Thursday, December 31, 2015


Curative cocktail

It's New Year's Eve! This has always been one of my favorite holidays. Everyone gets dressed up, drinks champagne, and toasts to new beginnings. I've never been big on formal resolutions, but I do see the new year as an opportunity to start fresh. I feel like you can tell that other people do, too. Everybody is a bit nicer around this time, a bit more determined to be better in one way or another.

I aspire to one day host an annual New Year's Eve party. Like a big formal affair, with lots of confetti and champagne cocktails where everybody dresses up. But ever since I became old enough to do so, I've never had the opportunity - as most of our friends are either graduate students or medical residents, they're out of town or working on New Year's. I'm sure one day my glamorous dreams will come true, but until then I'll enjoy quiet evenings with family and close friends. And, of course, champagne cocktails.

Curative cocktail

I have expounded at length on my love of champagne and all cocktails that use it, so I won't go into it yet again. But I love how many great recipes pop up around New Year's. I'm happy to share an original recipe today. I was going to make Ginger Sparklers with honey-ginger syrup when I came across the Auld Lang Syne over at Bit by a Fox. It's a sparkling wine cocktail that includes my current favorite Scotch, Highland Park 12-year. For some reason, adding Scotch to champagne never occurred to me. I thought about adding it to this one, and realized that I was inching towards a sparkling version of a Penicillin, a "new classic" that mixes ginger-honey syrup with lemon juice and Scotch. It seemed like a pretty good idea.

But what to call it? Naming a cocktail can be tricky if you want to pick something new. Since this is a riff on the Penicillin, I really wanted to call it a Panacea, but apparently I'm not the only one who had that brilliant idea. I also toyed with the idea of naming it after Alexander Fleming, the scientist who discovered Penicillin, but it turns out Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut already did that, and for a very similar recipe, too. As I'd never seen it before, I'd like to believe that great minds think alike.

Keeping with the antibiotic theme (and since Ciprofloxacin just doesn't have that nice ring to it), I'm calling this the Curative cocktail. It's rich and bubbly, with hints of ginger spice. The candied ginger makes a lovely garnish, and if you drop it in your drink the sugar slowly dissolves, kind of like the sugar cube in a champagne cocktail. I think it's one of my better inventions.

Cheers, and happy New Year!

Curative cocktail


1/2 oz. blended Scotch whiskey (I used Monkey Shoulder)
3/4 oz. honey-ginger syrup*
sparkling wine

Combine Scotch and syrup in a shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne or other sparkling wine. Garnish with a piece of crystallized ginger.

*For honey-ginger syrup: combine 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Add a 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced. Let the mixture come to a simmer so that honey is dissolved. Turn off the heat and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Strain out ginger and let cool before use.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015



Boston has been unseasonably warm this December. Though I worry about what it means for the future (both in terms of how much snow we're destined to get in January and, you know, this whole global climate change thing), it's actually pretty nice not to have to bundle up in multiple layers with gloves and a hat and snow boots every time you want to walk the dog. Besides, it still felt like Christmas to me. I grew up in Louisiana, where Christmas temperatures in the 40's and 50's are not unusual.

But then I flew down to Louisiana on Sunday, and it turns out that temperatures in the 50's in Boston translate to temperatures in the 70's here. It does not feel like Christmas. I didn't bring nearly enough short-sleeved shirts. We usually light a fire every evening, but it's way too warm for it. I can't even bring myself to have the dog try on his brand-new Christmas sweater; it just seems cruel.

So obviously we're not making batches of Hot Toddies here. But the Cinnsation is actually the perfect cocktail for this weather. It's cool and refreshing, but its flavors of tart apple, smoky mezcal, and spicy cinnamon are perfect for the winter we wish we were having. It evokes spice cake and warm apple cider and sitting by the fire. It's a warm-weather winter cocktail.

The recipe calls for an aged mezcal, but lacking that I used mezcal joven and was still quite happy with the cocktail. I can definitely see how the flavor of an aged mezcal would be even better. I never think of mezcal as a holiday spirit, but the smoky flavor is really perfect for the season.


