Before cocktails became as popular as they are now, it was easy to entertain at parties. Some chilled beers, bottles of wine, and some wine openers and your party was ready. Maggie Hoffman’s new book, Batch Cocktails": Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion, makes creating craft cocktails for parties easier for everyone.
On Living Dayton yesterday (27 Dec 17), I showed a couple of simple to make cocktails for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Simple cocktails are great for parties. They do not take much time to make if you have to do them individually and can be absolute crowd pleasers. As impressive as a drink is with multiple ingredients and unique elements, there is a reason that margaritas and Manhattans maintain their popularity. Old Fashioneds fall into that category as well. Ask twenty bartenders how to make one, and odds are you will get at least fifteen different versions.
An Old Fashioned works with three ingredients. There is a base spirit, usually whiskey, a sweetener, usually sugar, and bitters of some sort. Recipes exist that have oranges, cherries, soda water, rum, and all manner of other changes made to that basic formula. It is one of the reasons that no matter what bar you go to, there is never a problem ordering and Old Fashioned. As you can see, most bars and homes have the ingredients needed to make one.
Maple Old Fashioned
2 oz. rye-heavy bourbon or rye whiskey
.5 oz. maple syrup
3-4 dashes Angostura bitters
Glass: Old Fashioned
Garnish: Orange zest
Pour all of the ingredients into a mixing glass over ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into an Old Fashioned glass over ice. Twist the zest over the cocktail and add it to the drink.
This goes with the pork dish you might be having on New Year's Day. Pork is eaten on the first day of the year to ensure good fortune in the coming days. Central European countries, Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and the rest, eat pig because the pig cannot look behind it. It is always "rooting forward" to find food or get to where it is going. This always forward drive by our porcine friends is why their meat is considered good luck, and that tradition moved into the Midwest as the people of those countries immigrated there. If you cannot eat pork, pig-shaped cookies and candies are also considered part of the good luck ritual.
Sparkling New Year
1 oz. brandy (Optional)
.5 oz. orange liqueur
1 oz. cranberry juice
Sweet sparkling wine
Glass: Champagne or Coupe
Garnish: Orange zest
Pour the brandy, orange liqueur, and cranberry juice into a mixing tin over ice. Shake until chilled, 20 - 30 seconds, then strain into the flute or coupe. Top with the champagne. Twist the zest over the cocktail and add it to the drink.
How can you do New Year's without something sparkling? Champagne has been a vehicle for celebrations for centuries, ever since the British figured out how the process worked. The bitter cold winters in England helped, because even fermentation was not willing to continue in the cold. This left some undigested sugars in the wine, which created the sparkle when the process fired back up in the spring.
This cocktail would be difficult to make over and over again quickly. The best solution to serve this to a large group of people? Turn it into a punch!
Sparkling New Year Punch
1.5 cups brandy (Optional)
1 cup orange liqueur
6 cups cranberry juice
2 750 mL bottles sweet sparkling wine
Glass: Punch Cup
Garnish: Cranberries and Orange Slices
Pour all of the ingredients except the champagne into a sealable container the day before the party. This will allow all of the flavors to blend overnight. When you are ready to serve, fill a punch bowl half full of ice. Pour the blended mix over the ice. Then add the two bottles of champagne, cranberries, and orange slices just before the party begins. Arrange some cups by the bowl and allow people to serve themselves!
Be aware that punches have a kick. Removing the brandy from the recipe is not going to dull the flavor, but it will pull back on the alcohol content.
Here are two cocktails that are sure to add to your guests' enjoyment of welcoming the new year! Pick up these extra ingredients while you are out purchasing your party favors, pork, and sauerkraut over the weekend and safely enjoy the beginning of 2018.
The flavors and food of winter do everything they can to keep a person warm on the inside while trying to stay warm on the outside. Thicker, richer foods are enjoyed and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice are distributed freely in recipes. This is not limited to the cookies and other dishes that will find their way to the holiday table. Cocktails see these flavors as well. Drinks that go back to a time well before there was the term "cocktail." The two best-known cocktails of the season, wassail and eggnog, feature these flavors as a key component of their profiles.
While you may not be familiar with the beverage in question, you are certainly familiar with the song about it. It is a traditional activity in Europe where a group of people would go door to door singing songs and receiving a cup of wassail for their efforts. This is well before the days of readily available indoor entertainment. Wassail (or gluhwein in the Germany states and Austria-Hungary), was a mulled wine with all of those winter warming spices, as well as some orange and lemon zest and juice. Well, the wealthy used wine. The middle classes and the poor made this same concoction with brown ale. It was still rich and warm, but not quite the same experience one would have in a more affluent neighborhood. It is a cocktail that is made be the batch, which is perfect for winter events at the home.
Wassail (Gluhwein) Recipe, from Chowhound
- 2 medium lemons
- 2 medium oranges
- 10 whole cloves
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
- 2 (750-milliliter) bottles dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Beaujolais Nouveau
- 1/2 cup brandy
- Butcher’s twine
Garnish: Orange twist (optional)
- Remove the zest from the lemons and oranges in wide strips, avoiding the white pith; place the zest in a large saucepan. Juice the lemons and oranges and add the juice to the pan. Place the cloves and cardamom in a small piece of cheesecloth, tie it tightly with butcher’s twine, and add the bundle to the saucepan.
- Add the sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks, place the pan over high heat, and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by about one-third, about 20 minutes.
- Add the red wine and brandy, stir to combine and bring just to a simmer (don’t let it boil). Remove from the heat and remove and discard the spice bundle before serving.
Eggnog is a trick beast; either you are a fan of it or you cannot keep it far enough away from your glass. It is a thick drink, which is one of the reasons people avoid this cocktail. The foundation of the drink can be found not in other cocktails, but desserts like a custard or a posset. The other is that most people have only tried the store made version. Making it at home for a party, like most culinary treats, is far better than what one would find in the store. It does take some effort to make, but it is well worth it. You can spice it and add liquor to taste. As far as the liquor in this one goes, that is also a matter of taste. From a historic perspective, brandy would be the most likely choice to add to the mix, but rum or bourbon are equally fine selections. The version I created adds an extra flavor, chocolate, that merges well with the nutmeg and cinnamon that is traditional.
1.5 oz. bourbon (or brandy, or rum...)
3 oz. cold cocoa (recipe below)
.5 oz. simple syrup
1 medium egg white
Garnish: Cinnamon stick (optional)
Pour all of the ingredients into a mixing tin over ice. Shake hard for 20 - 30 seconds. Strain the mixture into the empty tin, then discard the ice. Shake again hard for up to two minutes, breaking up the egg whites and making them frothy. Pour into the prepared glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick if desired.
1/2 c. dark cocoa powder
3/4 c. white sugar
Pinch of salt
1/3 c. boiling water
3.5 c. milk
1/2 c. half and half
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Bring the water to boiling. Add the cocoa, sugar, and salt to the water when boiling then stir. When the mixture becomes a paste, add the milk, half and half, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the mix and bring the temperature back up. Do NOT let it boil. Once the temperature is back up, add the vanilla extract. If desired, add more cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.
There is much more incentive to go out singing, sledding, skiing or performing any other winter activity when you have warming cocktails like this at home waiting for you. Enjoy the winter!