Go the extra mile this year and make them something delicious for the holidays. Just make sure there’s booze in it.
If you’re visiting Los Angeles, or happen to already be a resident, and want to find a bar with a decent jukebox, I have a few I can recommend. There’s my beloved Tonga Hut in the Valley, The HMS Bounty in Koreatown, and then there’s Footsie’s over in Highland Park. I’m sure there are some more bars out there that have a great jukebox selection but these are my go-to’s. Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments.
I always have my favorite songs and will seriously put on $20 worth of music; alright, alright, I’m a total jukebox hog. Footsie’s in particular I always start with the Cisco Kid by War. I have no idea why, I just like to start my set off with that. I heard that song out of the blue the other day and have been reminiscing about jukebox playlists ever since. That song is also probably why I’ve created this cocktail.
You’ve read on here before my thoughts on pisco- it’s a versatile mixing spirit that I don’t think gets enough credit. I’ve also used the base recipe for a pisco sour to show you how you can use BEER! as an egg white replacement. Today I’m riffing on that theme again, making a cocktail that calls for egg whites without eggs. But this time we’ve got a fun new ingredient to play with: Instafoam!
You might not be a vegan but you might be someone who cringes at the thought of an egg white in a cocktail. Even though most bars are either using pasteurized egg whites or eggs from their own back yard chickens (I’m sure that’s a thing) to prevent salmonella from entering your cocktail. Still, I get it, you don’t want to drink the egg whites. So now you can give Instafoam a try. But won’t it just make the cocktail taste all chemically? NO! I know way back in the dark days when there was only Fee Foam you were going to get a weird aftertaste (and I’m not knocking on Fee Brothers, they were a beacon of bitters in a world that didn’t understand the need yet.) but here you just taste the cocktail.
So now you’ve got THREE replacements for egg whites in cocktails to either make your drink vegan, or just to avoid raw eggs: beer, aquafaba and Instafoam. OK, now onto the actual cocktail recipe.
Yes, this is a riff on pisco sour cocktail. We’ve got the usual culprits: pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, bitters. However, we’ve spiced it up a bit with the addition of jalapeño jam. I often add marmalade or something of the sort to a whiskey sour just to give it an extra layer of flavor. Here it does the same with a spicy, slightly sweet bite with just a bit of earthy aftertaste from those peppers.
Note: if your jam is more on the solid side, you’ll want to break it up first in the shaker with a muddler to hasten the shaking time and to make sure it gets well incorporated into the drink.
In the bottom of a shaker, add your Instafoam first. Then pour in pisco, lime juice, jalapeño jam (see note above) and simple syrup. Fill ice 2/3 up shaker. Shake hard for about 20 seconds and strain into a rocks glass. Top with a few dashes of Angostura Bitters.
I tend to go back and forth on bottled cocktails. Will the juice taste fresh enough? Should I even bother with juices or should it be all booze and bitters? Can I just drink this whole bottle and not share it?
The best thing about bottled cocktails though? The convenience factor. Batch up a couple to bring to a party and you’re fawned over like you invented cute puppies. But what if you need to take that cocktail on the road? And what if it’s freezing outside because some friend convinced you it would be an awesome idea to go camping? In winter…
Let me introduce you to your new best friend, the insulated thermos. Keeping your hot cocktails hot, and your sanity in check this winter.
When you’re making hot cocktails there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, you’ll be adding in hot water so you want to keep your juices to a minimum (if your cocktail requires them). Why water your cocktail down even more? I’ve found the best way to work around this is to make an oleo saccharum to ensure you have that bright zesty citrus flavor in concentrated form and none of the excess juice.
Second, you want to keep your cocktail hot. For my thermos cocktails, I use a Stanley Classic Vacuum thermos. It’s old school looking; like something my Dad would bring with him to work to keep his soup hot. And this guy keeps it hot for HOURS. At 1.1 quarts it also holds enough drinks for you and some friends so no one need go without a drink. But don’t just pour your drink into the thermos! If you preheat it while you’re making the cocktail it will prevent heat loss when you pour the drink in. So, to do that, just add boiling water and stick the cap on while you’re doing the mixing. Anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes is sufficient time to get that thermos nice and hot. When you’re ready to pour the finished cocktail in, dump out the water and you’re good to go.
