I love this drink – love it! And, as it’s the lover’s month, so to speak, felt I should kick things off with a drink I love. And this is it! Funny enough, was thinking about it recently over the past holiday season, when making it for some holiday pals. See, I always couched it in a sorta murder mystery persona (if cocktails have personas, which I believe they do), the drop of crimson blood on the slippers giving Miss Marple the needed clue (or whomever detective you desire, I’m feeling Marple-y) to solve the mystery. But, during this holiday season and discussion, a thought popped into my addled mind – wouldn’t Santa have slippers the color of crimson? Maybe? Maybe! So, that meant this could be a holiday drink, too. Either way, I love it. You will do. No matter what holiday you’re sipping it on.
We, spooky friends, are very very very close to Halloween (a few paltry days)! While it falls on a Monday this year (which nearly seems unfair, though I feel that you can make any day of the week eerily jolly), it doesn’t mean that it’s not your scary duty to unleash a Warlock cocktail and while enjoying the delicious sips, transform into a zombie magician. Which is what everyone wants on Halloween. Spooky good! So whip up this brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters treat, my favoritest Halloween special, utilizing the handy, helpful, horrific video below!
I realize some may be saying “wait, has A.J. lost it, shouldn’t this drink have been made for yesterday, the actual Saint Patrick’s Day?” And while I can’t say I haven’t lost “it” (whatever “it” may be), I can say that I am fully of the opinion that while Saint Patrick’s Day can be a jolly time, and while I’m all for savoring and celebrating Irish culture and history (and other cultures and histories, too, for that matter), I don’t think that it should be regulated to just one day! Especially (for the sake of this particular blog’s focus, but not overall naturally) when it comes to drinks highlighting Irish whiskey or other Irish-made imbibables. Hence, the Mike Collins, the Tom Collins sibling (a once-large family now sadly less-known) that subs in Irish whiskey instead of Old Tom gin. I love ‘em both, but if you’ve yet to be introduced, Mike’s whiskey undertones of vanilla and spice and grain (I’m going with Teeling Small Batch today) and sweet nature go rather nicely with the citrus zing and bubbles here – while also providing a nice kick to the affair. It’s a springtime favorite, but one I’ve found lends itself more to early spring, to sitting outside and sipping on the porch while there’s an echo of chill still in the air (as opposed to running full-on through a late-spring field of flowers). A swell celebration today, as well as yesterday and tomorrow.
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the whiskey, juice, and simple syrup. Shake well.
2. Fill a Collins glass or comparable three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mix over the ice. Fill almost to the top with chilly club soda. Garnish with the lemon slice (stirring briefly if you want Mike mixed more).
I feel pretty awful that I’m not 100% sure I have actually ever known a Mabel, and so have never actually been up in Mabel’s room, which seems a mysterious, wonderful, alluring place, one where rye flows like water in a waterfall of grapefruit juice and simple syrup, one where the foxtrot trots, and laughter reigns, where no-one frowns and no-one is divisive, and all drink (and eat – cheese, lots, in Mabel’s room, and pastries I’m guessing) and are merry. My kinda place. Now, I just need to know a Mabel.
Can you believe it – it’s December, 2021, already. Holy time-moves-quickly! Though, even if we didn’t have calendars and suchlike to alert us to the fact, the weather outside might cause one (in the northern hemisphere, and suchlike) to think through chattering teeth, “I believe it’s December, because the cold has infested my bones.” Or, suchlike. What to do, as time machines are out of the question, currently? I mean, you can’t go back in time to escape the cold, and while putting layers of blanketing devices on your person will perhaps reduce the chill, it certainly isn’t as jolly as a good warm (or hot, even) drink. May I suggest, in this warming manner, Aunt Betsy’ Favorite? It’s a wine-based treat, one fortified as the season demands with port and brandy, and well-spiced (the season also seems to demand this – just look at holiday desserts). It also serves, depending on temperature, temperament, and suchlike, somewhere between 5 and 8 people – and, as well all know, a crowd of pals is a warming thing. So, this is doubly-warming! Take the edge off of December with it, and stay cozy, and suchlike!
24 ounces red wine (I suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon)
16 ounces tawny port
8 ounces brandy
4 ounces simple syrup
1 orange peel
3 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium-size saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes. You want it to get good and hot, but not start boiling, or even simmering. Reduce the heat midway through the cooking time if needed.
2. Once the 10 minutes have passed and the room smells wonderful, ladle the mix into heavy mugs. Avoid serving the orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon stick if your pals are worried about clunking up their smiles.
One of the invaders (in the best way) of summer into our yard is mighty fine mint. We have mint that’s been planted by us, years past, but either it’s spread or we’ve also had wild mint find it’s way into the yard. Though I wouldn’t be sad to be responsible for a mint invasion, I think I’d like it even better if there was wild mint propagating hither and thither randomly. But back to the point I’m meandering my way into making: we have a lot of mint! Not a problem to induce tears falling in any manner, but one that does mean searching for drinks that make fine use of mint, and eventually finding my way back to this particular potion: Iollas’ Itch, which I hadn’t made in a number of years. Not because it’s not delicious (it is), but because, well, there are loads of delicious drinks in the world and sometimes one forgets one or two. Anywho, this cocktail, though rye-based (yum), and with heady sweet vermouth (yum), I believe still beckons during the hotter months due to the addition of apricot liqueur, whose sweet fruitiness is very much sunshine-y (and, yum), and naturally that summer favorite that brought this paragraph on pointe: mint.
Oh, the life of a 1500’s explorer and colonialist, traipsing around under the sunshine, and probably never having this drink. I mean, without a time machine, I’ll admit, if I knew where and why this particular drink was attached to this particular explorer, I can’t remember it. There is a nice French and the Caribbean tying-in, as the drink features the boldness and beauty of both Cognac and rum, so at least there is some here-to-there-ing happening (though Ponce was from Spain, but let’s bring the Euro together today). However! The drink also contains Cointreau, which naturally came about a little later. And then there’s grapefruit juice and sparkling wine, which might imply a little globe-trotting. It’s a little elegant, which could be like the curve of a conquistador’s helmet, if you want to go along that particular flight of fancy. But overall, I think it’s that if you drink a couple of these, you may decide to go exploring, or at least meander in your mind hither and yon, or at least sit on the couch and watch a program that takes you on a exploration. However! If you want to just enjoy this layered, effervescent, citrus-y, number on a sunshine-y day without worrying about how our explorer name ties in, I certainly wouldn’t hassle you about it.
You know (well, if you don’t, I’m about to tell you, and in some ways this is a rhetorical question just to set up the drink we’re going to have as this week’s Friday Night Cocktail) that some drinks get sadly relegated to only being had on very specific occasions – paired in a type of liquid wedlock, if you will – and not enjoyed year round. Take this drink, the Blushing Bride, whose name has led me to only suggesting it be had at weddings and wedding-related events. Which is sad, cause this delicious, multi-base-spirit drink is a treat (and a rarity, in a way, with brandy or Cognac and vodka together), with enough heft to get you through a chillier day (or a long relationship!), but enough fruitiness to make a summer day dawdle by in the best possible way, and then a cuddle of sweet that matches, well, springtime, as it is right now. So, take my advice, and have drinks you like any day of the 365, no matter if they carry a particular daily connection.
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More