Is it the New Year already? It seems like Thanksgiving of 2017 was just yesterday. But what makes this time of the year most exciting for me is the creativity in the drinks. Sure, I’m tasting all sorts of mixed drinks- but the ones that I really want to taste are precisely the ones that mean memories for me. Those would be the hot ones. The drinks that go down my throat and make each sniff or sip something unique and friendly.
We survived the holidays, now we need some comfort at the end of the day- or if you are exceptionally optimistic- first thing in the morning. You see, a hot toddy is not just for the after dinner / before bed experience. Some even are just as refreshing and calming for a breakfast slurp. Not that I’m advocating morning drinking! Far from… But at the end of the day- where night turns to day- I’m looking towards drinks that have a robust nature to them. Tea based is a good place to start and no other tea works for morning than a rambunctious Lapsang Souchong tea from China. This tea is heavily smoked and takes to botanical gin with a ‘how do you do’ that is reminiscent of Singapore before the Opium Wars. It’s served as it should be in a perfectly formed, hand-made, porcelain teacup. A simple sprig of chive rests gently over the steaming liquid- bitter chive against smoky tea. The vivid green color against the brownish steaming tea. Quite elegant and this drink is absolutely perfect as a breakfast sipper during brunch. And served in a teacup, no one knows your business- it’s steaming, right? Of course, I used the Breakfast Gin from FEW Spirits.
If you have a bottle of this handcrafted spirit behind your bar, now is the time to make good use of it. First, I rub the zest of an orange around the inside of the preheated porcelain tea cup- be gentle, this is not a race! I then crush some whole leaves of Lapsang Souchong tea between my fingers and drop them in the bottom of the cup. Pretty easy so far. Then, one to two ounces of gin moistens the tea leaves- let that sit for a minute or so, and then cover with freshly made Lapsang Souchong tea. Sugar is never permitted so don’t ask- nor put it out for the guest. The chive should rest on top of the tea offering both color and balance. It’s really quite elegant to look at. And what did it cost? Next to nothing really. The gin? The tea? Your time?
Walnut Liqueur is a delicacy of Italy and California. It is usually served up, in a glass befitting the expensive sipper- but do you know what else to do with this historic spirit made from walnuts? The most delicious presentations involve condensed milk and a bit of regular milk- heated together until they just begin to spin into caramel. Then you add the precious walnut liqueur, drop by precious drop until the liquid begins to take on the color of the walnut liqueur and the hot, richly scented, thickly textured milk. Poured into a preheated, rustic coffee cup and topped with a fresh scraping of a walnut- dribbled with black walnut bitters… This is so delicious! You must try one- or two!
Hot Chocolate should be on your drink menu. Not that powdered mix- what an embarrassment to use that stuff- throw it out! It’s really important to be proud of your ingredients. Take pride in them- people will always remember a pot of hot chocolate, served in a dark-wooden handled pot. Poured gently and elegantly into a thick-walled mug, scrapings of bitter chocolate over the top, and fresh nutmeg too! But what liquor should you use? I use rum from Barbados named Foursquare. It’s not caramel colored, nor is any sugar re-added to cover up for errors. Foursquare should be on your bar because it is the very best at NOT doing what most rum distilleries do- and that’s smoke and mirrors! They don’t manipulate their rum. End of that story!
A fine drink for your guests should be a milk punch. Down at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans you can ask Marvin Allen to make you a Brandy Milk Punch. Although not a hot toddy, you’ll feel awfully hot, deep down in your bones after ordering a couple of his famous drinks. And if you cannot get down to New Orleans before next year’s Tales of the Cocktail, here is my Cocktail Whisperer’s interpretation of Marvin’s Brandy Milk Punch. I’ve never asked, and he’s never told me how- so this is how I do it- in honor of Marvin.
Brandy Milk Punch (Cocktail Whisperer style)
- 1 oz. Bourbon Whiskey (Barrell makes the one that I love)
- 1 oz. American Brandy (I used Catoctin Creek instead of basic brandy- your guest is worth it!)
- 3 oz. Heavy Cream
- 3 oz. Regular (Whole) Milk
- ¼ oz. REAL vanilla extract
- Scraping of nutmeg
- Plenty of ice
- Angostura Bitters
- Add fresh ice to a Boston Shaker
- Add the bourbon and the brandy
- Add the Bitters- couple of shakes will do
- Add the nutmeg and the vanilla extract
- Add the heavy cream
- Add the milk
- Add more ice if necessary
- Cap and Shake really hard for about thirty seconds
- Pour into two Rocks glasses and top with fresh nutmeg
- Serve with a New Orleans, first milk punch of the day- smile!