It's late December, the kids are on their best behavior and Old Man Winter has been camped outside for a few days. It's also a time when family get-togethers can have you stressed out, your bones are chilled to the marrow and a beverage offering a bigger kick than coffee is really what you need to make all right with the world. What better way to relax than with a winter themed drink?
When it comes to cocktails, I see major chain restaurants mixed drinks (Chili's, TGIFriday's, etc.) as the liquor equivalent of department stores around this time of year. We've just past Thanksgiving and are entering the Holiday season, but in department stores the lights, ornaments and holiday baubles have been on the shelves since before Halloween. The stores choose to focus on the "big" Holiday rather than allowing customers to enjoy whatever holiday is coming up. It doesn't seem like they can enjoy what is right in front of them.
A majority of the time, pre-Prohibition cocktail books are the research materials I use for creating new cocktails or when I'm looking to serve something new to my guests. They are some great sources for reprints of the old tomes. Probably the best would be Amazon or, my favorite, Cocktail Kingdom. While many of these books are a fascinating look at how bars were run in the early 1900s and the recipes that were cataloged at the time, they don't necessarily delve into the history of the drinks or their particular place in American history.
We had some chilly weather over this past weekend and it got me ready for those great warm cocktails that shake the chill from your bones. The great thing about warm drinks are their versatility. When it comes to serving up a warm beverage, only your own imagination and ingredients on hand can hold you back.
Some of the flavors that I tend to associate with cold weather drinking are those that I associate with baking. In fact I call these flavors "baking spices." What I'm referring to are the common flavors of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. While these flavors can and are used year-round, there is just something about the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg coming from the kitchen when the weather is frosty and snow is on the horizon.
We've already talked about making a proper Martini and if you've read that article, the recipe in today's article will look familiar. The Hanky Panky is almost identical to a martini made with sweet vermouth but with the addition of one extra ingredient. While the martini has its own history, the Hanky Panky also has its own fantastic tale.
This may be one of the most shocking posts I've ever written. Like pulling a band-aid off, this is better said quick: that "-tini" you've been drinking for years is not a martini at all! A martini does not contain chocolate, apple, other fruit flavorings (except orange bitters), olives or onions. A martini is made with only three ingredients that cannot be altered, unless you don't want to call the resulting drink a martini. Those ingredients are gin, vermouth and orange bitters.
One of my favorite liqueurs is Chartreuse. The spicy, herbal, and sweet liquor has been produced by the Carthusian Monks in France since the early 1700's. The two most common types found in the liquor store is the Green or Yellow variety. The Green variety, arguably the most popular, comes in at 110 proof and is flavored with 132 plants and herbs. It's color comes from the chlorophyll in these herbs and plants. The Yellow variety is much milder in flavor and slightly sweeter. It clocks in at 80 proof. There are a few other versions of Chartreuse but these are generally much more expensive and hard to find.
This past Saturday I was teaching a class on cocktail bitters and one of the students mentioned they had purchased a well-known cocktail book and it only contained two recipes containing bitters. That got me thinking about drinks where bitters are an essential ingredient AND are so simple in execution that it would seem difficult to mess up.
Labor Day marks the unofficial end to the summer season. I'm guessing that's just because most people get a three-day weekend. But if your weather has been anything like our weather here in Virginia, summer is not going quietly into that dark night. It's felt mid-July rather than early-September since the holiday weekend.
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