Third, make a cocktail that actually tastes good hot. For my first venture with the thermos, I made a variation of a Hot Ward 8, Boston’s only real pre-prohibition contribution. I’d love to tell you the history on this but there is so much competing information out there as to its true origins that putting anything down in print seems like hearsay.
I chose this for a few reasons. I thought it would taste good hot, and it uses up some seasonally appropriate produce (Are your kitchen counters filling up with citrus yet? Mine are.). You could always go with some cocktails that are already served hot. Some nice Hot Toddies while you’re ice fishing, or some Irish Coffee while you’re out snow-shoeing, or whatever you do in the snow.
The Ward 8 delivers a bit more complex flavor here with sweet and spicy rye and that bright citrus from the oleo saccharum. I also add in a touch more syrupy citrus sweetener with a dry orange curaçao and round out the drink with tart fresh pomegranate juice (the last of my season’s batch). For a spicy/bitter finish, a few dashes of Angostura are added in to the mix to keep it from getting too sweet.
There’s plenty of cold months ahead of us, so let’s start planning on a few hot cocktails to get us through. And don’t forget your thermos.
For the Oleo-Saccharum:
Zest from 2 lemons
Zest from 1 orange
4 1/2 ounces (130g) sugar
- In a heatproof container with at least a 36-ounce capacity, toss together lemon and orange zests with sugar. Muddle for 30 seconds to release the oil from the zests. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 and up to 12 hours.
For the Cocktails:
8 ounces (235ml) boiling water, plus more for preheating thermos
16 ounces (475ml) rye whiskey, such as Bulleit 95
4 ounces (120ml) unsweetened pomegranate juice
2 ounces (60ml) dry orange curaçao, such as Pierre Ferrand
8 dashes Angostura bitters
8 lemon zest strips, for garnish (optional)
- Pre-warm thermos by filling with water just off the boil and let stand. Meanwhile, pour rye whiskey, 8 ounces boiling water, pomegranate juice, orange curaçao, and bitters over the oleo-saccharum. Stir well until sugar is completely dissolved. (If you find you’d like your drink hotter, pour everything except the rye into a sauce pan and heat to desired temperature. Then add in rye and continue with the recipe)
- Discard hot water from thermos, then carefully strain rye mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into thermos (a funnel can help avoid spills); discard spent zests. Seal thermos.
- Optionally, when ready to drink, add new lemon zests to your cocktail, expressing the oils over the top first.
The careful observer on here might notice that many, but not all, posts lately have been recipes I’ve developed for Serious Eats. Honestly, when I’m doing lots of R&D for articles, sometimes I find that my energy for more is tapped. Also, it’s the holidays and I’d like a little break.
But not a break from chocolate.
For all of you who find chocolate and booze maybe a bit too much, then wait for next week when I have an all new SUPER savory cocktail. But for this week, I’m making adult hot cocoa and I’m not apologizing. And I’m topping it with Angostura infused whipped cream because WHY NOT? It’s the holidays and I’m holed up at my in-laws and I’m not going to admit how many chocolate covered almonds (milk and dark chocolate) I’ve eaten for the past 4 days.
This hot cocoa is not spiked in your usual way. There’s no bourbon, or spiced rum, or vodka (not sure I’d even recommend that). What it is spiked with is bittersweet amaro. But Elana, there are SO MANY amari out there! You can’t possible imagine that every bottle will work here (is what I imagine ALL of you are saying out loud right now. In unison.)! And yes, not every bottle will work, but most will work with a particular kind of chocolate. You just need to do a little creative legwork to find your right combination.
My favorite combination is Averna and semisweet chocolate. Why Averna? Besides the fact that I’ve accumulated several bottle of the stuff, it’s a good balance between sweet and spicy with a touch of herbal in the finish. Also, it isn’t overly boozy tasting. But that’s just me. If you like the bracing, earthy edge of a dark chocolate, try it with a sweeter amaro like Gran Classico. For the milk chocolate lovers, that sweetness needs some spice or a blast of menthol; try it with Fernet. Semisweet chocolate is the sweet spot in the center, with a nice balance of rich and earthy that works well with most types of amaro. What I’m getting at is: take your favorite bottle of amaro and make this.
