better. Not only are they festive, but you can color-code the pours.

     
    WHAT FLAVORS SHOULD YOU PICK?

    Your options are based on what spirit you choose. Pinnacle, for example, has more than 40 flavors of vodka. There are large numbers of flavored tequilas, and the numbers get smaller with whiskey.

    For vodka, you can choose four different fruits from the many options, or make the party more holiday-focused with specialty flavors like Pinnacle’s Caramel Apple, Peppermint Bark, Salted Caramel, Whipped Cream and Chocolate Whipped Cream.

     
    But wait: There’s also Cookie Dough, Pecan Pie Vodka and Pumpkin Pie.

    Pinnacle doesn’t make a cranberry vodka, but other distillers do, including Bear Hug, Deep Eddy, Smirnoff and Sobieski.

    And then there’s what your local liquor stores carry—or don’t.
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHOTS AND SHOOTERS

    Both shooters and shots are served in shot glasses. Shots are 100% spirits; shooters are mini-cocktails, combining spirits and/or liqueurs with non-alcoholic mixers.

    Traditionally, both are consumed in one gulp, but we recommend breaking with the tradition of chugging. Chugging is for people who want to make a certain statement; sipping is for people who want to taste what they drink.

    As always, plan ahead for designated drivers and don’t forget the plain or flavored club soda for in-between.
     
    _______________________________________
    *Flavored bourbons include Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon and; Red Stag Black Cherry, Hardcore Cider, Honey Tea and Spiced; and Wild Turkey Spiced Bourbon. Flavored ryes include Pow-Wow Botanical Rye (saffron and orange peel), Even Dewar’s has Highland Honey Scotch. And Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn produces the makes chocolate whiskey. Also look for Bird Dog Maple, a best-seller, and Canadian Mist Peach, among others.

    †There are numerous flavored tequilas: almond, banana, chile, chocolate, coconut, coffee, lime, mandarin, mango, pear, pomegranate, strawberry and watermelon. Check out these.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Drinks Menu

    What’s on the cocktail menu for the holidays? Egg nog and sparkling wine are perennial favorites.

    But offer guests holiday drink menu. Here are some of the beverages we serve, all with a holiday theme.

    HOLIDAY BEVERAGES

    Wine

  • Instead of white wine, make a Cranberry Kir: white wine with a splash of cranberry liqueur. It’s our own adaptation of the popular French drink, Kir (white wine plus blackcurrant liqueur).
  • Instead of plain red wine, make mulled wine with holiday spices. You can serve it warm or chilled.
  •  
    Seasonal Beer

    Turn to craft breweries for seasonal beers and ales. Many craft beers are only distributed regionally, but here are some we’ve found in wider distributions (check your local shelves for options):

  • Christmas ale: Anchor Brewing, Great Lakes, Rogue
  • Chanukah beer: He’Brew Chanukah Beer
  • Pumpkin ale: Buffalo Bill’s, Shipyard and all of these
  • Winter ale: Blue Point, Blue Moon, Samuel Adams
  •  
    Cranberry Cocktails

  • Cranberry Martini
  • Cranberry Mojito
  • Cranberry Tequila Comfort
  •  
    Eggnog Cocktails

    In addition to all kinds of variations on traditional eggnog recipes, there are also eggnog cocktails which have fewer calories than straight eggnog (which is perhaps the most caloric beverage on earth).

  • Eggnog White Russian
  • Eggnog Martini
  •  
    Ginger Cocktails

  • Ginger Martini
  • Ginger Joy (with pear liqueur)
  •    

    Cranberry Cocktail Garnish

    Egg Nog Cocktail

    TOP PHOTO: A cranberry and mint leaf garnish works for any cocktail. Photo courtesy Sarah’s Joy. BOTTOM PHOTO: Egg nog is less caloric in an eggnog cocktail. Photo courtesy Selvarey Rum.

     

     

    Cranberry Kir

    Cranberry liqueur plus white wine makes a
    Cranberry Kir. Use sparkling wine and it’s a
    Cranberry Kir Royale. Photo courtesy Drink
    Skinny.

