Friday, November 11, 2011

Holiday Cocktails

Today just took a hard turn towards winter. The past few days have been glorious, and I've been basking in them. But today, as I take a long drive to pick up some jars, and lemon juice, I'm reminded it's closer to winter than summer, as huge pearl gray clouds begin to cover the sky, and against them large flocks of starlings switchback to and fro. The traffic lights sway at a red light, and I'm transfixed by the grace of these normally invasive and destructive birds as they dart and race as one huge being under the ever-darkening sky. On the drive home, the bare trees strike me as beautiful but I know all too well how suffocating their starkness will be come February. The oaks have molted, they are usually the last leaves to drop, and the sides of the road glisten with their glossy, tawny shine.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and one of the solaces of chilly nights is a sparkly cocktail, isn't it?  Instead of bemoaning the warmer weather, I'm going to make sure I get a spiffy cocktail once in a while. I'm a lightweight these days, and I'll be honest: these cocktails go down waaaay too easily. But starting the night with a small drink is always special. Then you can switch to a glass of wine or beer. You have to find a way to drink all those lovely infused liqueurs you've made over the summer, don't you? Not to mention the jams, preserves and candied fruits. Drink 'em!


I started a few friendly dinners this summer with this cocktail, and it was always a welcome way to start the night. I think it would be perfect for the holidays, too. I used sour cherry preserves, and some black cherry brandy that I had made, but I think this drink can be made with a good many different things. All you need is the bubbles, the St. Germain, a nice soft preserve and a fruit liqueur. (P.S. I tried to make elderflower liqueur once, and I failed miserably. I can't tell you how much I love St. Germain! I'll never try to make it again. It's just one of those things.)

The St. Jam-main

Drop a syrupy preserved cherry into the bottom of a small coupe glass. Add a teaspoon of black cherry liqueur, and a teaspoon of St. Germain. Top with sparkling wine or champagne or prosecco, but please make it a dry one!


The other day I had some friends over that I used to work with, and we started the night with these Calamondin Cocktails. Isn't it the nicest thing in the world to not see someone for ten years, and be laughing and talking like that gap of time had never happened? I can't tell you how much I laughed that night! And it wasn't just the cocktails! This drink is made with calamondin gin that I made last winter. To make it: fill a quart jar with calamondins, add one cup of sugar and fill  to the top with gin (conversely you can use vodka, but I like the taste of gin with the small bitter citrus). Let it sit in a dark cupboard for a month, agitating every other day. Click here for the candied calamondin recipe.

Calamondin Cocktail

2 ounces gin or vodka (either works fine, depends on your preference)
1 ounce calamondin gin liqueur
1 ounce or less of calamondin syrup (from the candied calamondins)
juice of half a lime
seltzer to finish
garnish with candied calamondin

Shake the gin/vodka, the calamondin liqueur, syrup and lime juice together with ice. Strain neat, in a small rocks glass and top with seltzer. Let a candied calamondin sink to the bottom.


And now that the wood stove is cranking, we might need to have one of these by the fire from time to time. Last year, I packed a quart jar with small crabapples, added a cup of sugar and filled it with spiced rum. Next time I won't add the sugar, as it's very sweet, but it makes a top notch toddy. You really don't need to add a thing, but the lemon and cinnamon are a nice touch.

Crabapple Spiced Rum Toddy, a short poem

One ounce of crabapple spiced rum
four ounces of hot water,
add a squeeze of lemon and
stir with a cinnamon stick.

Of course, I am partial to this article by Melissa Clark from the NY Times for more liqueur and libation recipes. Let me know what you've been sipping lately or making!