History: The Cinnsation was created by Phil Ward at Mayahuel in Manhattan. Ward is also the mastermind behind the Division Bell and the Oaxaca Old Fashioned. I'm headed to NYC in early January and Mayahuel is on my list of must-visit bars.


1 1/2 oz. aged mezcal
1 1/2 oz. mulled apple cider*
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup**
1 dash Peychaud's bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with an apple slice and a cinnamon stick.

*You can buy mulled apple cider, but you can also make it by adding spices to plain cider. I kept it simple and just added two cinnamon sticks, several cloves, and a bit of grated nutmeg to a cup of cider, letting it infuse for a few hours.

**For cinnamon syrup, combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan with 4 cinnamon sticks broken into pieces. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, letting the mixture simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let cool completely before use.

Recipe from Imbibe.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hotel D'Alsace

Hotel D'Alsace

Christmas is less than a week away! In previous years, I've been so busy during December that I've felt like it snuck right up on me. But this year I feel like I've really had time to anticipate and look forward to it. I love Christmas, and I love all the culinary traditions that come along with it. All my favorite blogs are posting recipes for eggnog, hot buttered rum, and bright red drinks involving cranberries and champagne. But not every holiday cocktail needs to be so obviously Christmasy. I'd argue that anything you'd enjoy sipping on while chatting with friends or sitting by a fire is a perfectly good holiday cocktail. Even if it's one that wouldn't be all that out of place at another time of year.

With that in mind, I give you the Hotel D'Alsace. The only thing about it that could perhaps be called Christmasy is the rosemary garnish. I've seen springs of rosemary popping up in cocktails left and right the last couple of weeks, and I have to admit that I'm a big fan. Not only does the piney, herbal taste evoke the holidays, but it basically looks like a piece of Christmas tree in your glass. I love the scent of it every time I take a sip. It was an ingredient in The Last Cocktail, and I'll almost certainly be putting a sprig in something else before the holiday season is over.

Hotel D'Alsace

The Hotel D'Alsace is a simple formula: whiskey, Cointreau, and Benedictine with a bit of that rosemary muddled in. The result is actually a fairly sweet cocktail, more so than I expected. Admittedly, I didn't have a bottle of Irish whiskey on hand, so I subbed in bourbon, which surely amped that up a bit. I found that I preferred the flavor if I reduced the amount of Benedictine by half. Even such, its sweet, herbal taste of it is the dominant flavor in the cocktail. If you like it, it's delicious. The citrus is far more subtle than I expected, and I might add an orange twist garnish next time as well.

History: The Hotel D'Alsace was created by David Slape at PDT in New York. He named it for the hotel in Paris where Oscar Wilde died, now called L'Hotel. Wilde had been living there for over a year, deeply in debt but still going through five bottles of Couvoisier a week (he famously remarked "I am dying beyond my means"). He contracted cerebral meningitis and spent the last month of his life confined to the hotel. The infinitely quotable Wilde was apparently not too fond of his room's decor, remarking, "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has got to go."

Hotel D'Alsace

2 oz. Irish whiskey
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. Benedictine (I preferred 1/4 oz.)
1 rosemary sprig, halved

Combine Cointreau, Benedictine, and the bottom of the rosemary sprig in a mixing glass and muddle. Add whiskey. Fill with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with the top of the rosemary sprig.

Recipe from The PDT Cocktail Book.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Brandy Milk Punch

Brandy Milk Punch

Last Christmas, one of my gifts was a signed copy of Magic in a Shaker by Marvin Allen. It's a great book of cocktail techniques and recipes filled with New Orleans inspiration. It's organized by month, with a different cocktail theme for each. December is, of course, holiday cocktails, and one of them is this Brandy Milk Punch. This boozy, milky confection is a New Orleans classic that's perfect for this time of year.

Brandy Milk Punch is traditionally served with brunch. It became famous at the iconic Brennan's restaurant in New Orleans. But it's also become associated with the holidays. It would be a great, unique cocktail to serve at a Christmas party. It's sweet but not cloyingly so. The flavors bring eggnog to mind, but this is a much lighter beverage, and less involved to make. Half and half, simple syrup, and vanilla are combined in a shaker with brandy (bourbon is delicious as well), strained into a rocks glass, and dusted with nutmeg. Easy and festive.

