Recipe reprinted from Wild Drinks & Cocktails by Emily Han, with permission from Fair Winds Press, copyright 2015 Yield: about 2-1/2 cups (590 ml)
2 cups (8 ounces, or 224 g) blanched hazelnuts (also known as filberts)
2 cups (470 ml) water
2 cups (400 g) sugar
Dash orange flower water (optional)
Place the hazelnuts and water in a blender or food processor. Pulse until the hazelnuts are finely chopped but not pureed. Pour the hazelnuts and water into a bowl. (To chop without a food processor, crush the hazelnuts with a rolling pin and then stir them into the water.) Cover the bowl and let stand for 8 hours or overnight.
Line a fine-mesh strainer with a fine-mesh bag or flour sack cloth and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Squeeze the bag or cloth to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the hazelnut pulp. Stir the sugar into the hazelnut liquid. Warm the mixture over low heat (but do not boil), stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Stir in the orange flower water. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (Because this is an oil and water emulsion, the orgeat will separate in the refrigerator, so always shake well before using.)
This time of year there is a golden quality to the light that I just love. I always associate it with the end of Fall, even if winter is still a few weeks away. It reminds me of gilded tables and pies and the anticipation of family gatherings. Thanksgiving is this week and as you plan your final meal details, let’s help you check off which wines to get.
Robin Watts is back with your wine picks for this week’s feast of feasts. If you’re looking for not only some tasty wines, but some BOLD graphic bottles to grace your table… here you go.
Thanksgiving is coming and that means another opportunity for drinking! Y’know, among other things. My favorite holiday, and meal, of the year can bring as much excitement as it can anxiety. One thing I’ve always found at large group meal functions is that finding a wine everyone can agree on is near impossible. There is always the one person who ONLY drinks this or the other guy who NEVER drinks that. This is why I’ve tried to pick four wines that at least offer something unique enough that they will appeal to someone and maybe even convert a few skeptics.
2014 POPULIS WHITE California Retails apx. $20-24
Coming from just outside Napa this fuller bodied white is great for Chardonnay drinkers and non Chardonnay drinkers alike. Roughly 75% Chardonnay to 25% Colombard this wine stays big but with a brighter more crisp and refreshing acidity than just your average California Chardonnay. Done in neutral oak it isn’t big and oaky but rather heavier on the melon notes and honey notes that are quickly followed by something much more interesting. This is why I love it. Its kind of funky. Those bright notes are quickly followed by more savory flavors. Artichoke, Brussels sprouts, damp hay, hint of pear, and in all honesty, fried chicken. I was initially caught off guard by this wine and couldn’t stop drinking it because each sip revealed something unexpected. It was like having a savory sorbet. Any “sweetness” that you get is like that from caramelized onions rather than juicy fruit. This wine is great with food but can easily be enjoyed before anything substantial is finished cooking.
2014 LA CLARINE “JAMBALAIA ROUGE” California Retails apx. $20-24
This is another great versatile wine that I think acts as a great transition from white to red. While predominately Mourvedre and Grenache this wine is 14% Marsanne with a smidge of Fiano and Arneis thrown in. Red AND white. This wine drinks like a rose’s juicy baritone cousin. Think berries but smokey berries. This isn’t to say that the 48% Mourvedre doesn’t provide fantastic structure and soft tannins. You’ll find that out on the finish which is why I think this wine could appeal to people who say they like only reds and people who say they don’t like tannic wine. It is a softer tannic finish than, say, a Cabernet Sauvignon, think more like that of a Nebiolo. (Note: this doesn’t taste like a Nebbiolo!) If you find yourself enjoying Rhone blends maybe have a glass of this first. This is great wine to serve to people who may not know what they want. A versatile crowd pleaser that drinks well chilled or at room temperature this wine could be a great red for those afraid to leave the easy drinking safety of their whites.
