Friday, December 24, 2010

Cocktail Buzz Holiday Cocktail 2010: Big Apple

Manhattan, meet sparkling cider.

We don’t always come up with a new cocktail in our test kitchen. Sometimes, we’re at a friend’s or relative’s place, and the itch to create a new drink needs to be scratched. Take for instance our recent visit to our friend Matt and Daniel’s swanky Midtown pad for some holiday cheer. Lots of new faces, lots of “What do you do?”s, then Bang! Someone asked if we could come up with something new to go with the sparkling apple cider he brought to the bash.

Luckily we brought with us the makings for some fine Manhattans, so we were eager to see if the sparkling cider and the island’s eponymous cocktail would become friends. Indeed they did, and on the rocks, this baby is smooth and is blessed with a creamy mouthfeel. The nose is slightly caramel, and the first sip proves what your nose already knows. You can control the sweetness by how much sparkling cider you top it with.

So, for those of you searching for a holiday cocktail this season, you need look no further. The Big Apple pairs well with loads of winter Holiday fare unlike its mother, the Manhattan. (Boozy cocktails like Manhattans are notoriously difficult to pair with bread- and vegetable-heavy apps because they leave a burning alcohol sensation on the tongue, and no one wants that.)

Big Apple
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 1/2 oz. rye or bourbon
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
dash aromatic or orange bitters (such as Bitter Truth or Angostura)
generous splash or two sparkling apple cider (such as Martinelli’s)
maraschino, brandied, or marasche cherry, as garnish
ice

Method
Stir first three ingredients in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Top with Sparkling cider. Garnish with cherry.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cocktail Buzz Island Hops, Aloha Style


The view from the lanai, near Hanalei on Kaua‘i


Our first view of Kaua‘i. Just beautiful.

We had been dreaming of vacationing in Hawaii for what seemed like forever. Steve had been once before, to the Big Island, and ever since then wanted to return. So we planned a two-week excursion, boarded the plane, and headed for our destinations: Hawai‘i (the Big Island), Kaua‘i (the Garden Isle), and Maui (the Valley Isle). We even managed to spend a few hours on Lāna‘i, catching some snorkeling followed by some picnicking on the beach.


Snorkeling off Hulopo‘e Bay, Lāna‘i


Aboard the Paragon, between Maui and Lāna‘i

We ate local, on both humble and grand scales, and drank cocktails using fresh tropical fruits and easy-to-find bottles of whatever booze we fancied our first day at the grocery store for each new island we visited. Our feeling on this matter was mutual: Hawaii is a magical place, a state of tranquility, a tonic for the soul. We drank it up and soaked it all in, and cannot wait to return to revisit some favorite spots, and venture on to new islands.

For more photos and tales from each island we explored, visit our Web site by clicking here.


Flora at the zoo in Hilo, Hawai‘i

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Everyone Loves Punch During the Holidays (Especially the Host)


Serving punch at your holiday party will take the burden of having to play bartender to your guests. The Pomander Punch, above, tastes of cranberries and spice.

The final fifteen minutes before your guests are scheduled to arrive are always fraught with trepidation. We curse ourselves with nonstop invective. “Why the @#$% did I agree to throw this @#$%ing party. I’m such a @#$%ing idiot.” It’s at these moments, when we all turn into whining teenagers, that we must take a deep breath and rise to the occasion. You threw this cocktail party because you are awesome and your friends rock, and you wanted to share with them some cocktail and party-food pairings that will be remembered forever (and not in a bad way). So that you will be touted as the cocktail-party thrower of the century and not the sniveling spaz you seem to be playing at the moment, you must do the following: make a punch. Not the kind you imbibed as a child—those were sweet and sparkling sugar-rush inducers filled with ginger ale and neon sherbet. No, this punch will be filled with high-quality spirits and liqueurs, possibly champagne, fresh seasonal fruit, and flavors that will send you into adulthood negating any old associations with prom punch ever again. Welcome to the grownup table; you can now fold up that kiddy card table and banish it forever.

Punch is a blessing or, more appropriate, a mangala. The word itself, many believe, derives from the Hindi word panch, meaning five, alluding to the five ingredients that purportedly made up historical punch: spirits, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. But if you ask the average josephine what she thinks of when she thinks of punch in a historical context, she may describe for you a Hogarthian scene of jack-tars, slinging their flagons while singing a shanty tune honoring the drunken sailor, which isn’t at all inappropriate. Sailors brought the Hindi punch back with them to England, bedazzled by its bold flavors of spice and citrus, and from the early seventeenth to the mid nineteenth centuries, punch ruled supreme. Punch houses dotted the London landscape, filling the hearts and minds of men with merriment. Sharing a bowl was like taking communion: it brought you closer to God, if you let it.

We want punch to bring you closer to a reasonable frame of mind. With a punch at the ready, all you have to do is point your guests in the direction of the chilling bowl and say, “help yourself to a delicious glass of [fill in the blank] punch.” At first they may be surprised that no islands of lime sherbet dot this quaff, but after a sip, you’ll hear their contented sighs, and they’ll hear yours.

