Friday, December 15, 2017

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

It's officially the holidays! Today I'm boarding a flight to go home to New Orleans with my dog and baby in tow. I'll be there for two weeks to celebrate Christmas and have a christening for Luke. I'm really excited. I look forward to the holidays all year. And it will be even more special now that we've got a little family of our own.

Mulled Wine

Of course the holidays wouldn't be complete without some festive cocktails. At my parents' house, it's not Christmas until my dad makes his famous eggnog - maybe one day I'll get permission to share the top-secret recipe. I don't have any Christmas cocktail traditions yet myself, but I'm thinking that this mulled wine might become one of them. Particularly since Decembers in Boston call for much warmer cocktails than those in Louisiana.

Mulled Wine

Until I made it myself, I had only had mulled wine a few times, usually at holiday parties. The one memorable exception was a cold and rainy afternoon in Krakow, Poland last May. We attended my husband's cousin's wedding and then spent some time in the city. I'm not sure what it's usually like in May, but last year it was extremely cold and damp, and we had not packed properly for it. After getting thoroughly wet and chilled, we ducked into a random pub to warm up. They had mulled wine on the menu and we immediately ordered two mugs. I don't think I've ever had anything more perfect. The most memorable drinking experiences are always more about the circumstances than the recipe.

Mulled Wine

So, when we got our first snowfall this year, I decided to try my hand at making mulled wine. The baby gave me a wonderful excuse to get out of shoveling (suddenly those nine months of pregnancy seem totally worth it), but the least I could do was have a warm, spiritous beverage ready when my husband came in from the cold. And just like that dreary day in Krakow, it was absolutely perfect. This stuff positively warms the soul. I think I have my new Christmas tradition.

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

1 bottle (750 ml) red wine
1/4 cup sugar
1 orange, sliced
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1/4 cup brandy

Combine all ingredients except for brandy in a saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add brandy. Serve hot, garnished with cranberries, a cinnamon stick, and star anise.

This recipe is easily halved if you don't want to sacrifice a whole bottle to the cause or if, like me, you're only making it for two people.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

1. Love & Victory Cocktail Pins. I swear these have shown up on every cocktail gift guide I've seen this year, but how could they not? They are so freaking adorable. The perfect stocking stuffer! $12 each or $80 for the full set of 8.

2. Gold Cheers Foil Hang Tags. So much classier than just sticking a bow on that bottle of wine or booze you're bringing over. These have plenty of space to write a little message, and will work for any time of year. $9.95 for a pack of 10.

3. Wintersmiths Ice Chest. I think this is what I'll be asking Santa for this year. There are several clear ice systems on the market at lots of different price points, but it seems like Wintersmiths is the undisputed best. Give the cocktail perfectionist in your life this ice chest that makes four clear cubes or spheres, or preorder the new Phantom, which should ship in July. $120 with one shape tray, $160 with both.

4. Dash Bitters Tonic Syrup Kit. This new kit from Dash Bitters, makers of some great DIY bitters kits, allows you to craft your own tonic syrup at home for the perfect G&T. The kit comes with everything you need, including pre-measured ingredients and a bottle and label for the finished product. They sent me one this week and I can't wait to use it! Kits like this are a great way to ease into making your own bitters and mixers. $35.

5. Absolute Elyx Deluxe Martini Gift Set. Absolute Elyx vodka, which single-handedly brought the copper pineapple mug into vogue, makes all kinds of cool copper barware (I'm looking at you, cute little gnome). This martini gift set is so unbelievably gorgeous that I audibly gasped when I saw it. If you're in the market for a truly luxurious gift, look no further. $299.

6. Wilkinson Scalloped Julep Strainer. This beautiful julep strainer designed by David Wondrich is inspired by classic barware. $26.99.

7. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum. If you don't think of rum as a spirit to sip on its own, this one will change your mind. Its rich, sweet flavor will convince the staunchest whiskey drinker to branch out. It's also excellent in cocktails. ~$30 for 750 ml.

8. Aromatic Bitter Sugar Cubes. These sugar cubes from Vena's Fizz House in Portland, Maine are perfect for Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs, Champagne Cocktails, and just about anything else you can think of. $8 for a 2 oz. jar.

9. Seedlip Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirits. Since I spent the majority of this year not drinking alcohol, I had to include something on this list for the teetotalers. Billed as "what to drink when you're not drinking," Seedlip is bringing the craft of spirits to the world of mocktails. If you know someone who is reluctantly leaving the gin out of their tonic, a bottle of Seedlip is the perfect gift to make them feel like they're drinking craft cocktails again. It's available in two varieties, Garden 108 and Spice 94. $45 for 750 ml.

10. Sugarfina Bourbon Bears. A great, cheeky stocking stuffer for a whiskey lover. Sugarfina has a whole line of boozy gummies, including champagne and rosé, stout and lager, and even Casamigos Margarita and Paloma flavors. $8.50 for a small cube or $45 for a 2.5 lb bag.

Check out previous gift guides here.

Happy Holidays! Cheers!