2014 SAN ESTEBAN “LA PERRA GORDA” Spain Retails apx. $15
Just so we aren’t exclusively drinking domestic wines I think Spain is a great consideration for this fall. Less prestige than that associated with French, and to a certain extent Italian wines, with Spanish wine there are some real bargains to be had. This is a great example. At $15 this wine drinks like a much more expensive and impressive wine. While this is the biggest wine of the group, this inky curious blend of grapes gives you all the leather, black currant, and white pepper you’d want from a bigger wine but does it with a lighter softer touch. Incredibly dry finishing these grippy tannins are preceded by a soft round mouthfeel. A great red for your “I only drink red wine” guests on Thanksgiving that won’t overshadow or overpower any dish on the table. As an added bonus on the conversation starter front, the name of this wine has at least one translation that, given the working knowledge of Spanish many Americans have, can seem a little cheeky and fun on a holiday centered around eating.
DOMAINE SEAILLES “PRESTO” COTES DE GASCOGNE
France Retails apx. $13
Years of waiting tables and bar tending has taught me that people love to drink wine but don’t necessarily love to be bogged down by knowing more than a few varietals. White drinkers, more often than not, automatically ask for one of three varietals with sauvignon blanc leading the pack. Why not serve a wine that satisfies that crisp, clean, bright white craving but exceeds the expectations of your casual sauvignon blanc drinker? This 50/50 sauvignon blanc/sauvignon gris gives you that great melon and white peach flavor on the front end with subtler notes of lime, lemongrass, and green apple on the back end. This is an acidic, and organic, crowd pleaser that is perfect to drink while preparing your thanksgiving feast. A welcome cool down in the heat of the kitchen for under $15.
This space is too lighthearted to get very political or get in-depth about current news events, but with Thanksgiving coming next week, it’s a good reminder to be thankful for whatever you have in your life. And if it’s Thanksgiving, I’m shoving cranberry sauce in my face like no one is watching.
I’m of the camp that you need a little sweet with the savory. And while I enjoy pretty much all the flavors that grace the holiday table (except maybe you, green bean casserole), you bet that on every forkful of turkey or potatoes or creamed onions, there is a little bit of cranberry sauce. Ok, maybe a LOT of cranberry sauce.
And I’m not picky either. You want to feed me the jello version from the can? Sure, I’ll take it. Or you made a passed down recipe from your great-grandmother that is laced with a little booze? Sure, I’ll take that too. I’ll take them all.
So why am I not eating it more often so that when Turkey Day comes I’m not feeding myself like a ravenous zombie? Well, I kinda forget about it. I think the ensuing coma from eating resets my brain every year and I spend the rest of the time oblivious until a week or so before Thanksgiving when I see some ad in a magazine and my mouth starts salivating in a Pavlovian response.
This year it was decided that since I have such a short window of time to enjoy cranberries, I’ll make the most of it and enjoy them by not only eating those berries, but also drinking them! In fact, I figured if I made a shrub with them, I’d get to enjoy them a little bit longer (although, it’s so darn tasty I doubt it will stick around for very long).
This black pepper–spiced cranberry shrub is sweet, savory, and tart. It mixes up quick and with a fruity sparkling wine and citrusy bitters, the drink works wonderfully to lighten a meal packed with sweet potatoes, stuffing, turkey, and more. And if you don’t use up the whole shrub in one go, it will keep in the fridge for at least a month.
For the Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub
2 cups (approximately 10 ounces by weight) cranberries
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
In a nonreactive saucepan, combine cranberries, peppercorns, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and water. Stir to combine. Cover and place over medium-high heat. Cook, opening the lid and stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and some of the cranberries begin popping open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Pour entire mixture into an airtight, nonreactive container. Refrigerate at least 8 and up to 12 hours. Strain mixture twice through a fine-mesh strainer, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to one month.
For the Cocktails (yields 12 drinks)
36 ounces chilled sparkling wine (from 2 bottles)
20 dashes orange bitters, Regan’s used here
12 ounces chilled Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub
Cranberries, for garnish
Slowly pour chilled sparkling wine into a pitcher. Add bitters and chilled cranberry-black pepper shrub. Stir very gently to mix. Serve immediately. Individual glasses can be garnished with cranberries.
