Holiday Cocktails

Robert Frost-ini

Whatever holidays you choose to celebrate in December, it’s always nice to have a cocktail in your hand while communing with friends and neighbors. There’s something here for everyone on your list. Cheers!

Breakfast Bellini

Champagne Creamsicle

Hot Buttered Rum Toddy

Mexican Cocoa Martini with Drunken Fluff

Midnight in Paris

Papa Elf’s Cranberry Daiquiri

Pear Champagne Cocktail

Potlikker Sangria

Robert Frost-ini

Swedish Margareta

Tex-Mex Cocoa

 

 

The Garden Tipple: Mary’s Cherry

Mary's Cherry

Get your minds out of the gutter, Boozers. It’s cherry tomato season and the little darlings are exploding in the garden these days, meaning that we are overrun with little red — and pink, and yellow — globules of goodness. So we decided that we needed a Bloody Mary.

While you can purchase Bloody Mary mixer in the store — and some of it can be quite tasty — it’s also a snap to make, especially this time of year when the tomato crop is obscene in its abundance. Cherry tomatoes make for a nice base, both sweet and tart at once, rather like our friend Mary. We’ve upped the ante on our version, Mary’s Cherry, by also marinating a handful of cherry tomatoes in vodka, which makes for a rather potent brunch cocktail. Collect the car keys at the door and settle in.

Mary’s Cherry

A classic Bloody Mary requires horseradish and Worcestershire Sauce to give it some kick, but don’t neglect other flavors to amp it up. Here in the mid-Atlantic, it’s popular to add Old Bay Seasoning to the mix, but curry powder, smoked paprika, ramps, and pickled hot peppers are other ingredients that you might try out to customize the flavor to your own tastebuds.

3 ounces Bloody Cherry Tomato Mix (recipe here)

2 ounces vodka (we like Boyd & Blair – you can also use the vodka from the Drunken Cherry Tomatoes)

4 Drunken Cherry Tomatoes (recipe here)

Cucumber and fresh parsley for garnish (optional — use whatever you like)

Place the Drunken Cherry Tomatoes in the bottom of a tall glass and muddle lightly to break the skins. Add a few ice cubes, then the vodka and Bloody Cherry Tomato Mix. Stir well and garnish. Serve immediately.

The Garden Tipple: Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

We’re full of vim and vinegar this week, dear Boozers. It’s Negroni Week, when our favorite magazine teams up with our favorite Italian liqueur to encourage local watering holes to mix up negroni cocktails for charity. A classic negroni is simple and elegant with just three ingredients: gin, Campari, and vermouth, generally served with a twist of orange. What’s nice about it is that while it is just perfect as it is, it’s also easy to riff off of it for fun new variations.

And so we went out to the farmers market and picked up a whole lot of fresh early summer strawberries, since our own cocktail garden’s strawberry plants aren’t yet at peak production, and made a beautiful and slightly tart strawberry-basil drinking vinegar. A drinking vinegar serves much the same purpose as a bitter liqueur like Campari, working as an excellent digestive agent when mixed with club soda. But, hell, we just like it anyway, especially when mixed up in a cocktail. So go out and have a negroni for charity, then come home and have a Strawberry Vinegar Negroni with friends.

Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

We love the flavor of Campari and didn’t want to replace it entirely with the Strawberry-Basil Drinking Vinegar, so we chose to create a Campari candied orange garnish, which is as simple as putting a 1/2 cup of Campari, 1/4 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, and some fresh orange slices in a small saucepan and simmering over low heat until all that’s left is a really thick syrup coating the orange slices. Remove to a baking rack and let cool completely.

1 ounce gin (support your local distillery — we like Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

1 ounce sweet vermouth

1 ounce Strawberry-Basil Drinking Vinegar

chilled club soda

candied Campari orange slice for garnish (you can also just marinate orange slices in Campari for a couple of hours as an alternative garnish)

Put first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir vigorously. Pour into a glass with fresh ice, top with chilled club soda, and stir again. Garnish with candied Campari orange slice.

