Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Advil Calendar 2,011 WINTER SOLSTICE EDITION: Get Your Druid On

Given all the hardship I encountered finding Hanukkah cocktails (still haven't recovered from the Eight Nights, Eight Reasons to get Shitfaced Hanukkah Marathon post), I thought finding a suitable cocktail for Winter Solstice might be its own kind of difficult. I was prepared to adapt some Halloweeny thing made with black vodka into a drink for this, the darkest day of the year.

But I was wrong - there are a ton of them! Stick with me, because this post starts kind of icky and twee and then goes seriously south:

Tyrrhenian Sea and Solstice Sky , Credit & CopyrightDanilo Pivato


The fixiest and most precious of our short day drinks is The Winter Solstice from Danny Meyer's book Mix Shake Stir.

Start by making rosemary-infused pear nectar:
In a jar, combine 1 1/2 cups "good-quality pear nectar such as Kern's" and 5 sprigs fresh rosemary. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 2 days. Remove and discard the rosemary before using. The infused nectar will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.
Still Life with Pears by Paul Cezanne
Then the cocktail:
1 1/4 oz brandy
1 3/4 oz rosemary-infused pear nectar
2/3 oz Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the brandy, pear nectar, and Grand Marnier and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with the rosemary sprig, and serve.
Ahem. Yeah. Rosemary-infused pear nectar. What's onomatopoeia for *snort*? MOVING ON:

The Return of Persephone
Frederic Leighton, 1891
Janice Mansfield, a personal chef in Vancouver, BC, posted this Solstice Cocktail on her blog, Real Food Made Easy:
2 oz. Forty Creek Whiskey (Canadian whiskey)
0.5 oz. Maraschino liqueur
0.5 oz. hibiscus grenadine
0.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake with ice and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with 3 cherries.
She's rather symbolic about it, evoking Persephone's pomegranate seeds with the hibiscus grenadine, and the three cherries for the 3 months of winter.

And of course Martha weighs in, because there's not a holiday on the great wheel of our species' calendar that she can't somehow own:

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary
Johannes Vermeer, c. 1654-1655 
1 1/2 ounces orange vodka
1/2 ounce orange-flavored liqueur, such as Cointreau
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice, preferably from Meyer lemons
Ice cubes
Club soda, chilled
1 mint leaf, for garnish
1 raspberry, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, orange liqueur, lemon juice, and ice; shake until well combined. Strain into a chilled martini glass; add a splash of soda.
Carefully fold mint leaf in half lengthwise and place the stem end into the opening of the raspberry. Float on top of cocktail and serve immediately.
Credit for Martha's cocktail goes to Charles Corpion from The Four Seasons. Aren't you glad you don't work for Martha? "Carefully fold mint leaf in half lengthwise"? Kiss me where I pee, you Type-A megalocrat.

You got all that?

I am actually feeling rather expansive and celebratory, almost like I deserve a drink myself! I ticked two things off my to-do list today - I got the teacher gifts to the teachers and I made my yearly megatrip to the post office. Oh my stars do I hate going to the post office.

The Wright Brothers would have been a nice option
Why is my post office so awful? It always has been. When my second son was born, I sent my husband to buy stamps for the birth announcements. But my lovely husband bought the wrong stamps. Instead of something with a nice flower, or breast cancer awareness, or Henry Mancini for Christ's sake, he came home with the Korean War Veterans commemorative stamp.

Now ordinarily I might have shrugged and stuck em on the envelopes anyway, but a couple of days later I just happened to be near the post office with the stamps in the car, and I figured I'd just pop in and switch them with Legends of Jazz or The Year of the Ram, something less evocative of conflict and sacrifice.

Oh my god. Oh no you won't.

The ladies at my post office looked at me as if I had suggested they sign their paychecks over to me in red lipstick, naked, when I asked to exchange the stamps. "Not without a receipt!" the lead clerk retorted, aghast, as if I might have sneakily obtained these stamps, which are after all a form of U.S. currency, at some discounted rate on some stamp black market, and was now trying to make a profit on the incremental difference by exchanging them for a set of stamps with the same face value.

Or Cesar Chavez: 
¡Sí, se puede! 

Which... even that doesn't make any sense.

Anyway. I wanted to burn the place down.

Next time I was in there, I had to fill out a form, take it to the counter, find out it was the wrong form, fill out the right form, and go to the back of the line to wait again, all with two children under four. You know, par for the course at the post office. I sat my older child on the counter for a minute and bent to get something out of my bag.

"You can't put him there!"
"Oh he can't reach anything. He won't be any harm."
"He could fall."
I turned to look at her. She had stopped what she was doing, holding up the line, and fixed me with an accusatory glare.
"If there was an earthquake, ma'am, he might fall. Otherwise, he's not going to just dive off the counter. He may be little, but he's not a moron."

Maybe not this one
So today, when I had to mail fourteen little packages to fourteen family members across the U.S.A., I wasn't looking forward to the How Can We Make Your Day Suck Just a Little More Squad at the P.O. I knew they were going to force me to double-tape, or black out a prior barcode, or storm out of there swearing to deliver the fucking mugs myself, even if it meant a complex compound road trip to Arizona, Buffalo, Tallahassee and Kalamazoo.

Luckily, my friend Kate reminded me of the NICE post office, the one near school, where you don't mind standing in line because the counter clerks are joking with each other and the customers, and who try to figure out the cheapest way for you to send things, and when they ask if you have liquids or perishables in your packages don't crank an eyebrow at you as if you are STUPID, like perhaps you don't know what a "liquid" is, or as if you are LYING, and in actuality, instead of sending dumb ceramic mugs with pictures of your kids on them to half the Irish-Slovak-Americans in the United States, you are really mailing a cocktail of nitroglycerin and HIV-positive blood directly to the U.S. Postmaster General.

Oh great. Now Homeland Security is going to be busting down my door. IT WAS A JOKE OKAY? I don't even know who the Postmaster General is. In fact, the only reason I think there is such a person at all is because I read The Crying of Lot 49. And I only read that because I thought it was about Biblical apocrypha. God I love that book.

So anyway. The nice lady at the NICE post office accepted my packages with nary a flinch of disapproval, weighed them and stickered them up, commented on how patient my kids were, and sent me on my way.

Which is why, Malvina at the nice Post Office - ma'am, this one's for you.

The Ray of Sunshine on a Dark Day Cocktail, by me:
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon sugar
a piece of ginger about an inch long
When it's cold outside - I've got the month of May
Simmer the juice, sugar, and ginger gently until the mixture reduces by at least half, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool.
Shake together:
1 ounce of the stuff you just made
1 1/2 ounce golden or white rum
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce orange juice
splash ginger liqueur
Serve in a rocks glass.

UPDATE: Ok we've spent RATHER an EVENING in the kitchen here, with special guest Laurel Snyder trying a few of our housemade schnepsls, and we've discovered an alternate, easier, oranger, more drinky drink:

The Ray of Sunshine on a Dark Day Partez Dos, by us:
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce mango nectar (optional, some people kind of hate mango nectar)
hefty splash Campari
Shake with ice, serve on the rocks.

Tomorrow is going to be just a little bit brighter, but you might be just a little bit hung over. God knows we will be. So keep the rest of that pomegranate juice in the fridge for use first thing tomorrow morning. You, like Persephone, will need your antioxidants. And I've got a couple of coffee cocktails for you, to get you up and get your buzz on.