Brandy Milk Punch

History: Though Brandy Milk Punch has become inextricably linked with the city of New Orleans, it wasn't invented there. It's a very old cocktail, old enough that Benjamin Franklin had his own recipe. Jerry Thomas's 1862 Bartender's Guide contains multiple versions. As for when and where it originated, variations on the theme of milk and booze go way back, far enough that we probably can't say for certain. In the middle ages in Britain, there was a warm drink called posset made of curdled milk and wine or ale. The Irish drank scáiltín contained hot milk with whiskey and spices. There was probably a slow evolution from these recipes towards the milk punch we drink today, culminating in the masterpiece enjoyed alongside bananas foster at Brennan's.

Benjamin Franklin's Brandy Milk Punch Recipe
Benjamin Franklin's Milk Punch recipe from 1763. Image courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Some of the older milk punch recipes, like Franklin's above, involve using lemons to curdle the milk and then straining the mixture to produce a clearish cocktail. In an age without refrigeration, this technique helped the drink keep longer. It's currently experiencing a revival, and I've had milk punch made this way at a couple of bars in Boston. It's a very different experience than having a glass of the creamy kind, and definitely something worth trying.

Brandy Milk Punch

1 1/4 oz. brandy
2 oz. half-and-half
1/2 oz. simple syrup (or to taste)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
ground nutmeg, to garnish

Combine all ingredients except nutmeg in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and sprinkle nutmeg on top.

Recipe from Magic in a Shaker.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Last Cocktail

The Last Cocktail

I bookmarked this recipe a while ago, and I decided to finally make it as part of my search for good holiday cocktails. Rosemary, pear, and cloves form an unconventional wintery trio in what would otherwise sound like a very summery cocktail: gin, lemon, sparkling wine. The result is a fantastic drink with notes of herbs, citrus, fruit, and spice blending together with just the right amount of fizz. It's well worth the extra prep time that the rosemary-pear puree requires.

I tried both of my gins with this one, St. George Terroir and GrandTen's Wire Works. I liked Wire Works better; it brought out the taste of the pear more. The St. George yielded a much more herbal cocktail which, while still really good, was less balanced.

Whip up a tray of these for your next holiday party - you won't be sorry!

The Last Cocktail

History: This recipe originally comes from Alchemy in a Glass by Greg Seider. It was the most popular cocktail on the menu at Prima in New York. This version was adapted by Imbibe.

The Last Cocktail

1 oz. gin
1 oz. lemon juice
2 oz. rosemary-pear puree*
1 1/2 oz. sparkling wine
Cloves and a rosemary sprig, to garnish

Combine gin, lemon juice, and puree in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled. Double-strain into two rocks glasses (can be a bit tedious depending on the thickness of your pear puree). Add sparkling wine and stir briefly. Fill with ice. Garnish with a rosemary sprig and sprinkle with ground cloves.

*For rosemary-pear puree: Combine 5 oz. agave nectar with four sprigs of rosemary in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Combine with 20 oz. of pear puree (I used fresh pears pureed in a food processor).

Recipe adapted from Imbibe.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Autumn Cranberry Old Fashioned

Autumn Cranberry Old Fashioned

My parents and sister recently had cocktails at Mondo, Susan Spicer's restaurant in Lakeview, New Orleans. They raved about a Cranberry-Satsuma Old Fashioned that they wanted to recreate at home. Since I wanted to embrace some holiday flavors in the coming weeks, I thought it was an appropriate challenge.

A minor obstacle was that the Whole Foods in my neighborhood didn't have satsumas. They did, however, have fruits they called "autumn honey tangerines," which sounded season-appropriate and very amenable to inclusion in a cocktail. They're sweet and have a wonderful flavor. Satsumas or even regular oranges would also do nicely.

Autumn Cranberry Old Fashioned

I made a cranberry syrup to replace my usual simple syrup and brandied cherry syrup, as well as some sugared cranberries for a garnish. I popped in a cinnamon stick to cement the holiday vibe. All in all, I'm quite pleased with the finished product. The differences from a traditional Old Fashioned are subtle but festive: flavor and bitterness from the cranberries and a hint of spice from the cinnamon. And the sugared cranberries are really one of the prettiest garnishes I've made so far.

