January 14, 2022
Way back last year (haha, I kid, I kid – I mean, it was last year, but solely weeks ago, not months) right before Christmas I had a recipe for a delicious (said humbly) Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur. It was so delicious (said, again, humbly, or ‘umbly, if you’re feeling like Uriah Heep in David Copperfield), and a hit around the holiday fires, that I had to make another one to satisfy all the requests. But instead of making another batch of the same version, because where would be the fun in that?, I decided to tweak the recipe, and then tweak a little more, to move into new territory. It is the new year! Though, admittedly, my tweaks did make this almost more winter-holiday-y, which leads to the name Holly Jolly. See, I went with a few winter-y spices (cinnamon, ginger), and also changed the base to vodka slightly infused with mandarin orange zest and juice (mandarins seem a little winter holiday-y to me, too). But it’s still lush and lovely and velvety and creamy, just veering off in the flavor hints. A hit, me thinks (humbly, of course).
Holly Jolly Homemade Cream Liqueur
1-2/3 cups vodka
Peel (pithless as possible) and juice from 1 mandarin orange
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tablespoons chocolate syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1. Add the vodka and mandarin peel and juice to a good-sized glass container with a lid. Let sit in a cool, dry spot at least a week, swirling occasionally.
2. Strain the combo from Step 1 through cheesecloth into a pitcher, and then pour the mandarin-bit-less vodka into a blender (or just strain straight into the blender, but do make sure you get the bits strained out).
3. Add all the other ingredients to the blender. Blend well. Pour the mixture (using a funnel if needed) into a large (at least 1-1/2 liters) or a number of small bottles or jars. Seal, and put into the refrigerator. Consume within two weeks.
January 7, 2022
Look, look, lookieeee! A new year has started. Which is good, cause, between us, last year, well (excuse my expressioning expression), sucked. Really! Not that there weren’t good and tasty and cuddly moments, I hope, for all, but it wasn’t the finest year IMHO (as they say). So, here’s hoping this here year will be better, and to help it on its way, I’m going to drink this lovely drink, called Three Wishes, after its three tasty ingredients: dark rum (I’m going with Diplomatico Reserva, which is so delicious), Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb (a beauteous blend of rums, bitter orange, and sweet), and amaretto (for me, wishing usually has an Italian component – I’m using Lazaroni). How will me drinking this help? Well, lesser-know fact: when you drink this, you can actually make wishes, and all mine will be for a lovely 2022 for us all. Yeah, I’m that way, but the good part is, you can have one of these and also wish for the same!
Three Wishes, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
2 ounces Diplomatico Reserva dark rum
1 ounce Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb
1 ounce Lazaroni amaretto
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the rum, Creole Shrubb, and amaretto. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Make good wishes.
December 31, 2021
Goodbye crappy 2021 (I won’t go into all the reasons my 2021 wasn’t a high-roller, actually, pretty sucky, but let me say I hope dearly that your 2021 was a dreamy dose of dandy-ness), and nearly hello to 2022. Time is crazy friends! 2022, hard to imagine. Let’s give this upcoming year the benefit of the doubt, as it hasn’t even started yet, and say it’s gonna be a hum-dinger in the best ways for all. But, but, but, just in case there’s a day or two in the upcoming year where it isn’t the bestest, and where you feel you just need a break, or to break away from it for a moment, well, I want you to have this drink on hand, as it provides (as the name implies!) a Temporary Getaway, what with its juicy juices, floral notes, apple hints, and bubbles. A getaway-ing combo indeed. As a bonus! If you don’t yet have your drink picked out for this evening (New Year’s Eve and all that dontcha know), this bubble number does it right, right.
The Temporary Getaway, from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz
3 apple slices
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
4 ounces chilled brut Sekt or other sparkling wine
1. Place 2 of the apple slices, the orange juice, and the lemon juice in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the St-Germain and, using a long spoon, stir well.
