Your 2016 St. Patrick’s Day Drinking and Eating Guide (from the Stir and Strain archives)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Let me help you pick out what you should be drinking and eating today. I am a 1/4 Irish after all…

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.com

Irish Coffee Jello Shots

Bitter Irishman Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Bitter Irishman

Anise Cream Rye-Spiked Coffee // stirandstrain.com

Anise Cream Coffee

Irish Derby Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Irish Derby Cocktail

Jameson Whiskey Truffles // stirandstrain.com

Irish Whiskey Truffles with Baileys Crystals

And a few Green Drinks…

Frozen Cucumber and Green Chartreuse Daiquiri Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Frozen Cucumber and Green Chartreuse Daiquiri Cocktail

old tom's mistake cocktail

Old Tom’s Mistake

An Amaro Hot Chocolate for Every Taste

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comThe 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.

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comFor 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.

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comMy 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.

The Bitter Irishman

Bitter Irishman Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

You’ve heard it said, “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.” Well, I’m either one quarter or one eighth Irish, depending on which relative I consult, and I can tell you that, sadly, I don’t qualify as truly Irish on St. Patrick’s or any other day of the year. I’m not proud to say so, but it’s true. It’s not for lack of trying.

I went to an Irish Catholic school where several of the nuns were direct from Ireland, replete with charming accents– though the nuns themselves were rather sour. One of the nuns walked into my third grade classroom, declared that it was filthy, gave two boys a toothbrush, spat on the floor, and told the boys to start scrubbing. I sometimes think I might have known more Irish nuns than Irish families. The Irish families I did know lived in houses filled with crucifixes. I’m sure they must have had other decorative knick-knacks, but I only remember crucifixes. For me, everything Irish was a bit severe and austere– from the dour nuns to the simple cabbage and beef we ate on St. Patrick’s Day.

Bitter Irishman Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThen one Halloween, the Irish Catholic school burned down under suspicious circumstances, and I was relocated to the Italian Catholic school. The Italian school was completely different. Holidays were more cheerful. The clergy enjoyed themselves (and their wine) a good deal more than the nuns ever had. The food at church events tasted better. Cannoli, ravioli, stromboli. And suddenly, St. Patrick was eclipsed by St. Joseph. St. Joseph’s Day is two days after St. Patrick’s Day, and the Italians loved it. Everyone ate zeppole (a little like cannoli, but better, so, so good), and wore red and white, and went to the Knights of Columbus parade. There were flowers and candles, an explosion of color.

Mind you, I’m not trying to pick favorites. I’m just telling you what I experienced.

For this St. Patrick’s Day, I plan to forgo the green beer– in fact, I’ll probably pass up the beer altogether. Instead, I’m mixing up a cocktail with a bit of a mixed heritage: half Irish whiskey, and half Italian amaro.

Bitter Irishman Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

 

1 ounce Irish Whiskey, Bushmills 10 used here
1 ounce amaro, Averna used here
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 ounce demerara syrup
luxardo cherry garnish

Combine whiskey, amaro, lemon juice and syrup together in a shaker filled 2/3 with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry.

There’s a nice contrast between the light, floral whiskey and the spicy, rich amaro. It starts with a punch of sour flavor that immediately moves into sweetness, and the bite of the whiskey and the lasting bitterness of the amaro stay with you until the next sip. It’s a cocktail with a lot of character. Like those Irish nuns. And those Italian priests.

***This recipe was originally created for Serious Eats and appeared on the site this past week.

Spiced Averna Toddy

Spiced Averna Hot Toddy Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis winter season you’re going to drink some hot cocktails (unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere where you got another 6 months for that. Unless you like hot drinks in hot months. Hey, I drink iced coffee all year round now.) and more than likely a lot of them will have the same old familiar base. While whiskey is always a good partner, or even some nice aged rum, today I turn to a maybe an unlikely addition: Averna.

