Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Sliced Fruit for Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Of all the things that are great about the fall (and there are so many), the beginning of the holiday season and all the food and drink that is to be had certainly tops my list. One of our fall rituals is our annual block party/pig roast. We have a potluck afternoon buffet and it is a great opportunity to pull out my fall spices and fruit to make a crowd-pleasing alcoholic punch. This year, I had pears, apples, citrus, apple cider, cinnamon and a newly-made cranberry shrub to work with. I wanted to make something like a sangria, with the lovely pieces of fresh fruit, but using a stronger liquor instead of wine. So, I used Laird’s Apple Brandy and Rye as my alcohol base to make a Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch. It was a big hit!

Even if it’s just a chance to pull out your mother’s punch bowl, party punches are a great way to make a batch of drinks ahead of time so that you are not stuck behind the bar mixing cocktails all night. You can make a punch early in the day, which gives it time for all the spice and fruit flavors to really come out…and helps you manage your party-planning time.

Cranberry shrub and Cinnamon syrup

For this recipe, you will need to do a couple of things ahead of time – the cranberry shrub and the cinnamon syrup. I would suggest doing this early in the week and having it ready to go in the fridge the day of the party.

Cinnamon Syrup recipe

If you haven’t done so yet, early in the day, make your cinnamon syrup. In a saucepan, add 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 cinnamon sticks. On a medium low heat, bring the water and sugar up to a gentle simmer. As soon as the sugar melts, cut the heat and let it cool. Place into an airtight container and refrigerate until use. 

Cranberry Shrub

Last week, I wrote an extensive post on how to make your own fruit shrub syrup. A shrub is basically fresh seasonal fruit and spices, macerating in a simple syrup with vinegar. The fruit and spices impart their flavors and color into the vinegar/sugar syrup, making a sweet and sour mixer to add to your cocktails or non-alcoholic drinks. You can go here to get the recipe for Cranberry Shrub.

A glass of Cranberry Shrub

A glass of Cranberry Shrub

Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

1 cup Apple Brandy (Laird’s)
1 1/2 cups rye whiskey
1 cup Cranberry Shrub (or, substitute 1/2 cup cranberry juice & 1/2 cup simple syrup)
1/4 cup cinnamon syrup (1/2 cup sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
1 cup fresh apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon cloves
5 whole star anise
1 pear, 1 apple and 1 orange
1 medium size pitcher or punch bowl

Slicing pears for Fall Spice Apple Cranberry Punch

Slicing pears for Fall Spice Apple Cranberry Punch

Juice your lemons until you have 1/2 cup of juice. Place juice into your pitcher. Slice your pear, apple and orange into thin slices or small chunks, whichever you prefer. Place the slices into the pitcher with the lemon juice. Stir to coat the fruit with the lemon juice to prevent the fruit slices from browning.

Laird's Apple Brandy & Cranberry Shrub

Laird’s Apple Brandy & Cranberry Shrub for Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Measure out and add the rest of the ingredients: Apple Brandy, Rye, cranberry shrub, apple cider, cinnamon syrup and spices. Mix and taste. If it is too alcoholic or too tart, add more cider or more cinnamon syrup. Place the pitcher into the fridge to chill and let the flavors come together.

Serve cold in highball glasses with ice or straight up. Be sure and add pieces of fruit to each glass for the full, beautiful fall fruit effect. You can also serve in a taller glass and add club soda or sparkling water if you want to lighten the mix.  Cheers!

A Pitcher of Fall Spice Apple Cranberry Punch

A Pitcher of Fall Spice Apple Cranberry Punch

 

Fall Spice Apple BrandyPunch

Fall Spice Apple BrandyPunch

 

Thanksgiving Cocktails with cranberries and more

Thanksgiving Cocktails with cranberries

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.

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Gilroy Cocktail – a perfect drink for the holidays

Gilroy Cocktail

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.

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.

Gilroy Cocktail Ingredients - Cherry Heering, Gin and Dry Vermouth

Gilroy Cocktail Ingredients – Cherry Heering, Gin and Dry Vermouth

Gilroy Cocktail

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.

Cheers!

Fresh Green Bean Casserole from scratch

Green Bean Casserole before the oven

A holiday food tradition at our house is Green Bean Casserole. Of course, being a child of the 60’s and 70’s, back in the day, my Mom would open up two cans of green beans, a can of Cream of Mushroom soup, mix them together and top with canned fried onions. Four cans, a little baking time, and she was done! I guess I can’t blame her for doing things the easy way, but now that I’m the cook for the holidays, I’m more than willing to trade convenience for taste. In that spirit, I’ve revisited that just-okay version and used fresh ingredients to make a homemade Green Bean casserole from scratch. Is it as easier? No, but it’s infinitely better tasting.

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Halloween Cocktail – The Corpse Reviver No. 2

Corpse Reviver No.2

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. 

