I realize that the “holidays” in some ways are behind us, at least what people think of when one says “holidays,” in Western culture, that is, meaning the winter holidays, though really there are holidays year round, round the world (thankfully)! Which means drinking a drink called “Holiday Tea Time” anytime at all is perfectly dandy, and especially, me thinks, in January, because this particular drink doesn’t have any booze in it, and though I don’t partake in the now-ritual called “dry January,” I know lots of fine folks who do, and they deserve to have good drinks during that timeframe, and here we are then, with this peppermint-y, rosemary-y, bubbly delight. The peppermint travels this holiday road through the addition of peppermint tea, chilled here, and the rosemary through rosemary simple syrup, which I’m fairly fond of, I have to admit!
Holiday Tea Time
2 ounces peppermint tea, chilled
3/4 rosemary simple syrup (see Note, below)
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 ounces club soda
Rosemary sprig, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the tea, syrup, and juice. Shake well.
2. Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mix from Step 1 through a fine strainer into the glass over the ice. Top with the club soda.
3. Stir to combine. Garnish with the rosemary sprig.
A Note: To make the rosemary simple syrup, add three-quarters cup fresh rosemary to a saucepan. Muddle a little bit with a muddler or wooden spoon. Add 1-1/2 cups sugar and 1 cup water to the saucepan and raise the heat to medium-high. Stirring regularly, let the mixture come to a low boil, and keep it there until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for ten minutes, remove the heat, and let cool completely. Strain out the rosemary, and pour into a container with a good lid. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Welcome to 2021! Well, I’m a little late with the welcome, but it’s already been (to put it mildly) a strange week, and following up 2020’s strange year (and then some), well, tardiness is probably okay. As is drinking Fish House Punch. Luckily (for me!), some pals (Curtis and Eve!) made a big batch of Fish House Punch, and then bottled it for lucky folks (like me!), since they couldn’t, for obvious current reasons, have a big party as one usually would when making a big batch of this favorite that goes all the way, way, way back to Philadelphia’s Schuylkill Fishing Company sometime in the 1700s. There’s something about drinking a mix that traces back that far that’s wonderful, connecting us to drinkers from many years before, and then you can up the wonderful quotient ten times when it’s made by friends, and you get to share the drink with them (as well as those 1700s drinkers) in a communal, if distanced by both time and space, way. I’m not 100% sure if this is exactly the recipe they used, but it’s the one I use, from Dark Spirits. If you aren’t super thirsty, and want to do a bottling, I’d still mix with a little ice, or just add a little water, as water is one of the ingredients here (as with all chilled drinks). Let’s hope the rest of the year is as swell as this historical sipper.
Fish House Punch, Serve 10
Block of ice (or cracked ice)
1 750-milliliter bottle dark rum
15 ounces cognac
7-1/2 ounces peach brandy
7-1/2 ounces freshly-squeezed lemon juice
7-1/2 ounces Simple Syrup
1. Add the ice to a punch bowl (fill about three quarters full if using cracked ice.) Add the rum, cognac, brandy, juice, and syrup. Stir 10 times, while humming fishy songs or hymns to Pennsylvania.
2. Stir 10 more times. Serve in punch cups or wine glasses or bottle it to give to friends (in a distanced way).
Just weeks back, I had a Cocktail Talk from Qiu Xiaolong’s excellent Enigma of China, starring Chief Inspector Chen (be sure to read past Qiu Xiaolong Chen Cocktail Talks), in which we had a quote about classic Chinese poet Wang Xizi and a wine poem games he and other poets played, which is about the most amazing thing! Said poet from many years gone by (and the poets who played the wine poem game described) mostly hung out in the Chinese city (as it’s called today), Shaoxing. Now (and trust me, I’m bringing this all together, somewhat), also a few weeks back, some pals of mine from the wondrous Teacher’s Lounge dropped me off a bottle of what, it turns out, is Shaoxing wine! Also amazing. A fermented rice wine, it’s one of (I’ve read) the most famous of the genre, and one often used for cooking as well as drinking – actually, it’s a key cooking ingredient, due to its herbal-ish, funky-ish, fruit-y taste. But I believe that taste means that it can make a swell cocktail, too, and I think in this drink here, The Orchid Canopy (the name’s a shout out to Wang, too!), proves it. I felt something as personality-rich as Shaoxing wine needed a drinking partner that could stand up to it while mingling, and after some testing, came up with: port! Specifically, Sandeman 10-year-old Tawny port, which is a lush number that’s also fruity, with hint of nutty, too. Those notes, with more emphasis on the “fruity” but stone fruity (equaling a little nuttiness, too), are echoed in our third and last ingredient: Rothman and Winter Apricot liqueur. With these three ingredients, we have a cocktail that’s fit for a gathering of poets. Heck, they might even play a cocktail poem game with it!
Bit chilly out dontcha know? Wind coming in quick and cool from the north, nipping at your nose, toes, and panty-hose? Perhaps a flake or two of snow wisping on the currents of air here and there (but not yet everywhere)? Fluffy orange mittens mittening on your hands? You know, winter (for those in the hemisphere where it is winter) is here, so, not so surprising if you’re thinking of thicker socks and watching the mercury mingle lower, and wondering – how might I warm up? If I can be a bold as an impertinent icicle, can I suggest the Rumoddy? Which (shhhh, don’t tell) is, to speak the cold truth, a rum toddy with maybe a wrinkle or two (like a warm shirt that has been in the closet a long time). And Rumoddy is such a warming sounding name, yummy. And this is yummy! With dark rum, lime, and rosemary simple syrup I had nearby, and which you could make if you want (and why wouldn’t you, rosemary being such a swell winter herb), but if not, you could go with regular simple (rosemary simple recipe below btw), and then hot water to take that chilly mentioned way back in sentence one far, far away – for a few moments, at least.