I love Averna, and you’ve seen it pop up on this site from time to time, but never warmed up. And now that I’ve had it warmed up, I can’t believe it took me so long to do it!Spiced Averna Hot Toddy Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Serious Eats had asked me to come up with a hot drink for this cool season and frankly it took a moment of head scratching to figure out what to make. I kept struggling with how I’d make hot whiskey interesting…until I nixed the whiskey altogether. Then what you get is a flavorful hot toddy that’s low on the ABV and the perfect beverage you can start offering with brunch all the way up through dinner. I like a cocktail that has that much potential.Spiced Averna Hot Toddy Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Now you know I can’t leave good enough alone, and I always give you a bit of homework on here in order to make some of these drinks, so it should come as no surprise that I’m requiring a deep, dark brown sugar syrup steeped with peppercorns and cinnamon to accompany this toddy. As much as I like Averna, adding this syrup in there gives it so much flavor, and it kinda comes out tasting like a spicy tea (without the tea).

So curl up alongside a fire with a good cocktail book and one of these Averna Toddies this winter. And save the whiskey for something else.Spiced Averna Hot Toddy Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Spiced Syrup:

1 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
4 cinnamon sticks

  • Combine water, brown sugar, peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to simmer, stirring, and remove from heat. Cover and let sit for an hour and a half. Strain and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to two weeks.

For the Cocktail:

1 ounce Averna
1/2 ounce spiced syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed juice from half a lemon
4 ounces boiling water
Lemon peel for garnish

  • In a heat proof mug, combine Averna, spiced syrup, lemon juice, and boling water. Garnish with lemon peel and serve immediately.

Warm and bright from the lemon. Lots of strong spice with hints of caramel and a touch of bitterness. The cinnamon lingers around but is not overpowering. Sweet, but light on the palate.

Amaro Highballs

Amaro Highballs // stirandstrain.comRecently I was browsing online and came across the phrase ‘amaro highballs’. There weren’t any recipes or guidelines, just the phrase, which was all I needed to start me thinking about what would fall under that category.

Amaro is Italian for bitter, and for this post I am specifically focusing on Italian Amari. So Amer Picon and Becherovka have to sit out this round (but not to worry, they’ll be back on here soon!). Usually used as a digestif (after dinner to help aid in digestion), these bitter liqueurs also make for great bases in cocktails. They range from mildly bitter to the insane, cough-syrupy varieties and may take some getting used to. Use this as a gateway to explore and add one to your liquor cabinet; it’s worth it.

I also wanted to focus on some lower alcohol content drinks for the Holiday season. I don’t know about you, but my normal intake of cocktails in a night somehow skyrockets during the holiday season (stress??) and I find that if I make myself a drink with a lower ABV I can convince myself it’s just like drinking water… flavorful water.

Not all Amari though have a low alcohol content, so read your bottles! You can always adjust to your liking and below I have two choices under 40ABV (although just marginally on the second recipe).

Averna Highball

2 oz. Averna (29% ABV)
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4-1/2 oz. Q-Ginger
2 dashes ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters
lemon peel

In a highball glass, build your drink by adding ice, then the Averna, lemon juice, bitters and then Q-Ginger. Express lemon peel oil over the drink and garnish on glass. Straw optional.

Averna is sweet and slightly syrupy, a gateway amaro with less bitterness, and here the sharpness of the ginger cuts through the sweetness to balance it out. The tiki bitters bring out more of the spice that is there while the lemon adds citrus to the nose and lingers in the background of the drink.

Fernet Branca Highball

1-3/4 oz. Fernet Branca (39% ABV)
3/4 oz. Orgeat
4-1/2 oz. Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water
grapefruit peel

In a highball glass, build your drink by adding ice, then the Fernet Branca, orgeat, and tonic water. Express grapefruit peel oil over the drink and garnish on glass. Straw optional.

Fernet Branca is on the crazier side of the amaro scale with a very strong and distinct flavor. There’s some minty, bittery… gosh, I dunno, there’s a lot going on with that liqueur and although it’s clearly the star flavor, it’s cut back a bit by the almond-sweet orgeat and mellowed with the tonic. The effervescent nature of the tonic works incredibly well with the Fernet Branca and it disperses the grapefruit oil through out offering a slightly citrusy bitterness to the drink. It’s layers of bitter and sweetness in this glass.

Amaro Highballs // stirandstrain.comOne aspect that makes both these drinks versatile is that they work in warm and cold weather. They are both refreshing when it’s hot out, but also have a lot of spice that works well when it’s cold. If you venture to try one of these, let me know what you think. First time with an amaro? Awesome! Welcome to the club.