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!


  1. Julia rocks! I want 1 (or 2) of all of them!

  2. Meg - Only if you drink them with me!

  3. I wish! Someday! I especially want the St. Jam-Main. Or Calamondin. Yum!

  4. On first glimpse I thought 'Oh no! Julia has come up with cocktails using jam!' Which for us folks with cupboards full of the stuff could be the beginning of the slippery slope.
    I have been stroking the bottles of St germain in Waitrose whenever I visit, thankfully not too often. Now I will have to buy some. Perhaps we could sometime have a virtual cocktail-a-thon and all raise a glass to toast our canning year?
    Have a 2 yr old rumtopf think would make great cocktails. Cheers x

  5. Gloria - I've been on that slippery slope for a long, long time.

    You must take a bottle home. Then you can adore it whenever you want! I think a virtual cocktail party sounds perfect, maybe via Twitter? The timing might be a little off, though!

    What do you think, Meg?

  6. Awesome, as always! I am wondering if I can do something with the liquid in my preserved lemons. But it's just so salty, and I'm a sweet drink gal. Even so, it's so aromatic and syrupy, any thoughts?

  7. These sound DELICIOUS!!!!!

    Great job Julia!

    I've been adding some homemade raspberry jam to my gin lately, but I am definitely in need of something with more of a winter flavor now. You're timing is impeccable :-)

  8. I had elderflower liqueur on my list for next year - and now I'm rethinking... since if YOU say you'll never do it again... I've never tried St. Germaine either, but you make a convincing case. I have the sour cherry jam, and "bachelor's jam" that has a brandy base, so I might just be in business once I pick up a bottle.

    Starlings are also some of my favorite birds, to my Dad's dismay. He thinks them messy and loud, but I'm beguiled by their iridescence. I really enjoyed reading this one!

  9. Sara - Thank you! I love using my salty preserved lemon syrup in cooking, especially drizzled on sauteed greens. A drink I haven't thought of yet, but it's a great idea. I'm thinking something Greyhound-ish. I'll do some research (hic!) and get back to you!

    Jessica - Thank you! I'm sure you would have come up with something clever and delicious, but I'm always glad to be of assistance.

    Rebecca - Well, it might have been my fault, but the elderflower liqueur came out so woody and herbaceous. I still think you should try it, but gosh, I don't think I could ever come close to St. Germain, which I'm positively swoony about.

    And thank you, as always, for your kind words!

  10. Julia, You are totally inspiring me. Paul and I have been wanting to make more of our own liquors.I need to go back through you archives to get some tips:)
    Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  11. I'd like to join in the virtual cocktail-a-thon!
    Lovely, lovely Jules. I adore reading your posts. Such a deep-seated sense of place you impart upon us.

  12. Thanks, Erin! Inspiring you? That's awesome! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too! Although, it's now belated. Oh, jeez.

    And thank you, too, dear Kate! Such kind words. Now, let's have that drink, shall we?

  13. Oh my goodness that sounds delicious. I love St. Germain, but I never buy it for at home because I'd never know what to do with it.

  14. Sarah - I don't mind having a bottle around for a long time. I'm a hoarder!