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Recipe Wed Dec 28 2011
Because the holidays are all about giving, we've got an extra holiday drink column this week. As you know, New Year's Eve is this weekend, and more than any other holiday, it's an opportunity to wow guests with delicious libations. Fortunately, earlier this year Charles Joly of The Drawing Room did a seminar on holiday cocktails at the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans, so he was fully prepared when I talked with him at his cozy subterranean lounge.
"Unless you're going to have a bartender working, it's best to keep it simple," Joly says. "There's nothing worse than getting stuck at your kitchen island when you're trying to entertain people and you should be hanging out with your friends. You can make really interesting selections with just a little bit of planning that don't keep you tied down. And we're not in college -- it's time to take the 7Up bottle off the countertop and, you know, a bottle of flat club soda and a handle of Smirnoff that's been sitting in there since last New Year's."
New Year's Eve is of course strongly associated with Champagne, so a sparkling cocktail is a great idea for your party. Joly's The Sun Also Rises is inspired by the Hemingway cocktail Death in the Afternoon -- a potent combination of Champagne and absinthe.
The Sun Also Rises
3/4 oz. Plymouth sloe gin
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. North Shore Absinthe Sirene
1/4 oz. simple syrup
3 oz. sparkling wine
2-3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
In a shaker with ice, add the sloe gin, lemon juice, absinthe and simple syrup and stir to combine. Strain into a flute and top with Champagne or other sparkling wine -- cava or prosecco would work well. Finish with a couple dashes of bitters. According to Joly, "Absinthe can be kind of polarizing, so you can pull it back to a couple of dashes if people are turned off by it. But that's kind of the whole theme of the cocktail, I wanted to honor the original but make it more accessible and actually taste good." The cocktail base could be concocted in a larger batch ahead of time and kept in a bottle on the bar along with a cocktail shaker and ice, ready to mix by you or a guest as needed.
A punch is another easy way to serve a lot of guests without getting stuck at the bar all night. "It's nice for entertaining because you can make it a day ahead of time and just keep it in the fridge," Joly says. "And punch bowls are all over the place at thrift stores, you can find a nice one for $15-25. It's something every house should have."
The Guild Meeting Punch
14 oz. strong chai tea
2 oz. vanilla sugar
zest from one orange
2 oz. ginger liqueur
2 oz. Drambuie
5 oz. 100-proof rye whiskey
2 oz. lemon juice
5 oz. orange juice
Makes 1 liter
Start by brewing a pot of flavorful chai tea. This will serve as the base liquid for the drink. Put 2oz. of vanilla sugar in the bottom of the punch bowl. Use a vegetable peeler to cut the zest off of one orange, and muddle it together with the sugar and let them rest. "The sugar will take on the color of the peel and it'll start to cake up as it absorbs the oil from the peel. It's a historic technique [called "olio sacrum"] that adds a nice aromatic aspect to the punch," Joly says. Discard the peel and pour the hot tea over the olio sacrum so it dissolves. Add the other ingredients, stir, and ice it down with a large block of ice. For a more decorative ice block, fill a bundt pan with water and freeze it -- you'll get a neat looking ring of ice to drop into your punch.
For a warm punch, consider a classic: the Tom and Jerry. This cousin to egg nog is one of the oldest cocktails around, dating to the early 1800s. If you have a slow cooker, you can keep it warm all night.
Tom and Jerry
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 oz. black strap rum
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
Makes 12 cups
Separate the whites and yolks of the eggs. Whip the whites into a stiff foam. Beat the yolks well, then whisk in the sugar and whip until the sugar is dissolved, then stir in the rum and spices. Slowly fold the yolk mixture into the egg whites until they're combined. This "batter" can be made a couple days before the party; if you do, add 1/2 tsp. of cream of tartar to help stabilize it in the refrigerator.
When you're ready to serve, pour the batter into the slow cooker, add 12 oz. of cognac and 12 oz. of Laird's 100-proof applejack, rum or bourbon. Fill up the rest of the pot with equal parts hot water and warm milk. Set the slow cooker on high to bring the mix up to temperature, then switch the cooker to low to maintain for the night.
"So really, even with those few cocktails, you've got something for everybody there -- something lighter and brighter with the bubbles, something boozy with the rye-based punch, and then a warm cocktail," Joly says. However, he adds a reminder to help make sure your New Year's Eve party doesn't take a turn for the worse. "I think it's important to have a lighter alcohol alternative at parties. It's snowing out, and unless people are walking home, you don't want everyone to be sloshed."