Photo of the Little Italy from cocktailia.com
Wednesday, December 15: Cynar
Weird Drink Wednesday! My favorite time of the week! This week featuring Cynar, the intense Italian liqueur with the really great label. Cynar is made from artichokes. How do they do that? I don't know. In parts of France, they dump a shot of Cynar in a demi of lager for what must be a weirdly classy boilermaker. Gonna try that sometime.
So, here's a drink recipe you won't find anywhere else. It was invented by my old colleague Martin Beck (if you've been to my house, Martin is the guy who painted the girl in the hot pink ball gown attended by the two naked children in my living room. Ah. That Martin, you say.) Martin's drink is the Beckhattan:
crushed ice or rocks
1 part Cynar
2 parts Bourbon (Wild Turkey)
dash of orange juice
garnish with orange slice
Stir. Drink. Talk about music, art, New Jersey politics, death, music, venal gallery owners, music.
Thursday, December 16: El Diamante Del Cielo Anejo TequilaIt's Tequila Thursday! Also known as Dia Del Amor, "day of love."
I'll say. Look at this drink: tequila, St-Germain, lime and hot sauce? Yeah. I am a big fan of drinks that involve condiments. Well, that's probably overstating it. I have yet to discover a palatable cocktail that is made with ketchup (there's the Red Mist, but I did specify "palatable"). Or mustard, for that matter, although I have heard of a mustard liqueur.
The chili salt is easy to make yourself - most books recommend just mixing cayenne pepper or chili powder with reg'lar old salt, but I use coarse flake salt (pickling salt or kosher salt) mixed with - well ok this sounds pretty precious - mixed with my homemade chili pepper flakes.
Ok, forget it, I am not copping to making my own chili flakes. That's ridiculous. I can't stand chicks who do shit like that. No, I buy the margarita salt at the liquor store in the little plastic rimmer pans and mix in some McCormick's chili powder. That's my story.
1 part St-Germain
1 ½ parts Reposado Tequila
¾ part Fresh Lime
2 dashes Hot Sauce
Shake and strain into chili salt-rimmed rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Friday December 17: Hendricks Gin
Ok, cheating here. Hendricks is always in my liquor cabinet, I don't need a miniature of it. But if I didn't put it in my Advil calendar, I might not've gotten a decent Negroni all month!
The classic Negroni, which I have been drinking ever since my brother-in-law Tony introduced me to it at the Central Park Boathouse on none other than the day Bob and I got married, is equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari. The New York Times published a recipe that used Punt e Mes as the vermouth, and described the resulting drink as "so gorgeously bitter that it almost stings the tongue. Drinking it is like being slapped by an ex-lover." Cocktails inspire some of the best prose, don't you think? But terrible poetry.
I have always monkeyed with the Negroni. There are so many interesting herby things to mix with Hendricks, and it can be worth futzing those proportions - I prefer less sweet. A good starting point is the Negroni recipe on the Hendricks website (and my goodness that is a foo-foo web site, even for a liquor company):
1 part Hendricks
1 part Lillet Blanc
1 part Aperol
Shake well, serve over ice
If you're feeling ambitious, however, try this Dickensian weirdness, adapted by Xavier Padovani, Hendrick's "brand ambassador":
HENDRICK’S HOT GIN PUNCH for 6 people “Mr Micawber’s favorite”
Three brimming teacups of Hendrick’s gin
Another three of Madeira wine
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Large teaspoon of cinnamon powder
Two teaspoons of brown sugar
Six large lemon and orange twists
Small slice of orange
One fresh pineapple
Four large spoons of honey
Juice of two lemons
Mix all ingredients in a pot. Warm but do not boil for 20 minutes to a half hour. While it cooks the taste will change, make it to your own taste balancing the sweet/sour balance with honey and lemon. You can also re warm the mix, sometimes the punch will get better and better as you cook it more and more. When you think it is ready, pour in a teapot and serve hot in tea cups with gingerbread on the side. [NB: THIS IS THE "BRAND AMBASSADOR'S" WORK. I would never suggest gingerbread with liquor.]
