What better way to drum up some holiday spirit than with spirits? I’ve never really needed an excuse to enjoy a nip now and then (now would be nice!), but the holidays provide many a good reason to imbibe with a bit more frequency, including my birthday next week (hint hint!).
Holidays also provide a good excuse to splurge, both monetarily and calorically, on a little something special to match the mood of the season. Here are a few of my favorites…
1. I’m a big fan of rum in many forms, but on a cold blustery night, Hot Buttered Rum is the way to go. But, if you have the technology, Cold Buttered Rum is even better! A Nils and Dave specialty, usually available at L’Ecole… but, alas, not at the time of this posting (click the link above for the recipe). Just don’t ask how many calories – it’s the holidays afterall…
2. As long as we’re talking technology (and shamelessly plugging for Cooking Issues and L’Ecole), I’m happy to announce that the Red Hot Poker is back at the bar heralding the return of the Red Hot Manhattan, Red Hot Ale, and the new Red Hot Cider… if you are in NYC, you should definitely not miss this one!
3. Wicked Hot Chocolate from Jacques Torres… What more can I say? No alcohol, just chiles and Jacques Torres chocolate – bring it on!
4. Although this is my favorite adult beverage year-round, it is especially appropriate for the holidays… Pink Bubbles… Champagne, sparkling wine, whatever you prefer! Some personal favorites are Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose, Louis de Sacy (for more on this one visit A Thirsty Spirit), and Schramsberg Brut Rose.
5. The first few drinks are ones that I usually go out for, but some nights you just want to stay in – enjoy the tree, bake some cookies, and hang out with the family. On those nights, it’s a toss up for me between mulled wine and homemade eggnog (with rum, of course). Here are simple recipes for both:
Mulled Wine (adapted from a recipe in the December 2002 issue of Gourmet)
Make a simple syrup from 1 cup each sugar and wine (combine, bring to a boil then remove from heat)
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
Wrap all of these ingredients in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine.
In a non-reactive pot, combine the simple syrup with a bottle of decent quality Syrah/Shiraz, Cotes du Rhone, or other dry red wine, add the sachet of spices, 1 vanilla bean (split), and the zest of one lemon and one orange (removed with vegetable peeler).
Bring to a simmer for 3-5 minutes, stir occasionally. Serve warm.
Eggnog (if you are pregnant or have concerns about eating raw egg products, this may not be the recipe for you)
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk
1 cup rum
Freshly grated nutmeg
Have three bowls and either a hand beater or a whisk and very strong arm ready to go.
In one bowl, whip the egg yolks with 1/4 cup of sugar until they are pale yellow and a ribbon forms when the whisk is lifted. Add the milk, vanilla, and rum (whisking constantly when you add the rum).
In the second bowl, whip the egg whites with the salt until very loose peaks form. Slowly add the sugar while whisking constantly.
In the third bowl whip the cream.
First fold the whipped cream and egg yolk mixture together then fold in the beaten whites. Serve immediately garnished with freshly grated nutmeg.