     

    Chanukah Cocktails

  • Blue Chanukah Cocktail (think of it as a vodka Margarita; you can substitute tequila)
  • Chocolate Gelt Cocktail (chocolate vodka plus Goldschlager)
  •  
    Warm Drinks

  • Hot Buttered Rum (Rum Toddy)
  • Glogg
  • Mulled Wine
  •  
    Non-Alcoholic Drinks

  • Cranberry seltzer: Canada Dry, Polar Ocean Spray Sparkling Cranberry
  • Cranberry soda: Cape Cod, Sierra Mist (Regular and Diet), Sprite Cranberry (Regular and Diet)
  • Cranberry tea: Bigelow, Republic of Tea, Stash (caffeinated and herbal are available; serve hot or iced)
  • Mulled cider (make it without alcohol, stir in the spirits for those who want them)
  •  

    Serve responsibly! Always have attractive non-alcholic options for guests who should be cut off.

      

    Comments

    GIFTS: Wine & Spirits

    Liquor stores are filled with gift sets and specials for holiday gifting. Champagnes packaged with flutes, Cognacs with snifters, tasting kits (a box of smaller bottles of different expressions), “keeper” bottles with holiday designs and limited editions (Absolut Electrik, anyone?) all vie for your attention.

    We received scores of pitches, but here’s what caught our eye (in alphabetical order).

    DeLEÓN TEQUILA: CUSTOM-ENGRAVED BOTTLES

    You may or may not know that Sean “Diddy” Combs is the co-owner of the DeLeón tequila brand, which he acquired along with Diageo, his partner in Ciroc vodka.

    His part is to give DeLeón a similar sheen, making it the luxury vodka (he drinks it on the rocks). The packaging is gorgeous, the empty bottles demand to be repurposed. But that’s not all:

    Bottles of DeLeón Platinum ($55) and DeLeón Reposado ($65) can be custom-engraved with your personal message. It is engraved on the back of the bottle facing the front, so it can be seen whenever the giftee looks at the bottle. You have 10-25 characters on two lines in 14 point type, or 10-30 characters on 3 lines in 10 point type.

    Each bottle comes beautifully wrapped and accompanied with custom drink stirrers and a personal note from Mr. Combs. Start composing those messages, then head to ReserveBar.com.
     
     
    DIY: HOMEMADE GIN KIT

       

    DeLeon Tequila Bottles

    DIY Gin Kit

    TOP PHOTO: Engrave a message on the back of the DeLeón tequila bottle. BOTTOM PHOTO: Make homemade gin with this kit from DIY. And homemade tonic water, too.

     

    How much fun is this? The Homemade Gin Kit (photo above) lets you transform a generic bottle of vodka into your very own home-blend of gin in 36 hours. The kit contains everything you need—except the vodka—to make a like craft distillery-like gin in just 36 hours.

    It’s $54.95 at Williams-Sonoma.com (online only). You can combine it with a DIY Tonic Water Kit, $24.95.

     

    Chandon 2015 Limited Edition Bottle

    Jose Cuervo Rolling Stones Bottles

    Sam-Adams-Utopias-230

    TOP PHOTO: Pop the cork of limited edition
    Chandon Champagne. MIDDLE PHOTO:
    Rolling Stones fans will want these
    commemorative tequila bottles from Jose
    Cuervo. BOTTOM PHOTO: Samuel Adams
    Utopias, beer aged to a cognac-like state.

     

    MOET ET CHANDON: CHANDON LIMITED EDITION HOLIDAY BOTTLE

    Celebrating its third year of limited-edition holiday bottles, the 2015 bottle is white with gold script phrases like “Nonstop Fun” and Bestie Wishes.” It’s available at retailers nationwide, or online from Chandon.com.

    The suggested retail price is $24 for a 750-ml. bottle, $288 for a case.

    Not grand enough? For $449 you can give a Dom Pérignon 3-Pack: three bottles of the The King of Champagne’s 2005 vintage, with an engraved glass ice bucket.
     
