Toast Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, and fennel in a dry medium skillet over medium heat, tossing and stirring frequently until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cinnamon stick, sugar, and water and place over medium high heat. Cook, stirring, until just starting to boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let rest for 2 hours. Strain into an airtight container. Five-spice syrup will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
For 4 Cocktails:
6 ounces bourbon, such as 4 Roses Yellow Label
3 ounces Five-Spice Syrup (see above)
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 to 3 limes
8 ounces club soda
Lime wedges for garnish
In a pitcher, combine bourbon, 3 ounces Five-spice syrup, and lime juice. Stir well. Add club soda and stir gently. To serve, fill rocks glasses with ice, pour in 4-3/4 ounces of the cocktail and top with lime wedges.
The sweet, savory, and pungent flavors of the Five Spice Syrup are an excellent pair to the rich, slightly sweet bourbon. And when you add in the lime juice and club soda, the whole cocktail gets loosened up a bit and really is quite refreshing.
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.
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.
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.
Apples and cinnamon. AH! The flavors of Fall. Until…well, this month’s Low Rent Cocktail.
Ok, let me come clean here. For the most part, a Low Rent Cocktail is an over-the-top, “you should only drink this if you’re in college” sort of drink. Sometimes, yes, they actually come out tasting good (see here and here), but mostly they’re a cheap, quick way to get booze from your mouth to your brain. Today’s cocktail concoction is not mine. In fact, this may even be served at a bar near you. Its inspiration comes from a recent visit from my parents, who know I write this blog and read this site daily and yet that does not deter me from speaking about them regardless of the phone call coming soon after I hit publish. Anyway, Christopher took my father out to play pool (which they are both preternaturally good at playing) and after several hours came back and sheepishly told me about a “cocktail” that was tried at a local pool hall.
The “cocktail” (and I am for sure using those quotes here for a reason) was a glass of Angry Orchard to which a large shot of Fireball Whiskey was added. Let’s not get huffy about what constitutes a cocktail. You can make a G&T by taking a large glass of tonic and plopping a shot of gin in it, essentially creating that drink. But is this seasonally appropriate take on a Boilermaker good enough to make itself fall into the category of “cocktail”? Well, it’s good enough for a Low Rent version at least!
And this is where I must confess, and oh, lo!, do I brace myself for the feedback on this, but it’s not bad.
So when you’re out at your next weekend apple picking/end of daylight savings/whatever we’re calling this party-party, and your host breaks out the handle of Fireball (cause that is really happening) and you brought that hard cider 6 pack… then you know what you’re making for cocktails.
12 ounces hard apple cider, chilled (Angry Orchard Traditional Dry used here)
1-2 nips of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey (or a hefty 2 ounce shot)
In a pint glass, combine chilled cider and whiskey. Serve.
For those few of you who have a job that gives you a 3 day weekend starting today, lucky you. I’m pretty sure that last time I had that Monday off I was in college… a long time ago in college. But let’s not focus on that for now. Even if your weekend is only two days long, or even one, I’ll also give you guys an excuse to drink a good cocktail. Here’s a roundup of my Fall favorites.
Apple cider brings me back to my childhood in New England. Or rather, it brings me back to unrealistic longings of days gone by. It is true, you can’t seem to throw a rock without hitting an apple orchard there. Especially if you hail from Rhode Island, where you can’t throw a rock without hitting Massachusetts or Connecticut either (it’s a really small state). My grandparents lived near an orchard. My aunt and uncle HAVE an apple orchard. Cider was just synonymous with Fall. Now I have to deal with 90°F and over temps through October in Los Angeles. The only saving grace of it all is not having to deal with deicing my car come January anymore (please don’t throw rocks at me).
Being an adult means I’ll always have conflicting feelings about my childhood. All those sweet memories of riding around on the back of a wagon in a corn field, and there’s the actual reality of having to go to school and being told what to do and all the unpleasantness of being a kid that I tend to forget about. One thing that I don’t have any conflicting feelings about is making this cocktail. So let’s do that!
In a medium saucepan, combine cider, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and black pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Keep at a simmer, uncovered, until reduced by 3/4, and consistency is viscous like maple syrup, about 2 hours. Strain and let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month.
*Note: you can also buy apple cider concentrate if you don’t have the time or if apple cider (*gasp*) is not available in your neck of the woods. Find some here!
For the Cocktail:
2 ounces Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1 ounce apple cider concentrate syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from about half a lemon
4 ounces hard cider such as Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider
Apple slice or apple chip for garnish (optional)
Combine apple brandy, spiced cider concentrate, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with hard cider. Garnish with apple slice or apple chip if desired.
A small amount of lemon juice not only brightens up the drink, but the acid helps meld the flavors and prevents a sensation of just apple after apple after apple. The result is refreshing, boozy, and a tad dry.
Like many of my posts, this recipe has multiple steps and takes several days to do. So feel free to swap out the cashew milk for a milk of your choice, or better yet, an ice cream and milk of your choice. The vanilla bourbon though is too good to pass up, so just make a larger batch and keep it around for later use.