Note: For a non-alcoholic alternative, combine 1 ounce of the cranberry-black pepper shrub, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, and 3 ounces club soda (I love Q-Club!) in a wine glass. (Add two dashes of orange bitters, if desired—they contain a tiny amount of alcohol.) Garnish with cranberries and serve. This recipe originally appeared on Serious Eats.
For someone who lives in a climate that doesn’t stray too far in one direction or another, I realize I sure do focus on the weather a lot. But really, it wouldn’t take too much psychoanalysis to realize it’s because I grew up in New England and Fall time is… special. Yes, if you live in a place where there is amazing foliage you do make fun of the tourists coming in just to stare at trees. But when you’re away from it for over a decade, you miss it; you get why the people flock out to be in nature.
More than the trees though I miss the apple orchards. I didn’t realize just how many were squeezed into the tiny state of Rhode Island. I bet there are a few apple orchards somewhere in Southern California, but it’s not the same. My aunt has a small orchard on her property and I remember being a teenage, sulking about in my beat up black leather jacket trying to not look I was enjoying the annual cider press (but secretly I was so into it). The adult me is telling my younger self to stop being such a bitch and just enjoy myself already. God, how much time and effort went into teenage sulking!
So anyways, it’s finally feeling like Fall in Los Angeles. I turned on the heated seats in my car and turned the heat on at home. The first day is always rough on my sinuses as months worth of dust that’s accumulated god-knows-where burns off and makes my entire house smell like something has caught on fire somewhere. But we have apples! And for this cocktail there’s sherry and apple brandy and orange liqueur!
Over on the Serious Eats site I wrote an amusing tale about how this cocktail, originally named the “Quasi Apple Cocktail” got its name. Hint: there’s history, a war, Napoléon, the United States and a touch of Spain thrown in for good measure. OH! And pirates! We tossed the name, but there’s still some history there to learn if you’re into that.
1/4 apple, cored and diced
1 1/2 ounces apple brandy, such as Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
3/4 ounce Mandarine Napoléon liqueur
1/2 ounce oloroso sherry, such as Williams & Humbert
4 ounces prosecco sparkling wine
Orange twist, for garnish
Thinly sliced apple, for garnish
Add diced apple to the bottom of a mixing glass and muddle until apples are broken down and have released their juice. Fill the mixing glass 2/3 full with ice and then pour in apple brandy, Mandarine Napoléon liqueur, and oloroso sherry. Stir to chill until mixing glass is very cold, about 20 seconds, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice and top with prosecco.
Twist orange peel over top of drink to release oils, then discard peels. Garnish with a thinly cut round of apple.
Sweet, fresh apples are balanced by the nutty Sherry with a kick of american apple brandy. For body and a touch of richness, Mandarine Napoléon liqueur gives us just a hint of citrus. To finish, the cocktail is topped with prosecco to tie all the ingredients together and give an effervescent pop.
NOTES: Super-thin apple slices make gorgeous garnishes. Right now, THIS mandoline from OXO is my favorite. To keep the slices looking crisp and white, remember to soak them in a bowl of water with a small spritz of lemon juice after slicing. Use your favorite kind of apple here; both sweeter, softer varieties and more tart, firm types work well. If you can’t find Mandarine Napoléon liqueur, you can substitute with Grand Marnier or a good dry orange curaçao, such as Pierre Ferrand.
Creaking door noises. Ghoulish wails. Someone breaking your favorite antique champagne coupe! THE HORROR!!!
Halloween is a holiday that transitions nicely from childhood to your drinking years. But don’t think that means you need to be serious. Are you a mad scientist this year? Perfect, there’s some glassware for that. Going more the cannibal route? Then giant skull punch bowl it is! If you’re done with the silly stuff, then make sure your booze is wearing a little black dress, and then decide whether to risk the nice glasses for serving or just some fancy paper cups instead. Me, I’ll be serving up some blood… blood oranges that is. Happy Haunting folks!