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Multi-Colored Ham Vegetable Quiche

Multi-colored Ham & Vegetable Quiche

If it’s been a while since I’ve been to the market for groceries, it can be challenging to come up with dinner. If I dig around in my fridge, most of the time I have eggs, cream, vegetables, cold cuts and cheese. I can turn those ingredients into sandwiches or a pasta dish, or a version of “breakfast for dinner”. With the addition of a pie crust, I can turn all of that into a quiche. Using a beautiful, multi-colored rolled vegetable tart on Pinterest as inspiration, I decided to try my hand at a wrapped ham vegetable quiche. I think that my results aren’t nearly as tidy as the one on the French site, but I was happy with my results. By wrapping all my ingredients from the center out, the simple Ham Vegetable Quiche became a savory, rainbow-colored dish ready for dinner or a party buffet. 

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Watermelon Vodka Cooler – a Summer Solstice cocktail

Watermelon Vodka Cooler

Happy Summer Solstice! Today is the first day of summer and it calls for a cocktail that will be great for those hot days spent with friends by the pool. A Watermelon Vodka cooler, perhaps?

Maybe when you were younger, in college say, did you ever take a watermelon, cut a hole in the top, then proceed to upturn a whole bottle of vodka into that hole? Once that bottle of vodka had emptied itself into the watermelon, you plugged it back up then put it in the fridge for a couple of days. When your 20 or 30 friends showed up at your pool a few day later, everyone got to enjoy slices of boozy, cold fruit. Because it was so fruity and refreshing, those slices went down fast and lethal. Now that I’m a grown woman, I like to think that I have moved beyond those years and can drink with a little bit more sophistication. Now, I blend the watermelon and vodka and put it in a glass. See the difference?

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Carolina-style Low Country Shrimp Boil

Fresh Gulf shrimp, ready to boil

Last month, my sister-in-laws came for a visit and brought with them 5 pounds of beautiful, jumbo shrimp, fresh off the boat in Ocean Springs, Mississippi that morning. Squeee! What a treat! To do justice to that treat, we decided to get out the turkey fryer and do a little cooking outside – a Carolina-style Low Country Shrimp Boil!

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Gin and Tonic – a classic cocktail

I love gin. It’s probably my favorite spirit to use in a cocktail. Tom Collins. Aviations. French 75’s. Martinis. I love the perfume of botanicals that transforms a neutral distillation of malt, rye, wheat and/or corn. Juniper berries give gin it’s predominant taste, but other botanicals can include coriander, angelica root, orange & lemon peels, anice, lavender, cinnamon, clove…even cucumber or green tea! Gin can be as complex as any single-malt scotch or vintage Bordeaux.

One of the most basic gin cocktails is the Gin & Tonic. Developed as part medicine and part refreshment in the tropical heat, the gin & tonic was introduced by the colonial army of the British Empire in India. The quinine in the tonic water was used to treat malaria and the lime was used to prevent scurvy. 

Interesting gin fact I just learned: Gin contains very few congeners, or the chemical elements, which cause hangovers. So, drink up! Science!

 I drink G&T’s because they have a light refreshing taste that are great when it’s warm enough to sit on the front porch with friends. Cheers!

Gin & Tonic 
Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour:
2 oz of gin (I use a London Dry variety, like Bombay Sapphire or Cititdelle)
Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 lime. Rim the glass with the spent lime.
Top with tonic water.
Garnish with a lime wedge and a few juniper berries tossed in.

My Bánh Mì obsession

Okay, maybe it’s not really an obsession, but there is not much else that will make me drive 10 miles of crosstown Atlanta traffic for lunch. Bánh mì is the Vietnamese equivalent of a sub sandwich. Owing to the French Colonial influence in Indochina, the Vietnamese quickly adapted the baguette to deliver some very local flavors – grilled pork or chicken, pork pate, pickled daikon radish and carrots, mayo, fresh basil, fresh mint, cilantro and chili peppers. If you’ve had one, you know that a bánh mì is like an amazing salad sitting on top of a grilled meat-filled sub roll. The taste is so fresh and delicious … and they’re only a couple of bucks each! 

My friends know that I love these sandwiches and will seek them out in strip malls all up and down Buford Highway, the center of our culinary and cultural melting pot here in Atlanta. I often get texts in the middle of the day from friends asking “Where was that Vietnamese sandwich place you were talking about again?” There are a lot of little places where you can get great bánh mì, but my two favorites are Lee’s Bakery and Quoc Huong Banh Mi. You can do a sit-down lunch at either of these places, with more selections of traditional Vietnamese food such as pho noodle bowls, but they are great for take-out. I just wish that they were a little closer to my house.

Maybe because most weeks I’m too lazy to drive over to Buford Highway, I’ve started making bánh mi at home. Once you gather the ingredients, they’re actually quite easy to make. The key is getting the fresh veg and a good crusty baguette as your sandwich base. A quick trip to the Dekalb Farmer’s Market works for both.

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