Mid-winter brings a more monotonous selection in the produce aisle but a bounteous variety in the citrus section. While the fresh berries and melons of summer have faded into memory, the market is piled high with oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes. Even though varieties of the fruit can be found throughout the year, some citrus is only available in the winter – blood orange, pommelos, Meyer lemons and tangerines. It’s the perfect time of year to add these bright flavors to a cocktail. This week, I’m making a Tangerine Drop Martini.
Thanksgiving Day, to me, is the best holiday of the year. It’s low key. No pressure to buy presents or decorate. Just family, friends and good food. My sister and I both love to cook and hang out in the kitchen while the turkey is roasting. We divide up the cooking chores, put on some tunes and open up a bottle of wine and start chopping the onions and sage for the dressing and snapping the green beans. My sister especially loves champagne or sparkling wine, so we’ll often open up a bottle of something sparkly right away. And we might just add a little something to make it more festive. If friends are around, I’ll pour a fun cocktail or two. With a well-stocked liquor cabinet and some cranberry juice, you can make quite a few great Thanksgiving cocktails with cranberries and more.
The holidays approach and it’s time to bring out the festive and the beautiful cocktails. First up is he Gilroy Cocktail. It is one of those delicious and pretty cocktails that everyone at the party enjoys. The Gilroy Cocktail has one ingredient that gives it a deep ruby color and it’s signature cherry flavor – Cherry Heering.
Similar to cherry brandy, Cherry Heering is a sweet, spicy Danish liqueur. It is made from crushed cherries and spices that are mixed with a neutral alcohol and aged in casks for five years. Distilled since 1818, It has a dark cherry color and flavor that adds a lot of depth to a cocktail. You’ll see Cherry Heering in the classic cocktail recipes, such as the Singapore Sling and the Blood and Sand.
1 oz gin
1 oz Cherry Heering liqueur
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz lemon juice (fresh, of course)
Shake with ice and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The Corpse Reviver No. 2 is the perfect Halloween cocktail. Or maybe, like it’s original intent, it is the perfect AFTER-Halloween cocktail, when you need a bit of “the hair of the dog” to revive you. In fact, it used to be served as a “breakfast cocktail” to cure you after a night of debauchery.
Even though I said that I was putting my gin away until warm weather returns, this gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and absinthe cocktail is really delicious AND has the creepy name to commemorate either Hallow’s Eve or The Day of the Dead.
In the cooler months, it’s traditional for those who imbibe to switch to the “brown liquors” – bourbon, whiskey, rye. I don’t want to mess with tradition, so I’ve put away the gin until the warm days return in March. In the meantime, instead of just sipping whiskey, I want to build my repertoire of good whiskey cocktails. One that I found last year was the Lion’s Tail cocktail. It is a spicy combination of rye or bourbon, lime juice, syrup, bitters and Pimento Dram. The Lion’s Tail became last year’s biggest holiday party hit.
I’m starting to see the fresh pomegranates back in the stores again this week. I do love cutting them open and popping out those garnet-colored seeds to eat. They stain your fingers bright pink, but I really don’t care. They are sweet, but have a slightly tart taste and a crunchy texture. If you turn the juice into a syrup, you have a homemade grenadine to make classic cocktails such as the Jack Rose, the Mistletoe and the El Presidente. Homemade grenadine is tart and sweet and adds a rich red color to any drink.
If you live in the South, you have probably have had your share of muscadines and scuppernongs, our native wild grape. In Georgia, a walk through the woods in late summer and early fall will usually yield at least a handful of the Southern wild grapes to enjoy. You can often find them along the ground, where they’ve fallen from their high perch in the trees. I usually eat them where I find them, but sometimes we’re lucky enough to come upon low-hanging vines that make picking a couple of pints an easy chore. They are fragrant, juicy and sweet. Like pears or apples, the muscadine signals Fall in the South. They are my inspiration this week for a Southern Fall Muscadine Cocktail.
With the end of the hot weather, I think it’s time to put away the fruity, fizzy drinks of summer and return to the warmer amber spirits. I do love the classic cocktails that use brandy, rye and whiskey as their base, and the Sidecar is one of my favorites. Variations of the Sidecar cocktail abound, so I felt at liberty to futz around with the general concept and make an Autumn Pear Sidecar cocktail.
I just spent 10 days traveling through Italy and I’m having a hard time adjusting to life back in Atlanta. Besides the daily gelato, I’m particularly missing my afternoon Aperol Spritz. Everywhere we went in Italy, as the heat of the day waned, people began returning to the piazzas and streets in the late afternoon and early evening hours, sitting down for a glass of wine, a beer or a Spritz. Walking throught the streets, you could spy many glasses of Spritz being served at the outdoor cafes. We easily got into the same rhythm, by looking for our nightly place to people watch and sip on our Spritz. Particularly in Fano, a small resort town on the Adriatic, we would stroll down to the beach in the late afternoon and stop at the BluMarina beachside cafe for an Aperol Spritz. The tray of the bright orange cocktails would arrive, cold and bubbly, served with a plate of antipasti to nibble.
Aperol, an Italian apertivo liqueur
The liqueur that gives the Spritz it’s bright orange color and bittersweet flavor is Aperol. Aperol is made by the same people who produce Campari. LIke Campari, it is a liqueur that has a slightly bitter taste but with enough sweetness to counter-balance the flavor. According to the official website, the recipe for Aperol is a secret, but is infused with an herbal mix of bitter and sweet orange,and “many other herbs and roots”. Aperol has a lower alcohol content (11%) than Campari or a glass of wine.
Because of its low alcohol content, Aperol Spritz is served for aperitivo. Apertivo is a sort of “Happy Hour”, with a drink that is served to whet the appetite for the evening meal and a plate of small bites of food as a refreshment. At our little seaside bar in Fano, for the price of a round of drinks, they brought out bowls of nuts, some chips, a plate of focaccia, pickled eggplant, roasted peppers, tomatoes and fresh cheese. Because no one seems to eat until 9:00 at night, the 7:00 round of Spritz and light food kept us from starving until we were fed our proper dinners late in the evening.
How to make an Aperol Spritz
It’s simplicity itself. Here’s the recipe.
3 parts prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 splash of soda
Serve over ice with a slice of orange. You can get fancy and add a stemmed cherry or some drinking straws. You can also substitute Campari for the Aperol to make a Campari Spritz.
Now, all you need is the view….
Living in the Peach State (that would be Georgia, by the way) means getting great locally-grown peaches throughout July and into August. Unlike the peaches from the supermarket, the local fruit that I get from the Farmer’s Market is ripe and soft to the touch. It also means that I need to use them quickly, while they are at their peak. Yesterday, the weather was nice and the peaches were perfect, so I decided to make a pitcher of White Wine Peach Sangria.