The Friday Tipple: Earl’s Cup

Earl's Cup

What ho, Boozers. The long months have finally passed and Americans are eagerly waiting, as always, to catch up to the Brits. Yes, Downton Abbey returns on January 6th — and that’s what we call a real epiphany.

Of course, we need a proper drink to enjoy such a comeback on a dark winter’s night tucked up by the electric fire. The Earl’s Cup is a lovely little aperitif to sip as you breathlessly await the unfolding saga of Mary and Matthew while wearing your “Free John Bates” t-shirt, and it tastes even better when you have Carson mix it up for you, serving it on a sterling silver tray.

If a downstairs drink is more your style, you can try our Daisy’s Cup version, but don’t let Thomas get his hands on it — he’s likely to slip you the mickey.

Earl’s Cup

A simple syrup of Earl Grey tea lends this sipper a touch of elegance; use a good quality local gin — Lord Grantham would certainly approve supporting the local economy, since he probably owns it anyway.

2 ounces gin (we have two fine local gins here, Catoctin Creek and Green Hat)

1 large spoonful to taste of Earl Grey simple syrup (recipe below)

Wedge of lemon, preferably a flavorful Meyer lemon

Put gin in a cocktail shaker. Squeeze the lemon into the gin and drop the wedge into the shaker and leave it for half an hour while you polish the silver. Then add the Earl Grey simple syrup and shake (without ice, of course — that would be terribly American). Strain into a crystal sherry glass and serve. This is best served at room temperature, and is also lovely to enjoy slightly warmed after a day out in the country riding to hounds.

Daisy’s Cup: for those who prefer to drink in the servant’s hall, pour four ounces of room temperature ale (we like this with DC Brau Citizen or  Port City Tartan Scottish Ale) into a sturdy mug, add two tablespoons of Earl Grey simple syrup, and drop a lemon wedge in. Stir well and drink up — but keep it to one drink as those fireplaces won’t clean themselves at 6 a.m.

to make the Earl Grey simple syrup: Make 8 ounces of strong Earl Grey tea (using two tea bags). Put tea and 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat for at least 30 minutes or until reduced by half. Cool and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

The Friday Tipple: An Epiphany

Christmas is over, Boozers. Yes, the twelve drummers played their last tune yesterday and those dried-out old trees have been booted to the curb by the purists who waited until Twelfth Night to strip them bare. It’s time for an Epiphany.

Many people think they’ve had an epiphany in the new year, but we think it’s really just a resolution in disguise. However, resolutions tend to get broken while epiphanies can actually stir action. Some epiphanies are sudden revelations, and others steal upon us softly, as if we are waking from a dream. This week’s Tipple is the latter kind — based on a traditional wassail popularized in the Middle Ages known as Lamb’s Wool — and garnished with a lemon “crown”, a nod to the gold paper crowns found on Epiphany cakes in France.

This warm little drink is spicy and not too sweet, with a citrus undertone, and we’re pretty sure that if you drink enough of it, in the company of good friends, you’ll have an epiphany. Cheers!

An Epiphany

For this winter warmer, we trotted out Leopold Bros. truly gorgeous New York Apple Whiskey, added in some Meyer lemons, left over from last week’s Tipple, and dusted off a bottle of Stone’s Ginger Wine, a fortified wine made with ginger and raisins popular in the UK. It’s not hard to find and is actually a nice addition to your cocktail cabinet to splash into a variety of tasty libations.

1.5 cups apple cider

1 cup hard apple cider (we like Crispin’s)

1/2 cup Stone’s Original Green Ginger Wine

1/2 cup Leopold Bros. Apple Whiskey (although another good whiskey will still do the trick)

1/2 lemon (a Meyer lemon is nice if you have it)

1/4 teaspoon each: ground cardamom, nutmeg, and allspice

In a two-quart saucepan, add the apple cider, Stone’s Ginger Wine, and the spices, then squeeze in the lemon and drop the lemon into the pot, stirring together until combined. Simmer over very low heat for 45 minutes. Then add the hard apple cider and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the whiskey. Pour into heat-safe glasses, garnish with a slice of lemon, and wait for your epiphany. Serves 4.

The Friday Tipple: Midnight in Paris

Break out the bubbly, Boozers. With New Year’s Eve on the horizon, we knew that champagne was on order for today’s Tipple, even though we’re happy to enjoy it any day of the week. Our inspiration is the French 75, also known somewhat more elegantly as the Soixante-Quinze, a truly classic cocktail which made its first appearance in New York in 1915. We like it for its international flair, mixing gin with champagne, but have updated it with our usual American sensibility, rather like Woody Allen’s view of Paris: romantic, fresh, slightly absurd, eminently practical.

The foundation of our Midnight in Paris is a Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup; the Meyer Lemon is named for Frank Meyer, an “agricultural explorer” and employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture who came across the fruit while on a trip to China in 1908. Its intensely vibrant lemon flavor and rich color creates a sweetly tart syrup that perfectly compliments the juniper undertones of a good gin — this is not a time to skimp on the liquor; we happen to prefer Catoctin Creek’s Watershed Gin, which is local to our area, but there are many good varieties out there, from Hendrick’s to Juniper Green to Sipsmith.

As to the bubbly, it need not be strictly French champagne — we are a global society, after all — but any dry sparkling wine will do, and we particularly like using a variety from a local winery when we can, like Thibaut-Janisson’s Virginia Fizz, a fruity sparkling Chardonnay which mixes well into a cocktail.

So even if you find yourself sitting in your flannel pyjamas watching the ball drop on television at midnight (and what’s wrong with that?), you can still feel suitably elegant with this drink at your side while you ring in the new year. Bonne Année!

Midnight in Paris

We like to serve this in an old-fashioned champagne goblet — it makes us feel so French, somehow — but it’s just as lovely in a flute. If you can’t find Meyer Lemons, don’t despair — you can make the syrup with regular lemons, just add a little extra juice to increase the flavor.

Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup (recipe below)


Champagne or sparkling white wine

Thinly-sliced lemon wheels coated in sugar, for garnish

Put one tablespoon Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup and 2 ounces gin in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a champagne glass, then fill the rest of the glass with champagne. Float the lemon wheel on top and enjoy.

Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup

One large Meyer lemon, cut in half and juiced

3/4 cup water

one cup sugar

In a small saucepan over medium heat, add water and sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring to a low simmer, then add the lemon juice and the two halves of the lemon. Stir well and allow to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and cool; will keep refrigerated for two weeks.