3. Pour the chilled Sekt into the cocktail shaker. Using that same reliable spoon, stir briefly, being sure to bring up the fruit on the bottom when stirring.
4. Strain into a flute glass or cocktail glass (in this instance I like the way the latter breathes, but a flute’s more traditional), through a fine strainer if you want to avoid the fruit bits. Garnish with the remaining apple slice, putting a little notch in it if needed for rim balancing.
December 23, 2021
Here we are, Christmas Eve Eve, and if you’ve been putting off your holiday gift buying, well, I’ve been there (this is all if you’re someone who celebrates this particular winter holiday). I am, however, this time, here to help. Because, the best gifts – or at least near the top of the list – are homemade liqueurs that you’ve made yourself with care and love and give to someone. I can hear you saying, “wait, A.J., don’t homemade liqueurs take time to make and to get all the goodness good?” and you, friend, are right, in the main. However! There are a few delicious delights in Luscious Liqueurs (the book I wrote of homemade liqueurs, if that doesn’t sound too haughty), not a lot, not even a handful, that are meant to made right before consuming. Meaning, you can make them today, and gift them tomorrow or the next day. One of them is the very recipe below, for homemade Irish Cream Liqueur, a recipe that I first got the bones of from old pal Tara. It’s good to have old pals! And this recipe – again, if it doesn’t sound too haughty – beats the virtual pants off any big brand Irish Cream Liqueur. So, whip (or blend) it up, put on a nice label and bow, remind the gift-receiver to keep it in the fridge, and bask in the glow of their thanks and praise for your tasteful present. Then maybe they’ll give you a sip.
Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur, from Luscious Liqueurs
Serves 4 to 6
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
1-2/3 cups Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon instant coffee (see Note below)
2 Tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1. Add all of the ingredients in any order you want to a sturdy blender. Blend on a medium setting for a full minute, making sure that everything is completely combined.
2. Pour the mixture (using a funnel if needed) into a large (at least 1-1/2 liters) or a number of small bottles or jars. Seal, and put into the refrigerator before gifting.
A Note: Last time I made this, I used coffee itself instead of the grounds (it was Bustelo, if you know that lovely stuff), and it worked a treat. You be you.
December 10, 2021
Hey hey howdy-o holidays (the winter variety) are nearly upon us, and for reasons known only to the back part of my brain (and it ain’t talking) I tend to smoothly smooth my way into sweeter, creamier drinks about now. Well, maybe I can come up with some reasons. First, they tend to match all those Christmas-and-other-winter-holiday desserts perfectly. Second, on the creamy-side, these drinks often look like little winter-snow-wonderlands, at least those in dreams (and dreams are free, as the song says). Third, hmm, I get cold and drinking a lot of Alexanders and their brethren helps insult me. Does that work? The Silk Stocking definitely works as a holiday treat in the set up I’ve just set up. It’s an Alexander relation indeed, though slightly different. Well, one big difference: tequila instead of gin! That’s big. Then, the ratios in the recipe I use are slightly different than the classic Alexander’s (which is, of course, the king of dessert drinks), and I like them here cause that slightly smoky tequila-ness is allowed to shine, and allowed to mingle more firmly with the chocolate-y crème de cacao, while still having the cream to dress things up like a nice holiday suit (one snow white). A little cinnamon on top, and, delicious is unwrapped like a favorite present with each sip. Yummski.
The Silk Stocking
1-1/2 ounces tequila blanco
1-1/2 ounces crème de cacao
1 ounce heavy cream
Grated or ground cinnamon, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the three holiday liquid pals. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a dusting of cinnamon.
A Note: My guess is there are a few Silk Stocking cocktails around – it’s such a delightful and frisky name. But this particular lineup matches it best. In my humble opinion, as they say, of course.
December 3, 2021
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!
Aunt Betsy’s Favorite, from Dark Spirits
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.