Note: you don’t need to spike your entire batch of hot chocolate. Make the base separately and spike at will. That rich, velvety chocolate base is delicious all on its own and perhaps you have some folks staying with you who don’t drink. Don’t deprive them of the magic that is homemade hot cocoa. But maybe insist they add the Angostura whipped cream. Angostura isn’t alcohol after all, it’s like.. medicine. Medicine from the 1800’s.
For the Angostura Whipped Cream:
1 cup (237ml) heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon (15ml) simple syrup (see note above)
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
6 dashes Angostura bitters
Using an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat heavy whipping cream at high speed until soft peaks form, then add simple syrup, vanilla extract and Angostura bitters. Whip until medium peaks form, about 1 minute longer. (Alternatively, you can add all the ingredients to a Whipped Cream Dispenser and use that instead.)
For the Hot Cocoa:
1/4 cup (58g) unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
1 tablespoon (13g) granulated sugar
Pinch kosher salt
3 cups (710ml) milk
8 ounces (227g) semisweet chocolate chips (or other type of chocolate, such as milk chocolate, depending on your taste)
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
5 ounces (148ml) Italian amaro, such as Averna
In medium saucepan, stir cocoa with sugar and salt. Stir in milk and chocolate. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is hot. Gently whisk to completely blend mixture. Add vanilla and amaro and stir to combine. Pour into glasses and top with Angostura whipped cream.
A few years back I started a short series on Amaretto. See, I had acquired a bottle from somewhere (as one does), and really had no clue what to do with it. So I started scouring books and the internet in search of what to do with a bottle of Amaretto. The first drink I made was an Amaretto Sour, naturally.
But oh boy! A drink that I had mostly associated with decades past and little old ladies threw me for a loop–I loved it! It was sweet, but balanced by being also very tart so the two sorta canceled themselves out and made for a smooth, easy drinking cocktail. Alas, I forgot about making more as I kept up my search and eventually turned towards other liquors to play with. Until today, when I was craving something a little sweet and a little sour and not too boozy.
I also was staring at the extra ginger laying out that I had not yet stuck in the freezer. Sweet and sour can also use a little spice, and ginger has that edge I love in drinks. Why not add some fresh ginger in there then? Almond flavors go particularly well with wintery baking spices, so it’s a nice match to that kick found in ginger, and in the Angostura you’ll dash in.
Adding in spicy ginger automatically makes this a holiday drink (says I) and so I’ve doubled up the recipe for you and someone to sip cozily by a fire. Maybe throw on some holiday music of your choosing and break out the Ferrero Rocher balls too.
Yields 2 Cocktails
1 (1-inch) knob of ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1-3/4 ounces freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon
2-1/4 ounces amaretto, such as Disaronno
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 egg white
Crystallized ginger, for garnish
- In a cocktail shaker, muddle the rounds of ginger with lemon juice. Add the amaretto, bitters, and egg white. Shake hard to incorporate the egg white for 20 seconds, then fill shaker 2/3 of the way with ice and shake for an additional 20 seconds. Strain drink through a standard cocktail strainer and a fine-mesh strainer into two small aperitif glasses. Garnish each glass with a piece of crystallized ginger.
Note: amaretto is not especially high in the booze department with an ABV of around 25%. So feel free to follow this up with something stronger to get the party started, or serve this at the end of your holiday meal. Ginger does make a wonderful digestive aid! And that egg white in there is for silky, silky mouthfeel. If you JUST CAN’T with the raw egg whites, feel free to leave it out.
I originally posted this recipe on the Serious Eats site!
And more rum, because we’re calling it tropical.
You know guys, if we’re all thinking ahead. Maybe we should just freeze a bunch of peach slices, and then in a few months when we’re complaining about the cold, we can turn the heat up really high in the house and make a couple of these frozen peach cocktails? That sounds like a plan.