     
    JOSE CUERVO TEQUILA: ROLLING STONES LIMITED EDITION BOTTLE

    Jose Cuervo has released two limited edition tequila bottlings of Especial and Reserva de la Familia. They commemorate “the pivotal role that Jose Cuervo played in fueling The Rolling Stones notorious 1972 North American tour” (dubbed the “Tequila Sunrise Tour”).

    For those who don’t know their Stones legends, the tour kicked off with a party at The Trident bar in San Francisco. According to an article in National Geographic, Mick came up to the bar and asked Bobby Lozoff, inventor of the Tequila Sunrise,for a Margarita. Bobby suggested a Tequila Sunrise instead and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Both bottles feature the iconic Stones “lapping tongue” logo and a limited-edition label. The Special Edition Rolling Stones Jose Cuervo Especial has a suggested retail price of $16.99.

    The Ultra Premium Rolling Stones Reserva de la Familia Collectors Edition—the private Extra Añejo tequila reserve of the Cuervo Family—has a suggested retail price of $149.99.
     
     
    BOSTON BEER COMPANY: SAMUEL ADAMS UTOPIAS

    What’s a $200 Samuel Adams like?

     
    It’s a rich, uncarbonated beer aged in wood barrels, known for its extraordinary flavor profile.

    Like cognac, it’s is a blend of previous vintages. The complex aroma has notes of wood, toffee, cocoa, raisin and maple; on the palate there’s molasses, earthy wood, dates, and toffee.

    Utopias a limited edition, limited release brew. Only 15,000 bottles are made each year. It’s packaged in a ceramic brew-kettle-style decanter.

    This year’s batch is 28% ABV, and is best enjoyed at room temperature, as a two ounce pour in a snifter.

    At a suggested retail price of $199, you probably can’t give it as a gift to all your beer-loving friends; but connoisseurs of craft beer will really appreciate a taste. Buy a bottle and invite them for a sip.

    Here’s where you can find it.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Sangria

    For the holidays, we like Cranberry Sangria. In addition to making pitchers of it to serve at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we keep a pitcher of Sangria in the fridge for daily apéritifs and impromptu visitors.

    In the first recipe, tart cranberry juice is pared with a sweet wine and orange liqueur. It takes only 10 minutes to make this recipe, from McCormick. The result: a flavorful, well-balanced holiday refreshment.

    Plan ahead: November 20th is National Sangria Day. Here’s the history of sangria.

    RECIPE: SPICED CRANBERRY SANGRIA

    Ingredients For 6 One-Cup Servings

  • 1 orange
  • 16 whole cloves
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) sweet white wine, such as Moscato or Riesling
  • 3 cups cranberry juice
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur*, such as Grand Marnier
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  •    

    Cranberry Sangria

    Steep orange slices studded with cloves, plus cranberries and cinnamon sticks, in sweet white wine and tart cranberry juice. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    *Here are the different types of  orange liqueur.

    Preparation

    1. CUT the orange into 8 wedges. Press 2 cloves into each wedge. Set aside.

    2. MIX the wine, cranberry juice, cranberries, liqueur, cinnamon sticks and vanilla in large pitcher until well blended. Add the orange wedges.

    3. REFRIGERATE for at least 3 hours before serving. Serve straight up or on the rocks.
     
    RECIPE: HOLIDAY SANGRIA WITH RUBY PORT

    This recipe also celebrates the flavors and colors of the season—with cinnamon, clementines and cranberries. They compliment the rich red-fruit flavors of Ruby Port (there’s more about Port below). The recipe was developed by Sandeman, using their Founders Reserve Ruby Port.
     
    Don’t worry about buying a bottle just for this recipe. Port is delicious served alone at the end of any dinner, with the cheese course (especially blue cheeses and washed-rind cheeses). or accompanying a rich chocolate or caramel dessert or candy.

    Serve Ruby Port with a side of salted or smoked nuts, and with smoked meats. The next time you make barbecue, serve Ruby Port on the rocks with a twist of lime!

     

    Sangria With Ruby Port

    Keep a pitcher in the fridge. Photo courtesy Sandeman.