Autumn Cranberry Old Fashioned

Autumn Cranberry Old Fashioned

2.5 oz. bourbon (I used Bulleit)
1 tsp. cranberry simple syrup*
5-6 fresh cranberries
2 slices autumn tangerine or satsuma
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Sugared cranberries* and cinnamon stick to garnish

Muddle tangerine or satsuma and fresh cranberries in the bottom of an old fashioned glass. Add cranberry simple syrup, bitters, and bourbon. Stir briefly and add one large ice cube. Garnish with sugared cranberries on a pick and a cinnamon stick.

*You can make the sugared cranberry garnish and the cranberry simple syrup together. Combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar and simmer to dissolve the sugar. Add about 1/2 cup cranberries. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain, reserving both the cranberries and the syrup. Arrange half of the cranberries on parchment paper on a wire cooling rack and let sit for one hour; these will be your sugared cranberries. Return the rest to the pot with the syrup and muddle. Let sit for another 10-20 minutes and strain again, discarding the muddled berries. Once an hour has passed, pour 1/4 cup sugar onto a plate and roll the remaining cranberries in it to coat.

Sugared cranberry recipe from Vanilla and Bean.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Gift Guide 2015

A lot of my favorite blogs will do gift guides around the holidays. I've always loved them, because they're a great way to find out about nifty new products and get ideas for family and friends. There's a lot of cocktail stuff out there I'd love to give (or get!) this Christmas, but here are some favorites that have caught my eye.

1. Feather Bottle Opener from H&M Home, $12.99. I just bought one of these a couple of days ago! It's a perfect combination of my two great loves, birds and beer.

2. St. George Gin Sampler, ~$30. St. George makes some really lovely, unique gins and this is a great way to try them all. It includes their Terroir, Botanivore, and Dry Rye gins. Look for it at your local liquor store.

3. Orb Cocktail Shaker from Crate & Barrel, $24.95. I know Boston shakers are supposed to be the best, but I can't get over the sleek look of this copper cobbler shaker.

4. Double Old Fashioned Glasses from Williams Sonoma, $55.96. I love the size and that they're all different.

5. Cocktail Matches from Waiting on Martha, $11. Flame that orange peel with style.

6. Silicone Ice Cube Trays from Amazon.com, $16.95. We've had these for a while now, and I love them. They're much easier to use than the spherical molds, and one of these jumbo cubes is perfect for a glass of bourbon.

7. Scrappy's Bitters Gift Box, ~$25. Includes Lavender, Cardamom, Chocolate, and Grapefruit bitters. Available from a number of online retailers, including Amazon.

8. Bullseye Cocktail Picks from West Elm, $19. I see so many cute cocktail picks in photographs but they can be pretty hard to find. I love these arrow-shaped ones.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Warm Spiced Vanilla

Warm Spiced Vanilla

Hello again, and sorry for the long silence. I had some personal things going on that ended up preventing me from spending any time on the blog (or even making many cocktails, alas). I'm happy to be back!

It seems that in my absence, autumn has come and gone. Thanksgiving is over, and we put up our Christmas tree on Saturday. I do wish the fall had passed a little more slowly, but I love the Christmas season. Decorating the tree helped dispel the gloom of a cold and rainy day, and so did this rich and delicious cocktail. It's guaranteed to leave you happy, sleepy, and warm - the perfect drink for a winter evening.

Warm Spiced Vanilla

2 cups milk
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
6 cloves
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup Bailey's
1/6 cup bourbon

(Makes two cocktails.) Combine milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a small saucepan. Warm over medium-low heat until the mixture is gently smoking. Reduce heat to low and let sit for five minutes, stirring occasionally, being careful not to let the mixture come to a boil. Pour through a fine strainer and return to the pan. Add vanilla, Bailey's, and bourbon. Serve in mugs, garnished with cinnamon sticks or star anise if desired.

Recipe adapted from Kitchen Treaty.