Adapted from the original 1850 recipe found in the book Drinking with Dickens (something that I'm not sure I'd want to do - for one thing, you know he'd stick you with the check), this recipe is allegedly inspired by Charles Dickens’ own gin punch recipe.
Saturday, December 18: Peppermint Schnapps
Ok, ew, I know. But you're at a party and you know it, so drink this.
Make Merry Martini
1 part Vodka
2 parts Hiram Walker® Gingerbread Liqueur
½ part Peppermint Schnapps
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Or if you really enjoyed that Zwack from last week, get some more and make the Black Christmas: a glass of peppermint schnapps with a floater of Zwack.
Sunday, December 19: Pikesville Rye
Sunday is an old-school day, and rye is an old-school drink. Pikesville Rye is named for its former point of origin - Pikesville, Maryland. Pikesville is an inburb of Baltimore, just a few exits past where I work. That distillery went out of business during Prohibition, but the name was sold to a company in Landsdowne, another Baltimore suburb, this one pretty close to where I grew up.
With a teenager's native disdain for anything local and familiar, I long assumed Pikesville Rye to be total rotgut (see above photo that pairs a shot of Pikesville with National Boh, the local piss beer). But my husband, who's not from around here, was delighted to find a whiskey named after one of the only largely Orthodox Jewish communities in Baltimore, and bought a bottle. And you know what? It's good! It's much like bourbon, but a little sweeter and smoother. Great in a Manhattan or mixed with ginger ale or ginger beer.
1 1/2 ounces rye
1 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounces fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounces grenadine
2 dashes of orange bitters
Shake all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Monday, December 20: Jägermeister Liqueur
It's Monday! Do a shot! And not just any shot, do a shot of Jägermeister, one of the primal '80's college drinking cliches. Jägermeister was just your average ancient German herbal digestif until, in an unlikely feat of marketing akin to making the Kardashian sisters culturally prominent, some genius importer promoted the living hell out of it, managing to get bands with umlaut-decorated names and leather pants to brandish bottles of it on stage, and all of a sudden fraternity boys by the thousand were vomiting 56 herbs, fruits, roots, and spices into blameless pieces of shrubbery across this fair nation.
Takes you back, don't it? If straight Jägermeister is still not something you can get down, my recommendation for a Jägermeister mixed drink this holiday season is the Cannibalized Christian:
3/4 oz. Amaretto
3/4 oz. Jack Daniel's Whiskey
3/4 oz. Jägermeister
Combine in a large cocktail glass. Stir and serve.
My prom date's former girlfriend Cathy, who lives in Switzerland nowadays (and yes my network is that wide), suggests Jaeger Tea as a warm happy winter drink. Brew black tea, add some Jägermeister (or actually, any rum or schnapps or red wine or...) and maybe some sugar or fresh orange juice. Wander blissfully through the crystalline air of an Alpine ski town.
Tuesday, December 21: Pusser's "Admiral Lord Nelson" British Navy RumNutmeg makes this drink vaguely seasonal, while the tropical juices and coconut remind you of where you wish you were (the Bahamas) instead of freezing your butt off in Baltimore:
4 parts fresh pineapple juice
1 part cream of coconut
1 part fresh orange juice
2, 3, or 4 parts Pusser's Navy Rum
touch of fresh grated nutmeg
Stir the juices and coconut in a shaker, then add the rum. Stir, do not shake. Fill a tumbler or goblet half full of ice. Pour the mixture over the ice, then grate a touch of fresh nutmeg over the top.
You're in the home stretch, gentle boys and girls! A slight buzz will get you through the remainder of this month - and then you can look forward to some quality time with your shoes off, playing the kids' new video games, getting quietly hammered in the comfort of your own rec room. And then there will be New Years.