November 26, 2021
You’re full. I’m full. Yesterday was Thanksgiving, the fillingest holiday of the year here in the US, where many (like me!) overeat without a calorific care in the world. And even with that feasting, there still tends to be leftovers. Luckily, in the cranberry sauce case, cause then you can have the traditional post-Thanksgiving Gizmo, a Thanksgiving drink that’s been had around tables and fireplaces and back-porches for many a long year (originally created by a genius named Jeremy Holt). So, no matter your fullness level, start your shaking!
2-1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce homemade cranberry sauce
1/2 ounce simple syrup (optional)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin and cranberry sauce, and syrup if using. Shake exceptionally well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drink up, Thanksgiving-style.
November 12, 2021
Sometimes I think to myself, what a wonderful world of drink-making ingredients we’re living within. The change since I came of drinking age (which admittedly was many a moon ago) is remarkable – heck, the change in the last decade, or even five years, is pretty remarkable. How lucky us cocktail lovers are! And there are more delicious delectables in beautiful bottles coming our way all the time. Even luckier! For example, just the other day, a beautiful bottle arrived in the post (luckiest me – don’t be jealous), containing Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin with Sardinian Citrus:
A “novel expression” (sidenote: I love the usage of the word “expression” here, and in other spots, to refer to a slightly, not completely, new version of a spirit or liqueur) of the original Drumshanbo Gin, this adds notes of, well, Sardinian citrus, “Sa Pompia” to be exact, one of the rarest fruits in the world, and a fruit sitting between an orange and grapefruit in flavor essence, though part of the lemon family. Not something you’d eat solo, but with a peel that can bring fantastic citrus dreams when used correctly. But, before peeling that any more, let’s back up. If you don’t know, Drumshanbo Gin itself takes its full name from the fact that it’s made in a small village in Ireland, and with a signature ingredient: Gunpowder Tea (which is a green tea rolled into gun-pellet-esque balls). But that’s just the beginning of this gin story! That tea and the Sardinian citrus, grapefruit, and lime are vapor infused into the gin, while a host of botanicals (juniper, as you’d expect, plus angelica and orris root, caraway and coriander seed, cardamom, star anise, and lesser-know flowery herb meadowsweet) are distilled in a medieval copper still. Whew! But what’s it all mean? On the nose, a strong, distinctive citrus medley, orange with underlying grapefruit, with subtle hints of juniper and flowers and springtime. The taste reflects the nose, but flipped a bit, with bountiful botanicals bursting on the tongue, with that green tea flavor coming through, swirled with citrus and then ending herbally. Yummy!
It’s a curious collection of ingredients, all balanced out nice, and one I couldn’t resist trying in a drink, after sipping it solo. And I had the perfect moment, with some pals coming over for lunch. As we’re at the point in the calendar where the holidays are in view, my mind went instantly to a bubbly cocktail (as the past weeks have shown, I am a fan of the holiday/sparkling combo). I played around a little with things, and ended up leaning into the citrus side of the gin, complementing it with a little more orange and a smidge of sweet in the form of Grand Marnier, and then doubling and tripling the herb-and-citrus song by the addition of two fantastic citrusy bitters: Scrappy’s lovely Grapefruit bitters and Orange bitters. I’m not gonna lie: I think with just those ingredients, there’s a pretty swell cocktail. But adding prosecco really drives all the flavors up, up, up with every bubble, into a memorable sparkling mix that’s ideal for the holidays — and for lunch with pals. When drinking, maybe throw out a toast to our modern drinker’s world, too, and how wonderful it is.
The Suspended Palace
1 ounce Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin with Sardinian Citrus
1/2 ounce Grand Mariner
1 dash Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters
1 dash Scrappy’s Orange bitters
4 to 5 ounces chilled Prosecco
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add the Drumshanbo gin, Grand Marnier, and bitters. Stir well.
2. Strain the mix into a flute or comparable glass. Top with the chilled Prosecco. Stir carefully, to combine.