     

    Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto or other Ruby Port
  • 4 ounces cinnamon schnapps† (Goldschläger is relatively easy to find)
  • 3 clementines, quartered or sliced
  • 6 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 18 ounces sparkling clementine juice or clementine soda‡
  • 6 ounces cranberry juice
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • Ground allspice to taste
  •  
    †Cinnamon schnapps is also delicious in coffee, after dinner drinks, atop vanilla ice cream, and so on. You can also make cinnamon simple syrup.

    ‡San Pellegrino and Izze make clementine sparkling drinks. Otherwise, substitute orange soda.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the Port, cinnamon schnapps, clementine pieces, cranberries, cranberry juice and cinnamon sticks in a large pitcher. Cover tightly and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

    2. TO SERVE: Add the sparkling clementine juice/soda and sprinkle allspice on top, to taste.
     
    PORT VS. PORTO & TYPES OF PORT

    Porto (sometimes written as Oporto, “the Porto”) is the second largest city in Portugal. Located along the Douro River estuary in northern Portugal, Porto was an outpost of the Roman Empire. Port wine is produced in the region.

    Port is made in several expressions: Crusted, Colheita, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), Ruby, Single Quinta, Tawny, Vintage, Vintage Character and White. Here’s an explanation of each type of Port.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Cranberry Vodka

    Should you change your vodka for the holidays?

    Some vodka producers make seasonal flavors. Pinnacle Vodka, for example, has a portfolio of holiday flavors that include Caramel Apple, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie and Peppermint Bark.

    Finlandia, Skyy and Smirnoff make cranberry vodka. Maybe you’ll be luckier than we’ve been in finding it. So here’s another option:

    Infuse your own cranberry vodka with real cranberries, instead of the extracts used to make commercial flavored vodka. Serve it—or bring it as a house gift—on Thanksgiving, Christmas and in-between.

    Generally when making infused vodka, the flavors should blend for four weeks or longer; but this recipe lets you do it in just 3 days.
     
    TIPS

  • Pass by the cheap stuff and use quality vodka. For $10 to $15, you can buy Denaka, Luksusowa, New Amsterdam, Pinnacle, Sobieski, Smirnoff or Svedka.
  • Why not spring for pricier vodka? If you’re making the vodka as a gift and want to impress, use the recipient’s favorite brand or other prestigious label. It won’t necessarily make better-tasting cranberry vodka, but will please the status-oriented.
  •    

    Cranberry Vodka Cocktail

    An easy holiday cocktail: cranberry vodka and ginger ale on the rocks. Photo courtesy SarahsJoy.com.

  • Create a hang tag for the neck of the bottle, with the name of the product (straight or fanciful), year made, and any other information.
  • If you’d rather showcase your vodka in a clear wine bottle, you can hand-paint a label and add decorations. The bottles run about $3 apiece.
     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE CRANBERRY VODKA

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries
  • 1 fifth good quality vodka
  •  

    Bowl Of Fresh Cranberries

    Just add vodka. In three days you’ll have
    cranberry vodka. Photo courtesy Good Eggs |
    San Francisco.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, tilting and swirling the pan occasionally. Lower the heat and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened (about 5 minutes).

    2. REMOVE the pan from the heat. Stir in the cranberries and set the pan aside for 2 hours.

    3. TRANSFER the cranberry mixture to a large covered bowl, jar or canister and add the vodka. Retain the bottle to refill with the finished product. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 days, stirring occasionally. If you don’t have room in the fridge, keep it in a cool, dark place.

    4. STRAIN the vodka into a large pitcher, reserving the cranberries. You can use them to garnish drinks.

     
    5. USING a funnel, pour the vodka back into the original bottle. Place the bottle in the freezer until ready to serve. Keep the reserved cranberries in the freezer, but defrost them prior to serving (they defrost quickly).
     
    To Serve

    Serve cranberry vodka:

  • Shots
  • Straight up or on the rocks
  • As Cranberry Martinis, with just a splash of vermouth
  • In other cocktails or punch
  •  
    Top with a few cranberries to garnish.

      

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