The Drinks Menu
Because we all need some comfort for the holidays.
This week’s Weekly Menu is another “bunch of one thing” menu, rather than a full menu. That’s because this time, unlike last weeks, I chose a topic that would actually make for a little less work leading up to the holiday – since like many of us here in the States I’ll be spending most of the next few days elbow deep in turkey and turkey accompaniments and turkey byproducts.
With the holiday season coming up, we’re all looking for festive libations – boozy or otherwise – that we can serve to guests, to ourselves, or just imagine quietly enjoying alone in front of a peaceful flickering fire someplace a long way from anyone, any place where there’s not turkey.
So, here are a few cocktails, mocktails and holiday favorite custards masquerading as a beverage to help you thought the holiday season.
The Weekly Menu is taking a real break next week – I’ll be sending out a recap of some of my favorites from the last year – with a real regular menu returning December 7th.
As always, thanks for subscribing to the weekly menu, and thanks especially to those paid subscribers who support my work here. The Weekly Menu is always free, but paid subscribers receive additional recipes, tips, tricks, and commentary as thanks for their support. Right now, you can get 20% paid subscription.
Cardamom Spiced Hot Apple Cider
Hot apple cider is one of those “who thought this was a good idea” that is in fact a good idea. I suspect, without any actual proof, evidence, or research to back up my assertion, that it probably evolved form boiling down cider to make … well, boiled cider – a staple of 17th-18th century kitchens in places where there were a lot of apples. But again, I’m just guessing.
Regardless, it’s tasty stuff – and heating it with spices makes it even tastier. Most American recipes for hot cider use the holy trinity of baking spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice) and as such, most of them taste pretty much the same.
I love how cardamom pairs with apples, so I add a hearty dose of fresh green cardamom pods. They add a floral, resiny note that I really enjoy.
This recipe scales pretty easily to larger portions and works well as a mixer should you feel the need to spike it with booze. I’m particularly partial to adding a sweet dark rum like Guyanese Demerara, but Bourbon or Irish Whiskey would be great as well.
Makes 4 Servings
1 quart sweet apple cider
8 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
8 whole allspice berries
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into 4 disks
fresh grated nutmeg and additional cinnamon sticks for garnish.
Add all ingredients to a pan over medium heat.
Bring to a VERY low simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
Strain out solids.
Pour into heatproof glasses or mugs, garnish with a cinnamon stick and a dusting of fresh grated nutmeg.
The Bishop of Spice
The Bishop is a mostly-forgotten classic cocktail that’s essentially a red wine spikes daiquiri.
It sounds weird.
It is weird.
It’s also quite wonderful.
The wine adds depths and tannins to what’s already one of if not my favorite cocktail. Traditionally, it’s built using rum, wine, simple syrup, and lime. For this preparation I’ve combined two of those ingredients, and because this is a holiday drinks themed edition, added spice to the mix as well. Extra bonus, the Spiced Red Wine Simple Syrup is fantastic itself, and can do double duty in other cocktails – or even be used to poach fruit for desserts.
I used (despite the photo) an inexpensive pinot noir for the syrup - the clarity of the wine makes a prettier drink. For the rum, I used the wonderful local rum pictured, but i’ve also had great luck with Hamilton 86, Plantation 5 star, and other similar rums. Truth be told, almost any good amber rum will taste great.
Makes 1 cocktail
2 oz Aged Dark Rum
1 oz Spiced Red Wine Simple Syrup (below)
½ oz lime juice
Add all ingredients to a shaker tin filled with ice.
Double strain into a coup or other stemmed glassware.
Garnish with a sliced lime.
Spiced Red Wine Simple Syrup
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup water
1 2-inch piece of cinnamon
2 cardamom pods
2 star-anise pods
Add all ingredients to a pan over medium high heat.
Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced to 2 cups – usually about 5 minutes.
Cover and let steep/cool to room temperature.
Strain, and chill before using.
Black Walnut Manhattan
I don’t know why, or how it became the family go-to – but the men in my family always drank Manhattans. None of them were heavy drinkers, but come the holidays, someone was splashing bitters and vermouth into whiskey and handing out glasses to my dad, my grandfather, my uncles and great uncles.
Most of the time those were made with Canadian whiskey – which my family insisted on calling “rye” – and built in the glass with cheap vermouth and a bright red, unnaturally crunchy maraschino cherry as a garnish. I remember hating them as a kid, not understanding how something garnished with one of the great dessert toppings could possibly be so … awful.
I grew to like them of course. Manhattans are still one of my go to drinks because, amongst other reasons, you can be pretty sure that nearly every hotel, airport, etc bar anywhere this side of the Atlantic has at least the fixings for a basic version.
My go-to version at home has evolved somewhat from that family standard.
I prefer bourbon or good American rye whiskies. A good vermouth makes all the difference (try Dolin Rouge or Carpano Antica), and while I’ll still garnish it with a cherry (I mean, cherries are great, right?) it’s more likely to be a homemade bourbon cherry or a real Luxardo maraschino.
