Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Holiday Cheer!

It's that happy time of year. The time when the world feels full of hope, twinkling lights, good will toward men, blah-blah-blah.....and oh yeah, my favorite part, those ever present cups 'o cheer!

Which is why this article in the Washington Post (see El Phil, I DO read something besides the NYT!) was like the singing of angels, like making out that Santa wish list, like anticipating my next holiday hangover. Post writer Jason Wilson, who somehow landed the enviable job of being their drinks writer, compiled, amusingly, a list of what he considers some essential winter & holiday libations, along with some must have bar inventory. I was so inspired I ran down to our local liquor outlet to stock my own holiday cabinet of hope. When w arrived home last night, to get us in the mood for some tree decoratin', I made two versions of one of his listed winter spirit warmers, the classic Alexander. One I made with gin, one with his variation of pear brandy. To me, both were highly delectable, being a gin lover I gave my slight nod to the Tanqueray model. w was not so convinced, as she is more of a standard g&t kind of girl. So, alas, I had to finish hers...hee-hee! Tonight I will explore (and report) on the delicious mysteries of the Stinger!

So with that, I give you the Spirit(s) of Christmas '08.....cheers!!

comments and descriptions of each drink are Mr. Wilson's.

One smoothly delicious Alexander coming up!!

The Alexander is a versatile drink that every home bartender should break out during the holidays. It can be made with gin or cognac, preferably Pierre Ferrand Ambre. Or try a variation by Spirits columnist Jason Wilson: the Pear Alexander, which uses Belle de Brillet.

Some cocktail purists insist that a Brandy Alexander should actually be called a Panama. Ignore them.

1 serving

* Ice
* 1 1/2 ounces gin, cognac or Belle de Brillet
* 3/4 ounce heavy cream
* 3/4 ounce white creme de cacao
* Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish


Fill a mixing glass two-thirds full with ice. Add the gin, cognac or Belle de Brillet, then the heavy cream and white creme de cacao. Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

"The Stinger has always been considered a Society drink," writes David Wondrich in his entertaining new cocktail history, "Imbibe!", noting that it was the favorite drink of Reginald Vanderbilt. A 1923 profile of Vanderbilt described the Stinger as "a short drink with a long reach, a subtle blending of ardent nectars, a boon to friendship, a dispeller of care." This classic is a perfect drink for after dinner.

There are many ways to make a Stinger, which traditionally is served straight up. Spirits columnist Jason Wilson likes his on the rocks; he usually makes it with 1 1/2 ounces of fine (read: expensive) VSOP cognac.

When using the better-value Pierre Ferrand Ambre, Wilson prefers a ratio of 2 parts cognac to 1 part creme de menthe.
1 serving

* Ice
* 2 ounces cognac
* 1 ounce white creme de menthe
* Twist of lemon peel


Fill a mixing glass two-thirds full with ice. Add the cognac and white creme de menthe. Shake well, then strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with three or four ice cubes (not crushed ice). Garnish with a lemon twist.

Hot Buttered Rum
It is best to make the batter in advance so the spices have an opportunity to mingle. Be sure to remove the batter from the refrigerator at least 6 hours before serving to allow it to soften. The recipe for the batter makes enough for 10 to 12 servings; refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 month, or freeze for up to 2 months.

1 serving
For the batter

* 1 pound light brown sugar
* 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 2 teaspoons cinnamon
* 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
* 1 to 2 teaspoon allspice
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For each drink

* 1 1/2 ounces rum, preferably Mount Gay Eclipse
* Boiling water, as needed


For the batter: Beat together the brown sugar, butter, spices and vanilla extract until well combined. Refrigerate in an airtight resealable container until ready to use.

For each drink: Combine 2 heaping tablespoons of the batter and the rum in a warmed coffee mug. Add boiling water to fill to the top, and mix well. Serve with a spoon.

If you like a Manhattan, try this cocktail, which adds cognac to the mix. It became popular during the 19th-century heyday of Saratoga Springs, where New York's sporting classes retreated for horse races, gambling and leisure. This is a slight variation on the original recipe, the only difference being that the drink was to be shaken. It's much better stirred.

1 serving

* Ice
* 1 ounce rye whiskey, preferably Wild Turkey Straight 101
* 1 ounce cognac, preferably Pierre Ferrand Ambre
* 1 ounce sweet vermouth, preferably Martini & Rossi
* 2 dashes Angostura bitters
* Quarter-slice lemon, for garnish


Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full with ice, then add the rye whiskey, cognac, vermouth and bitters. Stir well, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the slice of lemon.


CamiKaos said...

thanks. I'm thinking the Alexander will come in handy in the coming weeks.

bb said...

Cami- It's just the thing to enhance all those "wonderful" family moments....or to help you get through them!!