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This holiday season, while most people relaxed and enjoyed themselves, I was hard at work perfecting what will years from now be looked back on as the perfect Christmas drink repertoire. The way I see it, every self-respecting drinker needs five go-to libations to get them through the five drinking stages of Christmas: (1) pre-Christmas; (2) Christmas Eve Dinner; (3) Christmas Eve After-Dinner; (4) Christmas Morning; (5) Christmas After-Dinner. Serve a little wine with Christmas dinner and this collection of seasonal drinks will guide you smoothly through next year’s “most wonderful time of the year.” I’ve already discussed the perfect pre-Christmas drink, Rye Egg Nog, so lets move on to Christmas Eve . . .
Stage 2: Christmas Eve – Pomegranate Bourbon Cocktail (from Serious Eats)
1/4 oz pomegranate molasses
1/2 oz pomegranate juice
1/2 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 oz bourbon
Dash of Angostura bitters
Orange peel for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add pomegranate molasses, pomegranate juice, orange juice, whiskey and bitters.
Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. Gently squeeze together the orange peel to release the oils, then place into cocktail and serve.
For Christmas Eve I chose something appropriate for the season – a warm brown spirit paired with the tart, acidic, and slightly sweet pomegranate. I found the pomegranate molasses used here at Whole Foods, and it adds a unexpected tartness which pairs perfectly with a sweet bourbon. I added 1/4 oz simple syrup to the original recipe, but only to overcome the fact that the oranges we juiced were a bit flat. You might adjust the sugar based on the sweetness of your oranges.
This drink is very nicely balanced. The tartness of the pomegranate works really well with the whiskey, complementing rather than overpowering the bourbon. Definitely a spirit forward drink, but any whiskey lovers should enjoy this complex and subtly fruity winter cocktail.
Coming soon – Christmas After-Dinner: Tom & Jerry
Previous post – How to Drink: A (Holiday) Instruction Manual – Rye Egg Nog
I’m currently working my way through Brad Thomas Parsons’ new book Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classics Cure-All. Not only does this book tell the fascinating history of this crucial cocktail component, it has some intriguing recipes for making your own bitters at home. Personally, I can’t wait to try to make the apple bitters just as soon as I can find my friendly local cinchona bark retailer.
While I’m overall enamored with this book, the most interesting part so far was this little nugget that my wife found:
“In the case Siegert v. Abbott, the two bitters manufacturers fought over the use of the word “Angostura” in their name (it refers to both an ingredient in the bitters and to the town in Venezuela where they were made). After losing the case, Abbott’s had to change their labels and advertising, while Siegert’s Angostura went on to become the go-to bitters, the Angostura aromatic bitters that’s still around today. Despite the trademark lawsuit, Abbott’s actually survived Prohibition, but due to poor business management the brand dried up in the 1940s, and now it lives on only in memory, and on online auction sites.”
Worlds colliding. Love it. Pick up this book, and watch for some homemade bitters on this blog soon!
This holiday season, while most people relaxed and enjoyed themselves, I was hard at work perfecting what will years from now be looked back on as the perfect Christmas drink repertoire. The way I see it, every self-respecting drinker needs five go-to libations to get them through the five drinking stages of Christmas: (1) pre-Christmas; (2) Christmas Eve Dinner; (3) Christmas Eve After-Dinner; (4) Christmas Morning; (5) Christmas After-Dinner. Serve a little wine with Christmas dinner and this collection of seasonal drinks will guide you smoothly through next year’s “most wonderful time of the year.” So without further ado, I give you the perfect pre-Christmas drink . . .
Stage 1: Pre-Christmas – Rye Egg Nog
Growing up all I knew of egg nog was the rich, syrupy sweet store-bought stuff that always arrived in our house around the holidays. It wasn’t until last year that I discovered the homemade stuff, and now I can’t imagine ever buying another carton. Not only is homemade egg nog delicious, it’s a lot of fun to make, especially when you factor in the anticipation of having to let it age for three weeks. Making a big batch around Thanksgiving and giving it a few weeks mature ensures that you have an easy crowd-pleaser on hand for unexpected guests. It also does the trick to wash away those long stressful days of last minute shopping, or as a boozy treat to help get you in the holiday spirit.
