Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, and as a Stocking Suffer: Some Last Minute Drink Ideas

First off, a Merry Christmas to those that celebrate the impending holiday, and whether you fall into that category or not, best wishes to you and yours in this holiday season.  I've been a bit too busy with the holidays to delve deeply into posting new content (soon though, I promise), but I've been reading a slew of great posts in the blogosphere about various drink ideas for the holiday season (or at least the wintry season), new and old, so I thought the least I could do is leave you with a roundup of some of my favorites of the ideas I've come across.

Sloshed! provides a recipe for the Winter Hill, a tasty sounding, citrus-laden hot toddy like beverage featuring satsuma oranges, lemon, bourbon, cointreau and mole bitters.

12 Bottle Bar has been doing a FANTASTIC roundup of The 12 Drinks of Christmas that I strongly urge you to check out.  Among my favorites:  a 500 year old Buttered Beere recipe, a recipe for Swedish Glӧgg (a spiced wine drink), and Charles Dickens Punch.

Chartreuse and Chocolate is a tasty sounding idea (by Jamie Boudreau, courtesy Camper English,

Boozeblogger has another 12 Drinks of Christmas roundup that is amusing to read, as well as providing some interesting ideas. I think my favorite is the Boozehopper.

A Mountain of Crushed Ice has three tasty drink ideas:  the XMAS Red, the Christmas Nui, and Bourbon Chocolate Milk Punch.  Yum! to all of them!

Several blogs, including 12 Bottle Bar and LUPEC Boston's, have suggested we try the old classic, the Tom and Jerry, a warm drink dating back at least to the early 19th century that features rum, cognac, simple syrup, hot milk or water, and the use of an entire egg.

Finally, Eggnog is of course a classic, and you can find some suggested recipes at A Jigger of Blog and Boozeblogger.

 Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Local Events: LUPEC Boston Holiday Punch Party

I wanted to give a plug for the Holiday Punch Party hosted by the Boston chapter of the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC) tomorrow night (Monday Dec. 20th) from 6-11pm at Trina's Starlight Lounge in Somerville.  The event will include punch, snacks, and specialty cocktails, and will also feature a clothing drive benefiting On the Rise, "a Cambridge-based non-profit that supports the initiative and strength of women living in crisis or homelessness."  Articles of new or used casual winter women's clothing that are donated can be exchanged for a drink ticket at the event.  Swing by for what I'm sure will prove to be some great drinks, and help out a good cause while you're at it.

Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mixology Monday (MxMo LIII): The Painkiller

This month's Mixology Monday is hosted by Chris Amirault of eGullet's Spirits & Cocktails forum.  The theme:  "Like that?  You'll love this."  The idea behind the theme is basically the question of what gateway drink might one suggest to bring a drinker of some of the more disastrous inappropriately named "-tini" drinks of the late 20th century and the like over to the side of more refined cocktail fare.  Maybe it's the word of the snowstorms in the midwest, or the cold that blanketed the Boston area this past week and now promises a return, but I went the tiki route for my suggestion, perhaps in the hope of generating some warm thoughts.  My suggestion applies to someone whose goto drinks include a piña colada.  Now, to be clear, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with a piña colada - it's frankly one of the greatest drinks invented for drinking on the beach.  That said, it is also a drink frequently butchered through the use of commercial mixes that often result in something mediocre at best.  So here's another option that I think a piña colada fanatic will also love:  The Painkiller.
Painkiller (from Beachbum Berry's Grog Log)
4 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
1 oz. coconut cream (Coco Lopez preferred)
2 1/2 oz. Pusser's Navy Rum (sub dark Jamaican if unavailable; I like Myers or Smith & Cross for this)
- Shake juices, coconut cream, and rum with crushed ice, strain into tall glass or tiki mug, dust with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Garnish with a pineapple stick, cinnamon stick, and an orange wheel.
According to Beachbum Berry, the Painkiller was invented in 1971 by George and Marie Myrick of the Soggy Dollar Bar on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.  The Beachbum also has some other great  notes about the drink and its origins, like the fact that the Soggy Dollar is a beachfront bar lacking a dock, thus the only way to get there is to jump off your boat and swim (but there's conveniently a clothesline in place to hang your soggy dollars out to to dry).  Another interesting fact provided is that in the early 2000s bartenders there apparently had a habit of grating Viagra tablets onto the drink, giving it a blue hue as well as...other properties.