Here are a few punch recipes that will brighten up your party and set your mind at ease. Some of them are for 1 serving, but with a little math, you can easily create a bowl full of shimmering panch. Just remember to make a block of ice for the punch bowl (you can freeze water in a freezer-safe bowl).

Global Punch
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces Jack Daniels
2 ounces amber (medium-bodied) rum (such as Old New Orleans or Mount Gay Eclipse)
1/2 ounce ginger liqueur (such as Domaine de Canton)
1 ounce real pomegranate grenadine
1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur (such as St-Germain)
2 ounces red grapefruit juice (you can substitute pink if red is not available)
1/4 ounce lemon juice
1/4 ounce lime juice
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters (you can substitute with another orange bitters)

Method
Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Serves 3.

If making a bowl of punch, first make a block of ice in a freezer-safe bowl that’s smaller than the punch bowl. Then, multiply all the ingredients by eight or more depending on the size of your party. Refrigerate until chilled. About a half hour before serving, remove the ice from the bowl and place in the punch bowl. Pour the punch into the bowl. Garnish with lemon and lime wheels. Ladle into punch cups or glasses.

Try pairing with Chorizo Sobres, little deep-fried spicy smoked sausage and peach bites.

Rihanna
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 ounce amber rum (such as Old New Orleans or Mount Gay Eclipse)
1/2 ounce white rum (such as Mount Gay Silver Eclipse)
1/8 ounce Cruzan Black Strap rum
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1/4 ounce Velvet Falernum
1/2 ounce simple syrup*
1/4 ounce crème de banana (such as Bols)
3/4 ounce orange juice
1/4 ounce lime juice

Method
Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. If you’re feeling the call of the tiki gods, garnish with cherries and banana slices poked through with a straw. Serves 1.

If making a bowl of punch, first make a block of ice in a freezer-safe bowl that’s smaller than the punch bowl. Then, multiply all the ingredients by eight or more depending on the size of your party. Refrigerate until chilled. About a half hour before serving, remove the ice from the bowl and place in the punch bowl. Pour the punch into the bowl. Garnish with cherries and banana slices. Ladle into punch cups or glasses.

* Dissolve one cup of sugar in one cup of water over low heat, stirring occasionally. When all the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat, let cool, and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a month.

Try pairing with baked coconut shrimp.

Pomander Punch
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces cranberry sauce–infused Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine*
1 ounce bourbon (try Bulleit)
1/2 ounce clementine orange juice
1/4 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
block of ice

Method
Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Garnish with a half-moon slice of clementine or a whole pericarp of star anise. Serves 1.

If making a bowl of punch, first make a block of ice in a freezer-safe bowl that’s smaller than the punch bowl. Then, multiply all the ingredients by eight or more depending on the size of your party. Refrigerate until chilled. About a half hour before serving, remove the ice from the bowl and place in the punch bowl. Pour the punch into the bowl. Garnish with clementine orange wheels and star anise pericarps. Ladle into punch cups or glasses.

* In an airtight container, add 1/3 cup homemade cranberry sauce (follow directions on package of cranberries) for every 2 cups moonshine (you can substitute vodka if moonshine is not available). Let infuse for at least five days and up to two weeks (the longer you wait, the better), shaking the container at least once a day. Strain into another airtight container and label.

Try pairing with bacon-wrapped dates.


Blackberries and cinnamon combine to create an amazing flavor sensation. This punch is boozy and bodacious. The bowl will be emptied by nightfall.

Bramble Punch

(created by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
4 1/2 ounces amber (medium-bodied) rum (such as Old New Orleans or Mount Gay Eclipse)
3 ounces cognac (such as Martell VSOP or Hennessy VS)
1 1/2 ounces Jeżynówka (blackberry-flavored brandy)
3/4 ounces Becherovka (Czech spice liqueur)
1 1/2 ounces cinnamon-infused black tea*
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 1/2 ounces tangerine juice
1 1/2 ounces pink grapefruit juice
ice cubes, preferably in a chunk, or a block with blackberries frozen within.

Method
Add all the ingredients (except the chunk of ice cubes) into a large shaker or capped bottle. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, making sure the sugar dissolves (if you prefer, you can dissolve the sugar in a little water before adding it to the mix). Place ice chunk or ice block in bowl. Pour punch into bowl. If using a chunk of ice cubes, the ice cubes will start to break apart. When they do, or if you are using a block of ice, stir the punch with the ladle to chill, wait a minute (do not rush, let the ice dissolve a bit), stir again, and serve. Add a blackberry to each cup for a nice sweet-tart surprise at the end of your drink.

Serves 4. You can easily double or triple the recipe.

* Steep a tea bag (with black tea) and a cinnamon stick in 1 cup of boiling water. Remove the tea bag after 3 hours. Remove cinnamon stick after 3 days. If you can’t wait 3 days, then make sure you shake it well before using.

Try pairing with Cheddar Blue Fricos, lacy and crispy wafers of cheese.


photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz