It didn’t sneak up on me this year. I planned, recruited cohorts to bring cocktails, secured last-minute kitchen help (thank you S.!), invited new bloggers, and – in an uncharacteristic flash of Martha Stewart-like craftiness – made a center piece. Don’t know what that was about. . .
In year three, Obscure Holiday Cocktails officially became a tradition.
S. outdid herself (again) with cheese pairings, and the cocktails kicked ass! Seriously. All (at least to my taste) were great. So much so, that I actually got a little nostalgic about the gnarly Grinch and the revolting Christmas Pudding – ghosts of cocktail parties past.
But on to the details of 2011:
First Up – Christmas Bellringer
My contribution was this citrusy, boozy little number. A cousin to last year’s tropical crowd pleaser, The Ulimate Holiday, the Bellringer was tart with a nutty edge. More complex than a Screwdriver, but orange-juicy and pleasant, it’s the kind of drink that sneaks up on you. Again, more Santa Monica than Santa Claus, but whose judging? Methinks the dark of early December makes me crave the beach.
1 oz Gin
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz Frangelico
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Pairing: Caprichio De Cabra, a Spanish goat cheese high in fat and protein plowed through the drink’s tart sweetness and draped my tongue in a happy hug.
Bottom Line: The fruity cointreau and the nutty frangelico totally mask the gin. Proceed carefully.
Next – Greek Airmail
A. twisted this vintage spirit around with a liquor from his heritage (the Greek Metaxa subbed for rum) and produced a fragrant winner. Earthy from the biting tonic and bitters, sweet from the honey, tart from the lime and fresh from the mint. Balanced is the word. Much like the man, himself.
1-1/2 oz Metaxa
3/4 oz Lime juice
1 oz Honey
Splash Q Tonic
Dash of bitters
Pairing: England’s Keen’s cheddar – more nutty than sharp – added one more dimension to the flavor frenzy. Nice.
Bottom Line: A terrific aperitif. I recommend it as a start to an evening.
Then – Lion’s Pride
Adam took delicious liberties with a seasonal tipple revealed by the bartender at Brunswick’s beer mecca. Hence the name. Very, very adult with a peppery finish, this frothy concoction won my heart. It featured bitters (a popular ingredient this year) and was like nothing I’ve sipped before. Herbal, with a smooth base from the egg white, it rolled around in my mouth like a savory sauce until the twin kicks of lime and pepper asserted themselves. Sublime.
1 oz St.Germain
1 oz Gin
Portion of egg white
Dash Peychaud Bitters
Shake and top with lime zest and black pepper
Pairing: Valencay, a goat’s milk covered in ash, was a grown up cheese for a grown up drink. Instead of countering the Lion’s Pride’s flavors, it matched them. Brilliant.
Bottom Line: Classic yet original. Smooth yet spicy. If only folks referred to me this way!
And Then – Whispers of the Frost
I adore the name (so, granted, I was predisposed) but Vrylena’s beverage continued the evening’s winning streak. Culled from Old Mr. Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide (I sense V is just as enamored by such-titled things as I) this delicately named drink is anything but. Powered sugar and citrus barely tame three dark, potent alcohols. Subtle it is not. But truly luscious. It went straight to my head.
1 oz Bourbon
1 oz Sherry
1 oz Port
Dash of Powdered Sugar
Serve with slices of lemon and orange
Pairing: My pick for best pairing of the night. A Bayley Hazen Blue stared the high alcohol content of Whispers of the Frost right in the eye and didn’t back down.
Bottom Line: A couple of these and you’ll be ho ho ho-ing. Ergo, this cocktail is not advisable for office parties.
Finally – Tom & Jerry
Kate continued her nog-ish ways again this year with a creamy warm Tom & Jerry. Two years ago, I dissed the Rye Flip for being an anemic cousin to Egg Nog. Tom & Jerry caused me to reconsider that assessment. Like the flip, it’s thinner and less weighty than nog, but offers the same velvety, pie-like spice that saucily chortles, “Christmas.” Without the heaviness.
1 Cup Sugar
1 Bottle Brandy
Pairing: S. rightly skipped the cheese this round and presented us with not one, but TWO, delectable homemade chocolates: Ghost Chili Salt Bark (with salt from Gryffon Ridge Spice Merchants in Dresden, ME) and Guittard Chocolate with Candied and Roasted Marcona Almonds and Sea Salt. Yes, the women is my hero.
Bottom Line: A lovely way to end a lovely evening.
Other highlights? S. brought the best deviled eggs I’ve ever had the honor of devouring and Steffi (the awesome owner of Schulte & Herr) popped in for the Christmas Bellringer round and left behind (bless her) a plate of her restaurant’s signature lox. All and all, a successful night of imbibing, noshing and gaiety.
Blogger’s Note: Check out the insights and thoughts of the other participants at their blogs at the links above!