Let’s face it – we’re not getting any younger. Really, nothing is, I suppose. But wait, as the year rolls out into the sunset, and as a new one rolls in, let’s not get all down-in-the-mouth, and think about getting older. But instead, remember all the many wondrous days, and all the ones happening now, and how we can be youthful all year round, and many other things one might find on a card – hahaha! Or, skip all that, and sip a Happy Youth instead.
Bubbly cocktails are good all the year round. This is an incontrovertible fact. However, if you wanted to make the point that bubbly cocktails are even finer this time of the year, because of the elegant effervescence they bring to the season, well, I wouldn’t argue. Which is why today I’m sipping this Italian-inspired sparkler from Champagne Cocktails. Because I don’t like arguing. No, no, it’s because it’s a darn tasty drink, a bubbly number that’s a little different, intriguing, yummy-licious.
This bubble number is ideal for taking your New Year’s Eve celebrations from mundane to insane (in the good way), from dull to dandy, and from so-so to go-go. Not only does it take the spotlight drink into another realm of awesome, but as it’s also a drink that inducing dancing, it’s sure to add the hop to your New Year’s Eve step. It does take a little bit of prior planning, cause you have to make lavender simple syrup. But that’s not tough at all. Just add 1/4-cup fresh lavender, 2 cups sugar, and 1-1/2 cups water to a medium-sized saucepan. Raise the heat to medium high, and heat until it reaches a low boil, stirring regularly. Once it reaches that low boil, reduce the heat to medium low and keep the syrup at a simmer, still stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Then strain it, and start singing Auld Lang Syne.
Yeah, that’s right, we’re going back-to-back with the first two episodes of the new season of the Cocktail to Cocktail Hour (which is good, in a way, cause who really knows when the next one will be?). Partially we’re doing this because I love you so, so very much. And partially because Episode 2 is a very special holiday cocktail, and, well, the holidays are certainly in full swing. The bubbly combo in question is the Tip Top, a sparkling wine-brandy-Benedictine affair from Dark Spirits that’ll make any winter holiday you care to celebrate better than you could ever imagine (especially New Year’s Eve naturally). So get with the holiday spirit why dontcha?
This elegant bubbly number from Good Spirits has a certain savoir faire that gets the point across without becoming all Herb Tarlek about the occasion. By which I mean to say that it’s sexy without being annoying and that it should be served at a time when you’re wanting to have a drink that both tastes good, shows you have class, and is going to be consumed by you and another you that you may just smooch later in the evening.
Does the drink also share the name of a famous movie pirate ship? Sure does. Does this mean that you should start talking like a pirate in the midst of the date-in-front-of-a-fireplace that I alluded to above? Well, I would normally say “of course not,” but if it seems that some “shiver me timbers” and “argh mateys” make sense to you in the moment, then sure, go right ahead. The drink sure won’t mind.
Black Pearl, Serves 2
2 ounce Cognac
2 ounces Tia Maria
2 cherriest, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac and Tia Maria. Stir well.
2. Strain the mix equally into two flute or wine glass (though the latter won’t get you any smoove points). Top each with Champagne (should be about 4 ounce apiece). Garnish each with a cherry either dropped in, or speared and floated on top.
Earlier this week (see below) I talked about building a better Gin and Tonic (though the world didn’t beat a path to my door–yet) for pal Erika’s birthday. But we didn’t solely serve G&Ts at the birthday party, though they were quite fantastic. We also whipped out a new-old drink, or old-new, in honor of the occasion. See, I had some homemade blackberry liqueur around that was begging to be consumed in something bubbly and some nice recently-released local vodka begging for the same. I couldn’t resist the call, and so fashioned a drink based on one created for another pal, Rebecca (a recipe for The Rebecca, the drink, can be found in either Good Spirits or Champagne Cocktails, both of which I hope you have, cause we’re pals, right?). The Erikecca combines the two ingredients touched on above, Skip Rock vodka–a smooth, berry-friendly, potato vodka made in Snohomish, WA–and blackberry liqueur with a demi sec sparkling wine to lovely, and tasty, effect. It’s a drink worthy of a serious birthday celebration, or any old celebration. And, as some philosophers say it’s right to celebrate every day, that means you should have this drink every day. At least that makes sense to me.
1-1/2 ounces Skip Rock vodka
1-1/2 ounces blackberry liqueur
Chilled demi sec sparkling wine
Frozen blackberry, for garnish
Ice cube (if needed)
1. Add the vodka and the blackberry liqueur to a flute glass. Stir once or twice.
2. Fill the glass about three-quarters full with sparkling wine–carefully, though, so it doesn’t bubble over. Stir again, carefully, briefly, to introduce the vodka and the liqueur into the bubbly.
3. Garnish with the blackberry by dropping it into the glass. If your sparkling wine isn’t good and chilled, feel okay about adding one ice cube to keep this cool.
A Note: Not sure about making blackberry liqueur? Luckily, there’s a great recipe for one, called Always Bet on Blackberries, in Luscious Liqueurs. And yep, I’ve managed to link to three books in one post. Amazing.
Living in Italy (as I am of this writing, at least), I’ve picked up a small addiction–to mirtillo juice (mirtillo=blueberries), which I like to have in the morning with my croissant. It’s a health kick (or seems to be) and has a great taste and color. Recently, however, thanks to my pals/landlords Andrew and Marianne (proprietors of the wondrous Amici Villas), I’ve discovered the grown-up sibling of my beloved mirtillo juice, the fantastic mirtillo liqueur. See, Andrew and Marianne picked up a bottle for me not too long ago, and it’s delicious, not too sweet and bursting with flavor, and I’ve been digging it solo and mixed. It’s especially good in the below drink, named after Andrew and Marianne’s lovable pup, Oscar, who is frizzante, just like this slightly sparkling sparkler. To round out the somewhat Italian experience (or, Italian-British, much like the above-mentioned Andrew and Marianne, cause gin’s involved, too), and to bring the frizzante, I combined the mirtillo with Donini wineries (read more about Donini here) Brigante (a bianco frizzante):
1 ounce gin
3/4 ounce mirtillo liqueur
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ounces Brigante (or other frizzante white wine)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, mirtillo, and lemon juice. Shake well.
2. Strain into a Champagne flute, add the Brigante, and stir briefly. Sip and enjoy.
Another from Eric Ambler (following up the Coffin for Dimitrios below), from another of his political thrillers. Now, the political thrillers don’t get me all giddy as much as other books that sometimes share the same shelves (no-one says “dame” in a political thriller for one thing), but the Amblers (as I’m affectionately calling them) are written well, and, well, the characters tend to have lots of cocktails, drinks, and booze (in various forms). And the plots are never that bad, either. The Levanter‘s all Middle East terrorist business, and tends to roll heavy on the brandy. Much like this quote, which also demonstrates how to use cocktails to your advantage in serious discussions:
I gave him a champagne cocktail with plenty of brandy in it, which he drank thirstily as if it were water. I gave him a cigar and lit it for him. He sat back in his chair and looked around. Though he was clearly impressed, he seemed perfectly at ease. This suited me. I wanted him relaxed and in as expansive a mood as possible. All the stiffness was going to be on my side. I continued to address him respectfully as Comrade Salah, and fussed a little. As soon as he had finished his first cocktail I immediately gave him another in a fresh glass.
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