Friday, December 9, 2011

Beyond Egg Nog: Get in the Holiday Spirits

Egg Nog is probably the most dreaded of holiday drinks.  Heavy, difficult to make (who wants to separate eggs for a cockatil!), and high in calories, you can probably do better.  Thankfully we have a whole bunch of cocktail drinks to help you discover the perfect drink for your next holiday party!:

Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff (2002).
641.874 DEG
Find it in the Catalog!

Dale DeGroff is one of the most well-known bartenders in the world and is credited with creating the modern Cosmo.  This book is a great reference guide to all things cocktails.  There are primers on cocktail ingredients, bar tools, and creating garnishes.  If you are starting to become a cocktail nerd, this book is perfect for you.  But even seasoned mixologist will find something to admire in DeGroff's 500 recipes!

Crowd Pleasers:  The Bloody Mary Buffet (p. 88-9) screams winter brunch.  DeGroff is known in part for the Cosmo, so you might want to check out either the original or one of his variants (Cosmopolitan Delight, Strawberry Cosmo, all on p. 108). 

Heather Recommends:  The Absinthe no.2 (p.72) is one of the more palatable ways to partake in the green fairy, but it's only recommended if you are familiar with absinthe's acquired taste and can handle it's extremely high proof.  It's a drink best sipped.  The Aviation (p.78) is a nice smooth gin drink accented with lemon and maraschino cherry liqueur. 

The Essential Cocktail by Dale DeGroff (2008) .
641.874 DEG
Find it in the catalog!

While Craft of Cocktail has volume on it's side, Essential Cocktail goes into greater detail about the drinks included.  Also, almost all drinks are accompanied by a picture (for you visual drinkers).  This is a great book to learn about the history of a drink as well as the techniques of making a drink work.

Crowd Pleasers:  The Chai Toddy (p. 52) sound like a nice twist on a classic winter drink.  Kir (p.82) is always a nice brunch cocktail or aperitif.  I make a variation called Rose Royale which use Chicago-based Koval Distillery's Rose Hip Liqueur.  Port-Whiskey Punch (p. 204) sounds like a fine winter punch, as I'm for anything with whiskey in the colder months.

Heather Recommends:  The Manhattan (p. 32) is probably my favorite classic cocktail besides the Old Fashioned.  Simple, elegant, it never goes out of style.  But I garnish with three cherries instead of DeGroff's recommend one.  

Jellyshot Test Kitchen by Michelle Palm (2011).
641. 874 PAU
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I'm more of a cocktail person, but these jelly shots look really cute and impressive.  They are sure to liven up any New Year's Eve party. The author gives lots of instructions on how to make different shapes and recipes are ranked by difficulty.  They have Shirley Temple shots too. 

Crowd Pleasers:  The Cucumber-Lime Saketini (p.80) looks so cute served in a soup spoon.  Grasshopper (p.100) is a minty holiday drink.  Peanut Butter and Jelly Martini (p. 144) and White Chocolate Martini (p.171) will probably appeal to drinkers who like sweet drinks.  The Pink Squirrel (p. 151) looks so adorable and has a great name.

Heather recommends:  I don't do Jelly Shots, but curiosity would make me try the Old Fashioned (p.143) or the Side Car (p.16).   The Lemon Drop sounds okay too (p. 115).

Mix Shake Stir by Danny Meyer (2009).
 641.874 MEY
 Find it in the catalog!

This book is for do-it-yourselfers who don't mind infusing their own liquor or making their own lavender syrup.  I'm a little too lazy to make most of the cocktails in this book.  However, I appreciate the author's selection seasonal cocktails.  Also, these drinks are definitely show stoppers.  So if you want to impress your friends and family, highly recommended.

Crowd Pleasers:  There are a whole bunch of winter drinks here that look delicious: Winter Vacation (p.113) which combines scotch, creme de violette, and lavender, Winter Solstice (p.136) a combo of rosemary pear nectar and brandy, and Winter Mojito (p. 166) which is accented with dark rum and drunken cranberries.  The Kentucky Cream (p.173) sounds like a classy version of egg nog.  Also, I love that it is served in a mason jar.

Heather Recommends:  Their version of the Old Fashioned (p.26) sounds like the dressed up version of my everyday version.

Speakeasy by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric (2010).
641.874 KOS
Find it in the catalog!

This is by my far my favorite book on the list.  Written by the guys behind Employees Only, a hot NYC cocktail bar, this book is full of interesting twists on classic drinks.  They do have some syrups and bitters you have to DIY, but many of the drinks can be made with relative ease.  Best of all, Kosmas and Zaric are huge cocktail nerds, you get lots of cocktail history here!

Crowd Pleasers: Amelia (p.61) is a blackberry martini with hints of elderberry- fruity but not too sweet.  I haven't got around to making Fraise Sauvage yet, a which combines champagne, gin and strawberries, but it sounds like a winning combo.  It's on the shortlist for my own holiday party menu.

Heather recommends:  The Negroni (p.42) has steadily become my go-to-drink.  It's a smoky and complex combination of Campari, gin, and vermouth.  I use Old Tom gin, which helps eliminate any bitter aftertaste.  I'm also a big fan its sister drink, the Boulevardier, which has whiskey instead of gin. 

Web resourceCocktalia is my number one resource for drink recipes.  There is a big selection of both mainstream and more obscure drinks.  The site's blogger honestly appraises recipes: how they turned out and what he would change.  I've found many winners.

Crowd Pleasers:  The Calvados Cocktail is an appletini done right: it's not green, it isn't too sweet, and it doesn't have vodka in it.  However, it's accessible to pretty much anyone.  The Dingbat is a pleasant, sweet whiskey drink made with orange juice and Lillet Blanc.  The Gin-Gin-Gin Mule is a nice summer drink that would probably hold up in the winter.  Instead of ginger syrup, I use Koval's ginger liqueur. 

Heather Recommends:  I've linked to some of my favorites all ready.  Additionally, I love the French Gimlet, a combo of gin, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur and lime.  I use Ransom Old Tom gin which makes the cocktail look gold and cuts the bitterness.  Corpse Reviver #2 dates back to pre-prohibition times and is truly delicious.  This could be a crowd pleaser, but it's hard to make en masse.  Also, I serve mine with a maraschino cherry in the bottom and use 1 oz. of everything (instead of 3/4 oz.).  Finally, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail is a good lazy night cocktail. I skip the simple syrup and put in a maraschino cherry (no surprise there).

Happy holidays and drink responsibly!