This recipe takes that a step further. It’s still in essence a Manhattan – but a dram of sweet, dark, nutty Nocino liqueur gives it a slightly bitter, slightly sweeter complexity that feels perfect for a cold winter evening.
I tend to use a local Nocino from Watershed Distillery, but used Don Ciccio & Figli Nocino (which would have been local had I still lived in DC) for this version. Most any Nocino will work, though you may want to adjust the sweetness depending on the liqueur and vermouth combination you use.
2 oz Four Roses Bourbon
½ oz Dolin Rouge or other sweet vermouth
½ oz Nocino (walnut liqueur)
1 dash Fee Bros. aromatic bitters
bourbon cherries for garnish
Fill a mixing glass with ice.
Add the bourbon, vermouth, nocino, and bitters.
Stir. Stir some more.
Strain into a coupe or other glass (truth be told I like this one on the rocks.)
Spiced Cranberry & Orange Gin and Tonic
If you’re looking for something a little lighter, but still festive, this may be the one for you. Also it’s really pretty an I missed the opportunity to make it even prettier … I’ll get to that in a bit.
I like a good gin and tonic in the summer. They’re cold and not really quite sweet -though if you’ve ever spilled tonic water, you know there’s plenty of sugar in there.
Two experiences made them something more than that for me. First, after moving to DC, I would frequently visit José Andres’s pioneering Tapas restaurant Jaleo. Secondly, my brother and his family moved to Amsterdam. Those two factors sounds as though they’re unrelated – but they’re not. In both places I had gin and tonics that were more than just gin, lime, and a splash form a yellow labeled plastic bottle. There were different tonics carefully paired with the gin, and garnishes meant to compliment the aromas of the ingredients.
And they were gorgeous. Works of art in a glass.
This isn’t that. I’m not specifying a particular gin, or a particular tonic (though I used a wonderful local gin - Vim & Petal from Middle West Spirits - in the photo, and I recommend either original Fever Tree tonic water or your own mix from one of the better tonic syrups out there.). However it is a little fanier, and a little fun, and lot pretty.
Oh, and my missed opportunity? I shouldwouldacoulda stuck a sprig of fresh rosemary in the glass. It would have been beautiful and delicious – but I’m not mixing myself a gin and tonic at 7 AM on a Tuesday. At least not this Tuesday.
Makes 1 cocktail
2 oz Gin
4-6 oz tonic water
1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
½ oz cranberry cinnamon syrup (below)
Orange peel and fresh cranberries as garnish
Fill a tall glass 2/3 full of crushed ice.
Top with tonic water.
Layer the orange juice and cranberry syrup on top.
Garnish with an orange peel and fresh cranberries.
Cranberry Cinnamon Syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
Place all ingredients in a pan over medium heat.
Bring to a low boil and cook until the cranberries burst and are soft.
Use a spoon to further mash the cranberries.
Strain, discard any solids, and allow to cool completely before using.
D’allnawg (The All Nog)
Eggnog is controversial. It’s controversial for all sorts of reasons.
As a kid, I hated it. I sort of hated all sweet egg-based things. Custard was an anathema; it was a not-real dessert that adults tried to pass off as a sweet when there could have been ice cream serving the same purpose. As I got older, I thought of it as a “well, it’s ok once a year” and it became a marker of the holidays – plus I used it as an excuse to skip Christmas eve services “No, I think I’ll just stay here at home and make some eggnog for when you all come back.”
Now I like it in pretty much all its forms aged, fresh, cooked, uncooked, – and of course as a delivery device for quality or lesser quality booze.
This recipe is lightly cooked and omits egg whites -which in my opinion gives it a more approachable texture. It also skips right over the argument of which spirit is best in eggnog by using three different brown liquors. Then, I add a good bit of spice, but strain it out so it’s not like drinking a glass of the spice shelf. Finally, because of all those previous factors, the stuff can keep forever in the back of the fridge – and it does get better with age.
I call it D’allnawg because it’s ALL THE NOGs at once.
Makes approximately 1 ½ quarts
4 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup white rum
1/2 cup bourbon
1 2-inch piece of cinnamon
1 tsp grated orange zest
½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
pinch of ground clove or one whole clove
Add the milk, cream, and sugar to a pot over medium low heat.
Heat until just steaming.
Add the egg yolks and orange zest to a non-reactive bowl and beat lightly.
While whisking constantly, slowly pour 1/3 of the cream/milk mixture into the eggs.
Reverse the process, and while whisking pour the now tempered egg mixture back into the remaining sugar/dairy mixture.
Cook on medium low, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes or until the mixture just begins to thicken slightly.
Crumble the cinnamon stick into the mixture, add the nutmeg and cloves, and cover.
Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature as the spices infuse.
Strain the mixture through a very fine strainer.
Add the whiskey, rum, and brandy and stir to combine.
Pour into a covered bottle or container and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or up to … a really long time.
Pour 4-6 oz of D’allnawg into a shaker tin filled with ice.
Shake vigorously until the tin is cold.
Strain into a rocks glass.
Garnish the foamy top with a cinnamon stick and a dusting of fresh grated nutmeg.