And while we’re on the subject of future endeavors, Stir and Strain will be taking a much, much needed vacation in October. A real one, unlike last year’s where I spent countless nights staying up scheduling out content and then still kept working through the break. I have to start convincing myself now that I don’t need to bring my laptop to go look at Fall foliage for two weeks.
But until then, we got a few more recipes and a couple extra special treats coming up! And now onto those cocktails…
6 ounces white rum, such as Caña Brava
4 ounces coconut cream, such as Coco Lopez
2 ounces simple syrup
2-3 ripe peaches, pitted and cubed
8 dashes Angostura bitters
1 ounce dark rum, such as Blackwell, divided (optional)
Ground cinnamon and 4 cinnamon sticks, for garnish
- Combine rum, coconut cream, simple syrup, and Angostura in a zipper-lock bag or resealable container. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or up to overnight.
- To serve, transfer the rum mixture to a blender and add 3 cups ice. Blend at high speed until well mixed and thick, about 45 seconds. Pour into 4 highball glasses and top each with 1/4 ounce dark rum (if desired), a dash of cinnamon, and a cinnamon stick.
The fresh, ripe fruit adds a ton of intense flavor in this creamy cocktail. The spice from the Angostura, the slightly sweet coconut and all that rum make for a fresh, tropical cocktail. For an extra boozy punch, float dark rum on top with a dash of cinnamon to enhance the aroma.
Looking for a more savory blended peach cocktail? Check out the Tequila-Suze frozen peach cocktail!
And for me, whipping it up into a frozen version makes it even more so.
Which brings me to today’s drink. Let’s all be honest here; the Blood and Sand cocktail is not really good. All that orange juice, ugh. Orange juice as a mixer is like adding a lot of bland, marginally flavored water to your drink. And you usually need A LOT of it to even taste the essence of the orange. So what you usually get when you order a Blood and Sand cocktail is something very unbalanced.
This drink tries to mix that up, adding more flavor and using the original blood orange juice in place of just plain old OJ. And on top of that, a bit of Grand Mariner for extra orange sweetness. There’s some super peaty scotch in here, but if that’s not your bag, sure, I guess go for something a bit more subdued. Keep in mind though that this is a very cold drink, and you need that extra flavor to punch it up. I’ve also batched this for 4 because if you’re having frozen cocktails, you’re having a party. Even if that party is for one.
Makes 4 drinks
6 ounces peated Scotch whisky, such as The Peat Monster
4 ounces fresh blood orange juice from about 4 blood oranges
3 ounces sweet vermouth, such as Carpano Antica
2 ounces Luxardo cherry syrup
1 ounce Grand Marnier
4 dashes Angostura bitters
4 blood orange slices and 4 Luxardo cherries, for garnish
- Pour Scotch, blood orange juice, sweet vermouth, cherry syrup, Grand Marnier, and Angostura bitters into a resealable freezer-safe container. Seal and freeze for at least 8 and up to 24 hours.
- When ready to serve, pour Scotch mixture into a blender with 4 cups ice. Blend until smooth. Divide between four coupe glasses and garnish each glass with an orange slice and Luxardo cherry.
I wish I could remember the first time I tried mezcal, or even heard of it. Although I’ve tried to rack my brain for that one time, it exists as if I somehow always knew about it. I wish I was that cool. Probably it was sometime over the past 5, maybe 7, years when we collectively started giving other liquors a chance to star in our drinks.
Now I like to put mezcal in everything. And today’s drink is one from my ongoing “to make” list. Here my notes were: meaty, but refreshing. I’m guessing this was a late night scribbling where I had something particular in mind but what exactly is no longer clear. But I like these challenges. To make things even more interesting, bitters will play a unique supporting role in transforming the drink into two different sips. For a slightly savory cocktail, Angostura will be dashed in. And for a sweeter alternative, chocolate bitters will be used. All versions have Aperol there, an assertive liquor that stands up next to the flavors of mezcal without getting lost.
Now that I’m remembering that liquor store, I’m realizing that the other reason I liked going over there was that next door there was a Christian store that sold Bible action figures like Samson and Delilah. What a way to get kids thrilled about the Old Testament. When I was Catholic I was all in, until I wasn’t anymore.