 

 

The Friday Tipple: Strawberry Rose Mojito

Strawberry Rose Mojito

Mom needs a drink, Boozers. You may be the apple of her eye, but you’ve also put her through years of unintentional stress. She stayed up half the night finishing your third grade science fair project while you snuggled up with Bunny in bed. She got up at 5:30 on Saturday mornings to shower and dress before dragging you out of bed for that early hockey practice. She hemmed your prom dress — by hand, mind you — because you suddenly decided you had to be part of the hi-lo trend. She listened to countless hours of whining about boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, jobs, children (she told you so), home repairs, car repairs, weight loss, and destructive puppies — and all without telling you to shut up and get over yourself. Face it, the woman is a saint.

So here’s what you do. Pick her up, bring her back to your perfectly tidy house (because of course you cleaned up before Mom came over), and present her with a beautiful home-cooked brunch and a special cocktail made just in her honor. Because moms like handmade. It may be easier for you to take her out to some faceless restaurant, but listen carefully: Moms Like Handmade. They don’t care if it’s gourmet, if there are fine linens and crystal, or if there’s a guy walking around with a basket of plastic-wrapped single roses for $3 a pop. There is no substitute for making it yourself, and it’s the least you can do. Happy Mother’s Day.

Strawberry Rose Mojito

It will seem loopy, but this is made with strawberry jam rather than fresh strawberries. Jam cocktails are really charming, because the jam gives a lovely silky mouthfeel to the drink. If you are feeling enterprising, you could whip up a really simple Freezer Strawberry Jam the day before — meaning you can also present Mom with a beribboned jar as a nice handmade gift — or you can use a really high-quality strawberry jam. We used a strawberry balsamic jam made by our local Wisteria Gardens, which added another depth of flavor to an already sublime cocktail.

2 ounces light rum (we used Chairman’s Reserve)

2 heaping teaspoons of strawberry jam

1/2 teaspoon Rose Water (available in many markets)

several clean basil leaves (mint is traditional, but basil is perfect with strawberries)

chilled club soda

fresh strawberry for garnish

Put basil leaves in the bottom of a tall glass and muddle until they are broken down into smaller pieces. Add rum, jam and rose water , and mix thoroughly. Put several ice cubes in the glass, fill with club soda and stir together. Garnish with strawberry and serve immediately.

 

The Friday Tipple: La Primavera

La Primavera

We’re back on the spring bandwagon, Boozers. It keeps creeping ever closer, little by little, and we’re not about to argue. Flowers are blossoming, bees are buzzing, and the farmers markets are starting to feature fresh vegetables that did not grow under the ground — not that we don’t enjoy a good root vegetable as much as the next person. What we’re crushing on this week are those little darlings of spring, fresh sweet peas.

Before you recoil in horror, let us say that these are not cafeteria peas, cooked down to mush with a color that can only be described as, well, pea green. These are those charmingly cherubic spheres that are the brightest hue of spring green, like a new blade of grass and just as sweet. And, yes, they make a lovely cocktail. We know it’s hard to fathom, but open your minds, just like you are opening your windows to a soft spring breeze — if you must drink your vegetables, then this is surely the way to do it.

La Primavera

We created this recipe for Don Ciccio & Figli, an absolutely wonderful distiller of seriously hand-made Italian liqueurs in Washington, DC. Each flavor is like a jewel-toned work of art; this particular drink features limoncello, and a good limoncello should be a clear lemon-yellow color (not day-glo yellow, which likely means artificial colors have been added) and you should be overwhelmed with the scent of fresh lemons when you open the bottle — if it smells like Country Time Lemonade, then something has gone seriously wrong.

1 ounce fresh pea juice
2 ounces limoncello
1 ounce gin (we always use Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin; please support your local distiller)
chilled club soda (optional — see below)

Make the fresh pea juice: take 1/2 cup clean peas (you can use frozen peas if fresh are not available, just defrost them first) and put them in a blender with 1/2 cup water. Purée thoroughly, then strain completely so that you have just a clear green liquid. Can be refrigerated for up to two days.

Place first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake thoroughly. At this point, you have two options: strain into a cosmopolitan glass and drink it as is, or pour into a tall glass filled with ice and top with chilled club soda. It’s preferable to garnish with early spring strawberries, sweet cherry tomatoes, or a few fresh pea shoots, but a lemon wedge will do just as well.

 

The Friday Tipple: The Good Friday

The Good Friday

TGIF, Boozers. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, an emphatic TGIF. For many people across the globe, this week also represents the observation of Passover and Easter, a time for reflection upon and appreciation of all that is both bitter and sweet.

We always find Fridays, in general, to be bittersweet, as we struggle to stay focused on the work necessary to pay the bills while already lamenting the scant few hours ahead that allow us to escape the daily grind. We find ourselves easily distracted, rushing headlong into the weekend and the joys of sleeping in because we sat up in the wee hours watching infomercials while munching on microwave pizza in bed.

For this particular Friday, it feels right to come home to a special cocktail that we’re calling, appropriately enough, The Good Friday. By turns bitter, sweet, celebratory, and slightly numbing, it could set the tone for your two days of respite – or simply give you a few moments of blissful ignorance.

The Good Friday

Most people think of Campari only in connection with club soda and a wedge of lime, but Campari adds a silky bittersweet note to many cocktails and is particularly nice when paired with flavors that are sweet, fruity, and botanical.

1 ounce silver tequila (we like Avion, which is rather herbaceous and gin-like with a bite)

1 ounce Campari

1/2 large fresh orange

chilled Prosecco or sparkling wine

Place tequila and Campari in a cocktail shaker and squeeze the orange into it thoroughly, including some pulp. Add an ice cube, stir briskly, and strain into a chilled coupe. Top with an ounce or so of Prosecco and enjoy.

 

The Friday Tipple: Swedish 75

Swedish 75

It’s a snow day, Boozers. An unexpected snowfall means that our frosty breath hangs in the air as we tramp through mounds of the fluffy stuff, imagining that we are traversing through the Scandinavian countryside. If we were truly of Nordic blood, we’d laugh at this paltry little showing of Mother Nature, but  instead we are as excited as schoolchildren. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

During the recent holiday celebrations, we were lucky enough to be gifted with a tantalizing pine-based gin from St. George Spirits which perfectly suits a wintry day. Prior to that, we were already fascinated by pine syrup, which you can purchase online or simply make yourself (this is how we prefer to recycle a Christmas tree); additionally, you can infuse any gin (like Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin, our local favorite) with clean pine needles to get the same fresh woodsy flavor.

And so today we bring you the Swedish 75, a Scandinavian twist on the French 75 that truly should be imbibed while sitting in a hot tub on a frosty winter evening. Gott Nytt År!

Swedish 75

For this happy little cocktail, we like to use a splash of lingonberry juice for a truly Swedish flair, but if you can’t find lingonberry juice, then you can substitute cranberry juice — just be sure to use a light hand with it, because cranberries have a somewhat stronger flavor than lingonberries.

1 ounce gin, preferably pine-infused*

1 ounce lingonberry juice

a few drops of orange bitters

2 ounces sparkling wine, champagne, or Prosecco

fresh orange peel

Combine first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir briskly. Strain into a champagne coupe (you can also serve in a tall glass over crushed ice) and top with the sparkling wine. Twist orange peel over the glass to release the oils and drop into the drink. Serve immediately.

* If you don’t have a pine-infused gin, do not fret. You can also create a quick pine-infused simple syrup and add a teaspoon of it to your cocktail to create a similar effect.

 

The Friday Tipple: Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

The school year is in full swing, Boozers. We’ve seen hordes of little ones marching off in search of naptime and enlightenment, armed with shiny new backpacks and toothy grins. The sight has harkened us back to an earlier time when we drooped soporifically at the school bus stop in the pre-dawn hours, sipping from a styrofoam cup of Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink. Ah, we can almost taste the powdered chocolatey goodness.

The appearance of the “adult milkshake” on many menus has given barflies a chance to relive their favorite childhood flavors with a grown-up twist, like the Dirty Girlscout and the Bailey’s Caramel Macchiato. So we started to think, what if a classic breakfast drink were reimagined as a creamy cocktail? Hence, the Breakfast of Champions. We might not actually recommend it for breakfast if you’ve got an 8 a.m. meeting scheduled with the boss, but it could be a tasty way to start off the weekend.

Breakfast of Champions

For our homage to liquid breakfast nutrition, we chose to combine a nutty soy or almond milk with a smooth rye whiskey for a truly eye-opening brunch cocktail. To provide a little contrast, and to aid digestion, we opted to toss in some bitters — in this case, The Bitter Truth’s Chocolate Bitters or Cocktail Kingdom’s Coffee Bitters provide just the right counterpoint.