The rum of choice for this drink, Pusser's Navy Rum, also has some interesting story to it.  The A Mountain of Crushed Ice blog has some details on this, as does the Pusser's website.  "Pusser" is a slurred reference to "purser," the naval officer in charge of the ships stores.  Back in the day, this also meant he was in charge of the seaman's daily allotment of rum, or "tot."  Yes, from about 1655, and only ending in 1970, members of the British navy would receive a daily allotment of navy rum.  After "Black Tot Day," the end of this long-held tradition, British navy rum disappeared for a bit until 1979, when entrepreneur Charles Tobias bought the recipe and rights from the British Admiralty and continued its production, also making it available for sale to the public for the first time.  The rum itself is a blend of different types of island rums, and includes old fashioned pot stilled rum in its blend.

The Painkiller is one of my favorite drinks that I've tried so far out of the Beachbum's recipes.  Give it a try, and hopefully your piña colada lover will love it as well.

**p.s. - my apologies for the lack of photo, but I appear to have thrown my back out this evening which quite literally put a crimp in some of my plans, such as having the time to take a decent photo.  The Art of Drink has a post on the Painkiller with some shots, however, if you are curious.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Drinks for the Season: Coquito

For today's seasonal drink, I'm sticking to my multi-cultural theme with a Puerto Rican Christmas time drink, Coquito.  Coquito is essentially a variant of eggnog, but has the distinctive characteristic of the addition of coconut cream (or coconut milk or juice in some recipes).

Here is a basic set of ingredients and recipe:
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
1 can sweetened condesnsed milk (14 oz.)
1 can coconut cream (Coco Lopez) (15 oz.)
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup light rum (if you want to stick to Puerto Rican, DonQ is not a bad choice; Bacardi is also an option, or if you are less concerned with authenticity, Cruzan)
- Blend ingredients well for 3-5 minutes (watch your liquid amounts, if you are like me and have a small blender you may be maxing out/going over the capacity, in which case I suggest blending without the rum, halving, and blending the 2 halves with a half portion of rum).
- Bottle with 1 cinnamon stick and a 1/2 dozen whole cloves (optional, but I like the added spice). Store in refrigerator at least 2 hrs, preferably over night before serving.  Shake before serving to reduce any clumping.

Now, that said, I like to beef this recipe up a bit.  My suggestion, which is admittedly not very authentic, is to add 1/4 cup of Goslings 151 rum. My selection of Goslings 151 is very specific here; it has a bit of a brown sugar note to it that I think works well.  If you don't have Goslings 151, the next best thing I'd suggest is add 1/4 cup additional light rum and 1/4 cup Meyer's dark rum if available, or Goslings if you have that instead.  If all else fails, you can stick with my original spec or just add 1/2 cup more light rum.

Another note:  no egg in the ingredients.  This is an area of controversy, apparently.  Some are of the opinion that egg is required or at least optional.  One Puerto Rican friend of mine (and other Puerto Rican commentators on the Web) suggest that if you add egg, it's no longer Coquito, it's Ponche, which is a similar but different beverage.  From my perspective, to each his own (after all, I'm Polish, what do I know...); I will note that some commentators on the Web claim it's better without the egg, for what it's worth.  For my part, I will go on my friend's authority, plus the fact that if I'm missing the egg, I can just make eggnog and call it a day.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gift Ideas for the Holidays **Updated 12/10**

**Thanks to some feedback and additional links that have been circulating the web, I have added a few new items and links to other gift guides. Enjoy!**

The number of shopping days for the holiday season continue to dwindle, but if you are anything like me, you still have a number of people for whom you still need gifts (or perhaps there's a birthday or other event coming up?).  There's plenty of gift guides out there from various sources, but it's an opinionated enough topic that I felt that I might as well throw in my 2 cents and see if I can help with some gift ideas for the cocktail/spirits/wine/beer lover.  This list is one part my own personal wish list; one part items I have tested and enjoyed; one part cool items I just happened to run across; and one part suggestions from friends.  I tried to put in links where I could, but as an fyi, I get no kickback from any of these sites (if only...), and I didn't necessarily spend hours researching the best buys, so by all means shop around if you are looking for the best deal.  Also, if you have any suggestions to add to the list, comment away!  Finally, I'd like to offer special thanks to my friend Nick for his suggestions in the area of gifts for beer lovers. Thanks Nick!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Happy Repeal Day

December 5th marks the anniversary of Repeal Day, the day in 1933 when the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and ending Prohibition.  Lucky invitees in the DC area were able to celebrate in style last night at the 4th annual Repeal Day Ball at the Maison Biltmore (Drink Boston's Lauren Clark was one such lucky duck).  For those looking to celebrate, here are 2 cocktail ideas that I think are appropriate for the occasion:  the Scofflaw and the Twelve Mile Limit.