2 ounces dark rum
1/2 ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounces rosemary simple syrup (recipe in Note)
5 ounces hot water
Lime twist, for garnish
1. Add the rum, lime, and syrup to a cocktail shaker (no ice!). Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a pre-warmed (just by running it up warm water) sturdy mug.
3. Top with the hot water. Stir to combine. Garnish with a lime twist.
A Note: To make rosemary simple syrup, add three-quarters cup fresh rosemary to a saucepan. Muddle a little bit with a muddler or wooden spoon. Add 1-1/2 cups sugar and 1 cup water to the saucepan and raise the heat to medium-high. Stirring regularly, let the mixture come to a low boil, and keep it there until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for ten minutes, remove the heat, and let cool completely. Strain out the rosemary, and pour into a container with a good lid. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
This lovely number is an ideal dance partner (or, to put it another way, drink) for the snazzy winter season that is upon us. Pretty, tasty, and pretty tasty, it two-steps gin and Lillet Blanc and then cuts in a small twirl of Angostura and orange. Just a swirling of light herbs and spice and citrus (oh, I’d go with a flavorful gin, here, one with a juniper smooch and not a juniper punch). While this December’s celebrations may not be at the scale as past years, there’s no reason not to enjoy a drink this fine no matter what the celebration entails. You deserve both it and a Great Secret. Really, you do!
Great Secret, as featured in Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz but originally, I found it in Patrick Gavin Duffy’s The Official Mixer’s Manual (the Alta 1934 version).
2 ounces gin
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
Dash of Angostura bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
Orange slice, for garnish (optional, used instead of above twist)
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Add the gin, Lillet, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the twist over the glass and then drop it in.
You know, 2020 hasn’t been overly-packed with good days. There have been some, I’m sure and I’m hoping, for everyone, some big-ish good days, and some small-ish good days, even within it all. I had one recently when some bubbly showed up here, which made the day more, well, bubbly. It was also bubby from Italy (you know I love Italy, right?), specifically Trentodoc sparkling wine – Trentodoc being from the Trentino region, which is in the far north of Italy, a mountain-alp-y region, one which also has some Mediterranean-ness on the lower slopes. I’ll admit that’s not the Italian area I know best, but after tasting the sparkling wine from there, I need to know more! Made in the Meted Classico, or classic method, Trentodoc sparklers are also made from picked-by-hands Trentino grapes. Sounds yummy, right? But the proof is in the bottle, as the saying goes, and the one I’m popping off now is Maso Martis Extra Brut Rose.
Starting with its pale pink-y coloring, and enticing effervescence, it’s a wine you’ll want to drink as you pour – which is what you want, right? The taste (pino nero grapes, if you’re interested) has a berry-centric-ness, raspberries, strawberries, and then some currants, with a few delicate herbal notes, too, and a creamy nature ideal for a sunny day, a date night around the appetizer course, or, really, almost anytime. It’s also a swell base for cocktails. Well, you wouldn’t think I wouldn’t try it in a cocktail, right? I do so love bubble mixes, and with a flavorsome rose like this, I had to see how it’d play with others. Starting with another delicious number (and by some crazy occurrence also showed on the porch), but from closer to US home: Clear Creek Pear brandy. Made with Bartlett pears grown in OR (where Clear Creek is), it has a phenomenal pear nature, from the small to the lingering pear echoes, while still maintaining a warming brandy undercurrent. Then, I traveled back to Italy (to help the wine feel at home), with bitter and beautiful classic Campari – which not only adds layers of taste, but a rich redness, which is further underlined by our last ingredient, homemade grenadine. Altogether, what a drink! Refreshing but bursting with delights, and one the showcases and perfectly utilizes the wine and brandy. Dive in.
Okay, obvious statement number one: you know what’s awesome? Pals are awesome. Perhaps moreso now than ever (now meaning the moment I’m typing, which is during a very bad year – future reader, I hope whatever time you’re reading this is more conducive to swell-ness), which is a somewhat interesting statement as it can be harder to see (and here I mean see for reals, not through a screen – not that that isn’t real per se, but not as real real, really) to see said pals. Make sense? Clear as brandy? How about, obvious statement number two: awesome pals who make tasty things and then drop them off for you are, well, awesome! Which is what happened for me recently, as pal Rebecca (genius pal, I might say) sent some homemade plum shrub and grenadine our way, and what a pandemic helper they have been! More of the latter later, but today, we’ve delving plum shrub style, as I used it to make a tasty (if I can say so without sounding like a lame-o) sipper which I’m calling Spirit and Substance.
It starts (duh!) with tangy, zingy, fruity plum shrub. I don’t know how it’s made, but can find out if you’re desperate. I matched with with a gin (gin and fruit = yum), specifically Sipsmith London Dry gin, which I adore due to its dry, citrus, fruit (dare I say marmalade), character. But I didn’t stop there! I thought about it (often we just see shrub+base spirit+ soda, but more felt appropriate), tried this and that, and ended up with more fruit in the way of Sidetrack Blackberry liqueur. Made outside of Kent, WA on the same farm the blackberries (and other delights) are grown, its rich berry body was the ideal addition. And then, soda, ice, lemon twist, and boom! A drink that’ll bring summer into fall, and pals into your heart, if not your home bar.
Well, tomorrow is once again Halloween, often one of the finest funtimes of the year, but in 2020, one of the lamest (not to mention tragic on many levels) years, Halloween like so many other things is different, let’s say. But what’s not different is your scrumptious duty to make a Warlock and turn into a zombie magician. Got it? Spooky good! If you’ve forgotten, the Warlock contains brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters, and is my favoritest Halloween special. As you can see below (and you can also learn how to make the Warlock, too)!
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