I recently attended an out of state wedding where the ceremony took place outdoors on a crisp October afternoon at the foliage’s full peak. As we entered the yard we were offered a choice of a hot-spiced apple cider or hot-spiced red wine, in these giant metal mugs, to take the chill off while we waited for all the guests to arrive and for the ceremony to begin. It was such a simple touch, but the gesture showed that the bride and groom were really thinking about the comfort and enjoyment of their friends and family and I can’t seem to stop thinking about how gorgeous that afternoon was. I can only imagine that if I was sitting there shivering in my black tie gown that my memories of that same afternoon wouldn’t be so warm and fuzzy, so to speak…. At least certainly not warm!
In my last post, I mentioned how guests went crazy for our homemade, non-alcoholic, picnic style ginger ale & iced-teas and that got me thinking about what other specialty drinks we could re-invent to liven up the holiday party season. There are SO many recipes out there that it hardly feels like there’s an original drink left to invent, but if you’re having a smallish get-together and have a stash of ingredients and some basic bar equipment on hand, I think it’s fun to experiment and fill each glass to the tippler’s tastes. Or, you can blend up a pitcher at a time for a group, compare notes and change up each batch as the comments roll in.
To start, red wine or port, brandy, whiskey, rum and gin are easy to work with for a winter specialty drink because they already have a heavy spiciness that will complement the extra ingredients rather than compete like Tequila. Next, triple sec and Amaretto add a kick more alcohol and wintery flavors to that base, or you could go less potent with just apple, pear, blood orange, lemon or pomegranate flesh or all-natural juice instead. Finally, unexpected and fun ingredients like star anise, cinnamon sticks, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, ginger root, nutmeg and cloves make the statement that some real thought went into the preparation of this drink and can turn your cocktails into an experience to remember.
Here’s an example of a cocktail I’m planning to serve at a party I’m having soon… with pears in season and spiciness on the brain, I’m hoping my guests will agree it’s a good one.
To make one serving:
2-3 thin slices of fresh ginger root
5 thin slices fresh pear
1 ½ oz Gin or Vodka
¾ oz Triple sec (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
¾ oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Dash of ground Allspice
Muddle the ginger and pear with the sugar in a bar shaker. Add 1 ½ oz gin or vodka, 1 oz of triple sec, lemon juice and all spice. Cover and shake briefly to blend ingredients. Pour mixture, unstrained, over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a slice of pear (optional).