According to Robert Hess, the term scofflaw dates back to a contest held in 1924 to come up with a term to combat continued drinking under Prohibition that "best expresse[ed] the idea of a lawless drinker, menace, scoffer, bad citizen, or whatnot, with the biting power of 'scab' or 'slacker.'"  The winner was "scofflaw," which continues in modern usage to refer one who continuously flouts the law.  Not long after the term was coined, the drinkers provided their own retort, with Harry's New York Bar in Paris creating a cocktail named after the term.  A modern version of the Scofflaw is as follows:
Scofflaw (LUPEC Boston via Cocktail Virgin Slut)
1.5 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. French (dry) vermouth
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. grenadine
Stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass
Hess provides a recipe that is more true to form for the era, using Canadian whisky:
Scofflaw (via Drink Boy)
1 oz. Canadian whisky
1 oz. dry vermouth
1/4 oz. lemon juice
1 dash grenadine
1 dash orange bitters
Stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass

The Twelve Mile Limit hearkens back the Prohibition era laws that prevented sale, but not ownership of alcohol in the U.S.  The workaround some used for these laws was to have people go out by boat off the coast a sufficient distance to be in international waters.  In the early prohibition era, the distance that accomplished this was 3 miles off the coast; laws were later changed in an attempt to stop this practice, extending the limit to effectively 12 miles.
Twelve Mile Limit (Ted Haigh, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails)
1 oz. white rum
1/2 oz. rye whiskey
1/2 oz. brandy
1/2 oz. grenadine
1/2 oz. lemon juice
shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass

Cocktail Hacker has some great history on the Twelve Mile Limit cocktail here.

Looking for a good bar to celebrate Repeal Day?  USA Today has a list of "Ten Great American Cocktail Lounges" including, for the Boston locals, Eastern Standard.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some Like It Hot

I was looking though my inbox today, and an update notice from Small Screen Network caught my eye by mentioning a classic drink that I had been researching quite recently, the Blue Blazer.  The Blue Blazer was actually a drink I had thought about using as the topic of my post for this month's Mixology Monday theme of forgotten cocktails.  Invented by 19th Century bartending master Jerry Thomas 150 plus years ago, and mentioned in a number of books discussing American cocktails particularly during the 1/2 century thereafter, it certainly qualifies (in the end, I went with a choice that was a bit less...perilous, just in case there were any readers looking to give it a try). 

Thomas' recipe is as follows:
Blue Blazer
1 wine glass (2 oz.) Scotch Whiskey
1 wine glass (2 oz.) boiling water
Using 2 large silver-plated mugs with handles, first add the whiskey and water to one of the mugs and then set it on fire.  Pour the blazing ingredients from mug to mug 4-5 times.  Add 1 tsp of pulverized sugar and serve in a bar tumbler with a lemon peel garnish (note: some subsequent variations add a sprinkling of nutmeg on top).
This technique creates the impressive effect of a blue trail of fire passing from mug to mug.  There is a drawing of the effect in Thomas' book that's somewhat of a hallmark of Thomas' work and classic bartending in general:

Now, actually getting this technique to work successfully is pretty challenging.  The initial concern, quite reasonably, might be not catching the room or oneself on fire.  It's actually getting the whiskey to ignite that's the first challenge, however.  Approximately 80 proof spirits have a hard time staying lit at room temperature.  The boiling water is thus no coincidence - heating the whiskey is actually part of what allows it catch fire more readily.  Having played around with it a little, I actually found that when trying to flame alcohol in this manner, I actually got the best results by 1)  first heating the vessel under hot water; 2) pouring the bulk of the spirits in the vessel; and 3) taking a metal spoon, pouring some of the alcohol in the  spoon, and then heating the spoon over a flame while holding it; 4) igniting the alcohol in the spoon while holding it over the vessel; and 5) pouring the flaming alcohol from the spoon into the vessel, which will then ignite the alcohol in the vessel.  Note:  as another potential challenge and hazard, I would also like to mention that once the alcohol is lit, it is not always the easiest to put out.  Letting it burn down some and/or putting it out by cutting off the oxygen may be necessary.  Also, it is extremely ill advised to try anything remotely resembling this in a glass container as it has a very high probability of shattering; metal and ceramic are the way to go, and even then, beware, they get hot!

**It goes without saying that this, and all of the flamed drink technique mentioned in this post are potentially very dangerous, and I encourage you to either leave it to experts and enjoy the show, or if you do attempt, take extreme extreme precautions**

Now, truth be told, the Blue Blazer is arguably more show than substance.  It's been derisively, if accurately, described as nothing more than heated whiskey with sugar water.  I actually find Jamie Boudreux's "hot toddy" variation from his Raising the Bar series much more interesting.  He uses bourbon, cognac, bitters, and some overproof rum (which should help with ignition) alongside some of his "old fashioned" simple syrup and cinnamon. 

Check out the episode below, and whatever you do, don't make yourself or your home into a blue blazer!