Ok, enough about Bible Liquor stores. Let’s get to cocktail making!
1 ounce mezcal, Del Maguey Vida Organic used here
3/4 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
3 ounces club soda
2-3 dashes of either Angostura or Chocolate bitters, like Scrappy’s Chocolate Cocktail Bitters
lemon peel for garnish
- In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, add mezcal, Aperol, lemon juice and bitters of your choice. Shake to combine and then strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda and garnish with lemon peel.
I’m using the Vida mezcal here because it’s both a wonderful sipping liquor and it mixes well with others. It’s assertive without being aggressive. Aperol is not too bitter and not too sweet. (But it’s just the right amount of both that you don’t need to add another sweetener.) Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds in a touch of tartness, and the whole thing is topped off with a glug of club soda to mellow it out and give some effervescent pep. Angostura adds spice that compliments some of the cinnamon and earthy flavors found in the mezcal. Or you can change that up with a few dashes of chocolate bitters. The sweet, roasted chocolate flavors in the bitters play up the sweet and bitter orange in the Aperol and also some of the vanilla found in the mezcal. This makes the drink excellent for a slightly sweet digestif or a surprisingly refreshing nightcap.
But the thing about holiday parties is that you always end up staying longer than you thought, and by this point you’re drinking whatever is left. For these people, initially turning down the scotch punch, they begrudgingly took a glass after finding out someone had drank all the good champagne. And then they found themselves confounded: they really liked the punch made with scotch.
Color me amused when the same folks who seemed genuinely annoyed/disgusted/sad when told the giant bowl of punch was made with scotch later came up to me with giant grins asking again what was in that punch? Had I just made converts of this bunch?
It’s holiday time, the season of giving, so I hope you all will allow me this one time to toot my own horn and smirk just a little as person after person drank up a scotch punch they earlier swore they’d never touch. Curious about the name? If you know your holiday songs, then you’ve recognized this from the 12 Days of Christmas. My punch, with 9 integral ingredients, was for a party with this theme. The Table Set guys sure love a theme party.
Now it’s your turn to try it. Please, be honest, and let me know if I’ve made you a convert too.
For the Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup:
4 (3- or 4-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
In a medium saucepan, combine cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean seeds and pod, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Strain. The syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
For the Chai Tea:
2 cups boiling water
3 chai tea bags
Combine boiling water and tea in a heatproof container. Let steep for 4 minutes. Discard tea bags and let tea cool to room temperature before adding to punch.
For the Punch:
1 (750 ml) bottle blended Scotch, such as Monkey Shoulder
2 1/4 cups Lustau East India Solera Sherry
3/4 cup fresh juice from about 6 lemons
1 1/2 cups Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup
2 cups Chai Tea
1/8 cup Angostura bitters
6 orange wheels, star anise, ice block*, for garnish
In a punch bowl or large container, combine Scotch, sherry, lemon juice, syrup, tea, and bitters. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for 5 hours or up to overnight. When ready to serve, add an ice block and garnish as desired.
*If you want to get really festive, you can add some decorative elements to your ice block. I added extra cranberries to mine. As the night progresses and the ice melts, they’ll start popping out and floating about. So make sure whatever you use is washed and makes sense with the rest of the ingredients!
So yes, scotch is definitely present. I chose Monkey Shoulder blended scotch, which offers a strong punch of malt, smoke, and baking spice flavors, perfect for a winter punch. Next I added in some chai tea just below full strength. The tea adds a wonderful assortment of appropriate flavors: cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom and black pepper all work beautifully with the whisky. Then I followed that up with Sherry for a little sweet nuttiness; Angostura for bitterness but also extra spice; and vanilla-laced cinnamon sugar syrup for a slightly floral and woodsy sweetness.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that National Chocolate Day falls so close to Halloween. Whoever is coming up with these “holidays”, and I think it quite possibly could be a food blogger, is making it easy for me to come up with roundup posts at least once a month. Hey, mostly it means I get to re-introduce some older posts you all might not be familiar with. Like some of these: