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

 

How to make a shrub syrup

Cranberry Shrub Syrup

If you are into making cocktails at home, you have probably tried and mastered some of the classics-the Margarita, the Martini, the Manhattan. But if you’ve stretched your mixology skills beyond that, you’ve, no doubt, played around with various mixers to add depth and flavor to your cocktail creations. Luckily, there is now an amazing variety of fruit and spice-infused syrups, bitters and shrubs that can be found at any good liquor store or specialty food shop. What is a shrub, you say? Am I referring to a leafy bush? No. A shrub is a fruit-infused vinegar syrup. You may think adding vinegar to any drink would be odd, but the complex, fruity acidity of a shrub syrup adds a brightness and depth that is surprising and very pleasing.

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Caipirinha – celebrating the World Cup with Brazil’s national drink

Celebrating the 2014 World Cup with a Caipirinha, the official cocktail of Brazil

We are now into Week Two of this year’s World Cup, hosted by Brazil. Maybe, like most Americans, you just aren’t into it. Personally, I’m excited by the non-stop world-class soccer that is being played over the next few weeks. All that national pride! All that amazing play! All those hot players! And USA winning their first game!!! I think the best way to celebrate this year’s World Cup in Brazil is to sip the official cocktail of Brazil – the Caipirinha.

Cachaça – the most popular spirit of Brazil

Similar to the mojito or the margarita, the caipirinha reigns supreme in Brazil. Like the margarita, the caipirinha is a lime sour – mixing spirits with sugar and lime juice. What sets it apart is the main ingredient – cachaça – a distilled spirit that is similar to rum. Unlike rum, which is distilled from cane sugar molasses, cachaça is distilled from fermented cane sugar syrup. Made almost exclusively in Brazil, it is now readily available in the U.S. I always use the light cachaça, even though it does come in a dark, aged version as well.

Cachaça - the most popular spirit in Brazil

Cachaça – the most popular spirit in Brazil

Caipirinha recipe

1 1/2 ounces Cachaça (Brazilian rum)
2 tsp. simple syrup (or 2 teaspoons of brown sugar)
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
Club Soda

Drop the lime wedges into the bottom of a tall cocktail glass. Crush the limes against the bottom of the glass with a muddler or a sturdy wooden spoon to release all of their juices and the oil from the lime peels. Add the simple syrup (or brown sugar) and cachaça. Muddle again to mix with the lime. Add ice and stir to mix. It’s ready to serve! 

I actually like to top mine off with sparkling water or Club Soda, to give it more fizz. That’s not really “official” but I do think that it makes it more refreshing.

If you’re not sure how to SAY Caipirinha (it IS a Portuguese word), just click on this helpful YouTube video.

How to Pronounce Caipirinha

Saúde (or Cheers)!!

Caipirinhas - the official cocktail of Brazil

Caipirinhas – the official cocktail of Brazil

 

Pegu Club Cocktail

Pegu Club Cocktail

Like many classic gin cocktails, the Pegu Club Cocktail has its origins in the British Colonial Empire. The cocktail was named after the original Pegu Club in Rangoon, Burma – part of the British Empire during Victorian times and now, independent present-day Myanmar. The Pegu Club was a gentleman’s club that catered to the senior British military officers stationed there. The Prince of Wales and George Orwell both dined there. The British writer Rudyard Kipling stopped in on his brief visit to Rangoon and observed that…

“The Pegu Club seemed to be full of men on their way up or down, and the conversation was but an echo of the murmur of conquest far away to the north.”1

To me, this makes it sound like some backwater of the Empire, with officers biding their time before moving on to greater colonial glories in India.

During World War II, the Japanese took control of Rangoon and the Pegu Club, ending the British Empire’s presence there. Its legend lives on today through its signature drink – the Pegu Club cocktail, a refreshing combination of gin, Orange Curaçao, fresh lime juice and bitters. 

The Pegu Club in Rangoon, Burma

The Pegu Club in Rangoon, Burma – home of the Pegu Club Cocktail

The Pegu Club Cocktail

Pegu Club Cocktail calls for a London Dry-style gin, such as Gordon’s, Tanqueray or Bombay.  The London Dry is the style most familiar to American gin drinkers. It has the classic juniper and citrus taste that we associate with gin. As the name implies, it is very dry and light. Curaçao is a liqueur made from the fragrant peel of the laraha fruit, which was cultivated from the Valencia orange on the Southern Caribbean island of Curaçao. It is naturally clear, but color is added – blue for Blue Curaçao or orange for Orange Curaçao. You’ll see it often in tiki drinks, such as the Kamikaze or the Mai Tai.

Pegu Club Cocktail - gin, bitters and Orange Curaçao

Pegu Club Cocktail – gin, bitters and Orange Curaçao

Pegu Club Cocktail

2 oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz Orange Curaçao (you can substitute with Cointreau)
1/2 oz lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange or grapefruit twist.

1 Rudyard Kipling, From Sea to Sea, and Other Travel Sketches, Letters of Travel (1899)

The Mr. 404 cocktail

Mr. 404 Cocktail

We’re in the middle of March Madness fever, and this year, I’m particularly excited because my team, the Tennessee Volunteers, has made it to the Sweet 16 round!. They play tonight, and because the Vols are known as the Big Orange, I need an appropriately  orange-colored cocktail to celebrate. A quick look at my bar and the bottle of bright orange Aperol popped out at me. I wanted to find an Aperol cocktail that wasn’t an Aperol Spritz, so looking online, I found one that was originally from the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide. It combined Aperel, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, vodka and fresh lemon juice to make a bright, refreshing mix – The Mr. 404 Cocktail.  

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The Blood and Sand cocktail, made with blood orange

The Blood and Sand Cocktail

The Blood and Sand cocktail is a throwback to the Prohibition-era days when Rudolph Valentino was one of the greatest stars of the Silver Screen. Named after “the Sheik”‘s 1922 movie, this classic cocktail is one of the few that uses scotch as it’s base. Like many cocktails from that era, the recipe could be found in Harry Cradock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book”

Rudolph Valentino's "Blood and Sand" movie poster

Rudolph Valentino’s “Blood and Sand” movie poster

Using Scotch in a cocktail

There are not too many scotch cocktails around. Scotch has such a distinctive smoky taste, that it is very difficult to combine with other flavors and not have it overwhelm the whole drink. And, let’s be honest.  If you’re going to drink a good scotch, you’re probably going to drink it neat or with a little ice and water. The Blood and Sand cocktail is a scotch cocktail worth breaking out the good stuff to try. It’s a satisfying combination of the smokiness of the scotch and the sweetness of the blood orange, cherry heering and vermouth. For this cocktail recipe, I did use a very nice, single-malt scotch, Ardbeg. Some people actually prefer to use a milder, scotch blend, such as Dewar’s or Johnnie Walker. 

Blood and Sand Cocktail ingredients

Blood and Sand Cocktail ingredients – cherry heering, sweet vermouth, scotch and blood orange

 

Blood Orange Slices

Blood Orange Slices

Blood Oranges

Blood orange is a sweet orange with a dark red pulp. On the outside, if looks very similar to any other orange, but when you slice one open, it looks almost like a dark ruby red grapefruit, but a lot sweeter. Like many oranges, the blood orange is native to the Mediterranean, but has been cultivated in the U.S. for quite a while. It is a seasonal market find, with the best blood oranges to be found from November to February.

Blood Orange Slice

Blood Orange Slice

The Blood and Sand Cocktail

1 oz scotch (blended or single-malt is fine)
1 oz. fresh blood orange juice
3/4 oz. cherry heering
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
orange peel or maraschino cherry to garnish

Place ice in a cocktail shaker. Pour in the scotch, fresh blood orange juice, cherry herring and sweet vermouth. Shake until chilled. Pour into an old-fashioned cocktail glass, then garnish with a wedge of orange peel or a maraschino cherry.

If you want to get fancy, you can do the trick that I showed you a couple of weeks ago… flaming the orange peel. I’ve got pictures posted on how to do this over at my Tangerine Drop Martini blog post.

Cheers!

Flaming the Orange Peel over a Tangerine Drop Martini

Flaming the Orange Peel over a Tangerine Drop Martini

Tangerine Drop Martini

Tangerine Drop Martini

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. 

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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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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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Homemade Grenadine and an El Presidente Cocktail

Homemade Grenadine

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.

Pomegranate Seeds

Pomegranate Seeds

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