Rye Egg Nog (adapted from CHOW, makes about 1 gallon)
12 large eggs (read this to allay concerns about using raw eggs)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups whole milk
4 cups Old Overholt rye whiskey
1/2 cup Myer’s dark rum
1 cup Korbel XS Brandy
Pinch of kosher salt
Whole or ground nutmeg (for garnish)
1. Separate egg yolks and whites. Combine yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk until blended and creamy.
2. Add cream, milk, rye, rum, brandy and salt, then stir
3. Bottle and refrigerate immediately for a minimum of 3 weeks to allow egg nog to age.
I love the spicy bite that using a rye brings to the drink, but if you are looking for something a little sweeter, bourbon will also work well here. I’ve made this with regular Korbel brandy and with the XS, and I prefer the XS for its sweetness. Plus, Korbel is a surprisingly nice bottle for the price. That being said, any quality brandy or cognac will work, and it would be interesting to experiment with some different combinations.
There are plenty of egg nog recipes out there, but the magic of this particular one is the aging. Beware, when you first prepare this and put it in the canister it will taste and smell like pure gasoline – practically unpalatable, all booze, no nuance. But somehow by sitting for three weeks it emerges as a much softer, sweeter, and rounder drink. The boozy flavors are certainly still there (I can attest that a glass of this packs a punch) but without the harshness or burn you would expect from a drink with this much liquor. I like to think of the aging process as rounding out the edges. And while three weeks in the minimum time to age before serving, some suggest aging for 6 months or even a year for maximum effect. Needless to say, this egg nog will keep for a good amount of time, I’m just not sure I’m willing to wait that long.
The egg nog can be served a number of ways. This year we ladled ours into Irish Coffee glasses with some homemade whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg. The nog also does great on the rocks, but always with a good dusting of nutmeg. And for those of you really trying to ramp up the presentation, whip up 10 egg whites and 1 1/2 cups heavy cream to soft peaks and fold them into the eggnog, topped with nutmeg. Enjoy!
Watch for the How to Drink: A (Holiday) Instruction Manual part 2 featuring the perfect Christmas Eve Dinner libation – The Pomegranate Bourbon Cocktail!
The Bar Exam has come and gone. Thanks to a raucous Vegas bachelor party and a leisurely week out of town, I’ve regained some of the sanity I lost while prepping for the world’s worst exam. In the coming months I’ll be getting married, moving across the country, and hopefully getting back to regular cocktail writing. But enough back story, lets talk about drinking . . .
Since I was buried in my study cave for a good deal of this summer, I’ve been trying to squeeze three months of enjoyment into the one free month I have left. This of course means diving headlong into summer cocktails. Since my fiancée and I just got a shiny new blender as a wedding present, the Margarita seemed like a natural place to start. The Margarita is such a simple concoction that is too frequently marred by artificial ingredients. Skip the neon sweet and sour mix and use fresh stuff for a supremely satisfying drink. In this case, I incorporated mangoes for a tropical twist on the classic recipe.
Mango Margarita (adapted from Food.com) (makes 2 drinks)
1/2 cup silver tequila (Milagro)
1 oz Cointreau
2/3 cup mango nectar
3/4 cup frozen mango pieces
2 oz simple syrup
3 tbsp lime juice
1 cup ice
Blend all ingredients in blender. Add ice to reach desired consistency. Pour into margarita glass.
Interestingly, I was able to get all of the ingredients for this drink at Trader Joe’s. They carry Milagro tequila, which I like as a reasonably priced 100% agave tequila for mixing. As far as the mango, I experimented with both the Trader Joe’s frozen mango halves and pieces, and found that the halves impart much more mango flavor and are preferable to the pieces.
This is a delicious and simple summer drink that is a real crowd-pleaser. The mango flavor is clear but not overpowering, and the drink remains balanced, slightly tart, and not overly sweet. Since I can’t always serve my favorite summer cocktail (Negronis) to guests (their loss!), its convenient to have a reliable alternative that tastes more complicated than it actually is. Cheers!