Place raw cashews in a clean bowl and top with 3 cups of water. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight, or for 8 to 12 hours. Once soaked, drain the cashews and run under cool water until clean and the water runs clear. Set aside.
Grind oats in the spice grinder until oats turn into a fine powder. If you don’t have a spice grinder, you can also grind oats in the blender.
Combine oats, cinnamon, cashews, filtered water, and honey in the bowl of a blender. Cover tightly and blend on low speed, increasing to high speed, until smooth.
Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl lined with a single layer of cheese cloth. Pour half of the cashew mixture into the fine mesh strainer. With a spatula, work the liquid through the strainer. Continue to strain the milk until all of the liquid has passed through the strainer. Solids can be discarded.
Set milk aside if continuing, or transfer to an airtight container until ready to use.
2 cups cashew milk (recipe above)
4 ounces Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon
1 large Vanilla Bean, organic if possible
cinnamon and luxardo cherry for garnish
Measure out 1-1/2 cups of the cashew milk and freeze into cubes 4 hours up to overnight.
In a small sauce pan, combine the bourbon and vanilla over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to low, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and continue to steep for an hour. Strain mixture and set aside.
In a blender container, combine bourbon, frozen cashew milk and cold cashew milk. Blend well for one minute (more or less depending on the power of your blender) until the cubes are broken up and the consistency is slushy but not solid.
Transfer to two glass, top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a cherry.
Aroma of cinnamon and vanilla with hints of earthiness. Wonderfully nutty flavor with just a hint of the bourbon. I upped the sweetener from 2 tablespoons of agave to 3 of honey because I wanted an additional amount of sweetness here, but it’s still not overwhelmingly sweet. If you prefer this even more dessert-like, might I suggest some bourbon salted caramel sauce?
Can’t wait to see everyone’s submissions for this month! And as always, a big thanks to Fred for keeping MxMo going, and for letting me host again.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks, 2” long
In a small sauce pan over high heat, add ingredients and bring to just under a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain into an airtight container. Will keep for about one month refrigerated.
One tip for your syrup: heat your honey beforehand to make pouring a whole lot easier. 30 seconds in the microwave should do it.
And now the cocktail
2 ounces Cynar
1 ounce Smith & Cross Jamican Navy Strength Rum
3/4 ounce honey-cinnamon syrup (recipe above)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, from 1/2 a lime (Bearss lime used here)
Fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice and pour in all the ingredients. Stir for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.
It’s a cocktail that confounds expectations. The initial funky aromas of rum, lime, and cinnamon suggest you’re about to have a fruity tiki drink. But your first sip is a mouthful of rich honey and rum’s smoky molasses-like flavor, before things drop swiftly into a forcefully bitter finish from the Cynar. You’ll continue to notice these three discrete periods of sensation every time you raise the glass for another gulp—it drives you to sip again and again.
So instead I decided that I should somehow infuse cacao nibs into a cocktail and work with that. What I ended up making was a drink that was a riff on a box of chocolates: the smell of chocolate, toasted almonds and spices all infused within some rye whiskey. (You can read more on that over at the Serious Drinks site.)
The infusion is quick so if you start it today you can actually make this for Valentine’s Day if you wanted. This would more than likely earn you some brownie points since it means you thought ahead of time.
So let’s start cocktailing!
Cacao Nib, Toasted Almond, and Spice Infused Rye
1/3 cup cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 allspice berries
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 2” long cinnamon sticks
1/2 inch cube ginger, peeled and sliced
1-1/2 cups rye whiskey, such as Redemption Rye
In an airtight container, combine all ingredients and swirl to combine. Let sit for 2 days then fine strain into a clean airtight container (you may need to strain a second time). Let sit an additional day or two to mellow. Infusion is now ready to use and will last indefinitely (best flavor within one year though).
Now the cocktail:
1-3/4 ounce cacao nib infused rye
3/4 ounce Oloroso Sherry
1/2 freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice, from 1/2 lemon
bar spoon luxardo cherry syrup from jar of cherries
Fill a mixing glass 2/3 full with ice. Add infused rye, sherry, lemon juice, and syrup from the cherry jar. Stir until well chilled, about 25 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry and serve.
The aroma from the infusion is intoxicating. Warm spices combined with a rich chocolate aroma followed by the nutty toasted almonds. And it gets better in the cocktail which is both bright and decadent. Let the drink sit for a minute after you’ve poured it, as that lets all the smells really open up as it looses it’s chill.
Named for the time of day lately when these start getting passed around in the house, they bring a lovely glow and just a little hint of warmth.
1-1/2 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse Barbados Rum
3/4 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup
2 dashes Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters
Combine all ingredients into a shaker 2/3 filled with ice. Shake well to combine and strain into a chilled coupe.
This drink is quite dry. Sweet and tart are well balanced with the cinnamon and bitters lingering in the back adding a hint of spice.