|« Chicago to Bombay and Back Again||Odd Pasta »|
Feature Thu Feb 08 2007
I didn't grow up here. I'm from Boston originally. After college I moved to Seattle. (It was 1994. Back then they handed you a one way ticket to Seattle with your diploma. What else was I supposed to do?) After a few years in the Pacific Northwest sandwiched around a year back in Boston I moved to Chicago. I'm realizing as I write this that I don't even talk about going back home to Boston anymore. I did for a long time, but haven't for a few years. This is my home.
The point of all of this is that I chose to live here. But, man, that weather kicks my ass sometimes. There isn't much one can really do about it except shiver and bitch and dream about going all Gauguin.
There are options other than taking after an alcoholic syphilitic.
This weather calls for an Irish Coffee. This is Hot Toddy weather. This is (if one can manage to find one) Hot Buttered Rum weather. This weather calls for imbibing warmth.
With the exception of your beer-and-a-shot corner bar, which may not have coffee on hand, pretty much any bartender can make you an Irish Coffee. I am a bit of a purist when it comes to Irish Coffee. (If by purist one means fascist-like zealotry.) The drink involves coffee, Irish whiskey and maybe whipped cream. Baileys has no place in the drink and there should never, ever be any drizzling of green crème de menthe.
A Hot Toddy (whiskey, lemon and honey mixed with hot water) might be a little more difficult to come by, but it's easy enough to make at home. And Hot Buttered Rum is essentially a spiced caramel stirred into rum and hot water. That's just asking way too much from most bars.
While few bartenders' repertory of cold weather drinks extend beyond pouring a shot of Baileys/whiskey/amaretto into a cup of coffee the potential is near infinite. Tea is a grossly overlooked ingredient, but can work oh so gorgeously. Pick up a bottle of Lake Bluff's North Shore Distillery's Distiller's Gin #6 and add a half a shot of it to a cup of jasmine tea. The gin relies heavily on lavender which makes the aromatics alone of this drink worth the price of admission.*
Most of the drinks I like to make tend to be a little more involved and require spending a little bit of time in the kitchen. Getting out from behind the bar and poking around in the pantry gives access to a whole host of ingredients not generally kept in a bar.
Summer cooling into autumn is a great excuse to break out the spices that can cruise right through the next four or five months. I like the full array of brown/apple pie/mulling spice (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, star anise, etc.), but clove is the spice that really turns my crank, and I will use pretty much any excuse I can to incorporate it into a drink.
When mixing drinks with spices, one should generally avoid using ground spices. They won't dissolve, either settling unappetizingly at the bottom of the glass, or floating unappetizingly at the top. Save the ground spices for baking. Use whole spices to infuse liquor or syrups, and use the results to mix your cocktails.
I really dig this recipe, but haven't yet found a home for it on a menu:
Green Mountain Boy
In a saucepan heat 1 cup of water to a simmer and dissolve ¾ cup of maple syrup. Add:
1 long peppercorn 2 star anise 4 allspice 8 cloves
Simmer for 20 minutes and strain.
Into a footed glass mug pour 2 oz. of bourbon. Fill with the warm maple mixture.
For the children/designated drivers/people who just don't drink:
1 cup of water 1/3 cup brown sugar zest of 1 orange
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Serve warm. (I leave the orange zest in. It will settle if let to sit off heat, so stir immediately before serving.)
Cold weather drinks don't even necessarily need to be warm. With the right combination it's entirely possible to put together some killer, warming drinks that are served cold. Brown spirits (your whiskeys, your aged rums, your brandies) are the logical culprits, but it's possible to put together a sparkling wine based cocktail that's nicely warming. In this drink the bitters and the vermouth, made by Andrew Quady in California, provide some badass spice notes (see above in re: my crank). The Grand Marnier and the vermouth also add a little bit of heat:
To a Champagne flute add:
3/4 oz. Vya Sweet Vermouth 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier A dash of Angostura bitters splash of simple syrup Fill with sparkling wine
For the simple syrup add 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then cool.
I prefer to use Proseccos in "Champagne" cocktails. Champagnes and New World sparklings can be a bit big and get in the way of the other ingredients. Prosecco tends to be much lighter and more delicate. Okay, innocuous. And a hell of a lot cheaper.
Any one of these drinks should do well to warm your toes these cold, cold winter days, and sure they require a little bit of work to prepare, but they're still a hell of lot easier than leaving behind one's impoverished wife and children and running off to the South Pacific. Not to mention nicer. (I've never understood how Gauguin managed to find paint in Tahiti back then, anyway.)
*The really fun part of my job entails writing the cocktail menus for three restaurants. I don't like to be redundant with them, so won't put a drink on the menu at more than one restaurant. This one's the exception. It's on the menus of all three.