1/2 cup chilled almond or soy milk (plain, unsweetened)

1 heaping tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 ounces rye whiskey (we like Catoctin Creek’s Organic Roundstone Rye)

2 tablespoons light agave nectar (add more or less to your taste)

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee

chocolate or coffee bitters

3 ice cubes

Make a slurry of the cocoa powder, rye whiskey, agave nectar, and instant coffee, mixing until well-combined. Pour the slurry and the almond or soy milk into a blender, then add the ice cubes and blend on high for a minute or two until the ice cubes are completely incorporated (no large chunks). Stir in a few dashes of bitters and pour into a chilled glass.

The Friday Tipple: Der Kommissar

Der Kommissar

We’re on the run, Boozers. Well, not exactly, but we are certainly feeling a certain nostalgia for the Cold War era, what with fugitives slinking around Moscow airports and the amping up of 80s-style commentary from the Kremlin. Falco is suddenly relevant again.

So you can imagine how we were intrigued by the discovery of an Eastern European drink known as Kompot, a sweetened fruit juice that is almost embarrassingly easy to make. You can prepare it with any fruit you like; we chose peaches because they are so plentiful these days. Pair it with a good vodka and being in hiding suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. Alles klar, Herr Kommissar?

Der Kommissar

There’s a certain peasant-like austerity to this cocktail, appealing to our need for simplicity on steamy summer days, when we like to keep a refreshing drink handy while we are hiding out next to the air conditioning vent.

4 ounces Peach Kompot (recipe below)
2 ounces vanilla-infused vodka (we infused our favorite Boyd & Blair with a vanilla bean)

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add ingredients. Shake vigorously. Can be served with or without ice.

to make the Peach Kompot:

1 cup fresh peaches, pits removed and quartered (you don’t need to remove the skins)

2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

juice of half a lemon

Put all ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a high simmer. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 30 – 45 minutes until reduced by about a third. Cool completely, strain, and add lemon juice. Can be refrigerated at this point for up to two weeks. Save the fruit — tastes delicious on its own or spooned over yogurt or ice cream!

Many thanks to Punk Domestics, which inspired us with this recipe from The Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter.

The Friday Tipple: Garden Party Punch

Garden Party Punch

We’re a bit punchy, Boozers. What with a coming increase in weddings for all, we think making drinks for a crowd may become a fixture for summertime brides and grooms, and this makes us want to whip up a bowl of punch. Punch can be a terrible throwback of sickly-sweet sherbet floating in a sea of ginger ale spiked with cheap champagne, but it need not be so. A good punch can be the centerpiece of a celebratory garden party, brimming over with fresh flavors and enough liquor to loosen up Uncle Frank when the band strikes up to play.

Our Garden Party Punch is a play on a classic gin and tonic, amped up with limoncello. By freezing the tonic water into a mold, you create a nice way to chill the punch, but it also serves to subtly alter the flavor as it melts and quietly dilute what is, admittedly, a strong brew – which you’ll be grateful for as the evening wears on. Cheers!

Garden Party Punch

Ingredients are key to this libation – look for a flavorful and good quality tonic water, such as Fentiman’s or a classic Schweppes, and a simple clean limoncello; we’re fortunate to have an excellent local variety, Don Ciccio & Figli, but check your area for craft limoncello – or make it yourself for a personal touch. Chilling all the ingredients beforehand insures that the tonic mold won’t melt too quickly.

For the punch:

1 bottle chilled gin (go for something with an herbaceous bite, like Catoctin Creek)
8 ounces chilled limoncello
1 quart chilled club soda (have an extra chilled quart on hand to adjust flavor)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup lavender honey
handful clean mint leaves
One lemon, thinly sliced

Mix together club soda, lemon juice, honey, and mint – put back in soda bottle, cap tightly, and chill for one hour. After an hour, put all ingredients in a punch bowl, stir well, add frozen tonic mold and garnish with lemon slices. Serve immediately.

Frozen tonic mold:

1 quart tonic water
1/4 cup lemon juice
Several fresh mint leaves

Put all ingredients in a small bundt cake mold and freeze solid overnight. Unmold just before serving by dipping the mold in a bowl of hot tap water.