A punch for Hanukkah parties


Last year, I created this Hanukkah-themed punch for Liquor.com. If you’re celebrating the Festival of Lights with friends or family, it’s the perfect excuse to make a batch. Head on over to Liquor.com to read the full story with tips on how to throw a Hanukkah party. And if you need more punch ideas (or a holiday gift?), please order a copy of my book Cocktails for a Crowd.


Contributed by Kara Newman

Serves 16

Potato latkes—often served with applesauce—is an iconic Hanukkah dish. Without getting too literal, here’s a cocktail interpretation of that seasonal favorite. Serve in a punch bowl, with a platter of fresh latkes nearby, of course.

  • 24 oz potato vodka
  • 24 oz apple cider
  • 12 oz lemon juice
  • 8 oz ginger liqueur
  • 32 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Lemon slices and whole cloves, for garnish

The night before: freeze a big block of punchbowl ice:  Pour water into disposable tin loaf pans (fill about halfway) and freeze overnight. When ready to serve punch, peel off the tins. Alternatively, use a bowl instead of a tin pan to create rounded ice. Run the bowl briefly under hot water to release the ice mold.

The day of the party: Add all ingredients to a punch bowl large enough to hold at least 10 cups of liquid. Stir to combine. Add the block of ice, and stir again to chill. Garnish with lemon slices studded with cloves. To serve, ladle into punch cups or tea cups.

The drink you need for your 4th of July party: The Rosemary Refresher


The Rosemary Refresher

photo credit: Teri Lyn Fisher

It’s possible that I may I love this drink a little too much. I made a batch for a book signing event on Saturday, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

A few random thoughts on this drink:

  • Although it was created to be a pitcher drink, if it’s going to sit out for longer than a few minutes before guests gulp it down in a thirsty frenzy, do not add ice! This drink is best when chilled, but loses all its oomph when it gets watered down. Mix it up and set it in a bottle or carafe, and pour it over ice to serve, if it’s going to sit for any length of time. (if serving right away, the pitcher method is just fine, though.)
  • If any rosemary syrup (and/or lime juice) is left over, refrigerate it and save it. Sunday night, I used this template to create an enjoyable Rosemary Daiquiri (though I used 2 oz white rum, not 2.5 oz aged rum). Tuesday night, I found inspiration here to make a rosemary-tinged gin Gimlet.
  • The rosemary sprig garnish is optional. But it makes the drink look really impressive.

The Rosemary Refresher

From Cocktails for a Crowd, by Kara Newman (Chronicle Books)

Serves 8
Total volume: 4 3/4 cups (without ice)

This sophisticated margarita variation is a wonderful thirst-quenching aperitif. The recipe makes a bit more rosemary-infused simple syrup than needed for the cocktails. Offer the leftover portion in a small pitcher for anyone who isn’t drinking alcohol so they can enjoy it mixed with club soda or ginger ale.

Rosemary Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
5 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 cups reposado tequila
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
4 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
6 ounces rosemary-infused simple syrup
4 cups ice cubes
8 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

To make the rosemary syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved. When the syrup starts to boil, lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Gently roll the rosemary between your hands to release some of the aromatic oils, then add it to the syrup. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then remove the rosemary sprigs and strain the syrup if need be. Stored in a covered container in the refrigerator, the syrup will keep for about 2 weeks.

To make the cocktails: In pitcher that holds at least 10 cups, combine the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and rosemary simple syrup and stir until thoroughly blended. Add the ice and stir well.

To serve, pour into rocks glasses and garnish each glass with a rosemary sprig.

Tequila tasting/tequila party photo

What do friendly, sociable people do when presented with too many bottles of tequila? They throw a party, of course!

Our gracious hosts, Jeff & Mike

I haven’t talked about this yet on the blog, but I’ve recently taken on the role of Spirits Reviewer for Wine Enthusiast magazine, where I’ve been a longtime contributor. So, far this gig seems to entail: 1) receive far too many bottles of whatever spirit I’m reviewing that month 2) sample said spirit 3) render (hopefully useful) opinion. Seriously, some days I can’t believe I get paid to do what has to be one of the best jobs in the world.

But what do I do with those extra bottles after I’ve turned in my ratings? Mostly, I give them away to my office-mates, who have all developed some kind of eerie alcohol-radar that alerts them to the presence of free booze from 20 feet away.

But travel and wine writers Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen (aka the “World Wine Guys“) went a few steps further after they completed their tequila/travel article for Wine Enthusiast. They not only threw a great party with their tequila spoils, they also treated their guests to an impromptu tequila class and guided tasting, educating all of us on how tequila is made, various ages, etc., and encouraged us to taste through various brands and varieties (the group favorite seemed to be Corzo anejo).

And of course, that segued right into a tequila party, with pitchers of Margaritas, Palomas, and other great tequila libations. 

Thanks again for a great party, guys!

Spice & Ice virtual cocktail party: still partying on!

What can I say. I thought the Spice & Ice virtual cocktail party was really & truly over. I even wrote a party post-mortem. But no, some partyers are just sooo fabulous, they will only party on their own schedules. Think of this as the exclusive after-after-party, the one that you don’t hear about until 3 days after the event.  But oh, what  a time they had!

Click through to read the full account and and see the photos  – in particular, Selena @ Dizzy Fizz has some gorgeous snaps taken by Lush Life Productions.

Spicy Cucumber Margarita:  “The shakers were rattling all night–my friends, whether cocktail buffs or newbies, couldn’t get enough of the pale green rascals…Any fresh-ingredient bar should be offering this cocktail for this time of year–cool, fresh muddled cucumber paired with a slice of jalapeno, your sweetener of choice, lime juice, and your favorite agave spirit–it’s a simple-yet-invigorating drink that you can have all night.” —The Dizzy Fizz

Blackberry-Poblano Margarita:  “This is a super sipper for warm weather relaxation. I actually like my margaritas nice & limey, so in addition to the ingredients in Kara’s recipe below (excerpted from Spice & Ice), I added about ¼ of fresh lime juice. Delicious!” —Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, The Liquid Muse

Afterparty: how we interact with cocktails

As I’m wrapping up the experiment called the “virtual cocktail party,” I’d also like to pause and 1) profusely thank everyone who took the time to participate and 2) look back at the myriad ways everyone interacted with the drinks – to me, the most interesting part of this event.

It was apparent from the get-go that people incorporate drinks into their lives in different ways. For The Busy Hedonist, his-and-hers drinks were a way to relax with the hubby after a long day, baby safely tucked in bed; for Charmian Christie, it was a bubbly toast for her sister’s engagement; and for Judy Bennett, the party crossed the line from “virtual” to “reality,” as she served up Produce Stand drinks to real-life guests at a party to celebrate the opening of the Portland Spa.

Others took delightfully cocktail-geeky joy in analyzing and deconstructing drinks (tweaking drinks, by the way, was encouraged, “based on your taste, ingredient availability, or simply because you know better”). Just look how Cocktail Hacker and Marleigh Riggins Miller drilled down on every ingredient, or Dr Bamboo’s complete transformation of the Dragonfire into the even more fiery “Drago Amaro.”

Still others showcased the visual aspect of drinks, proving that looks count toward our enjoyment.  Diva on a Diet created a sexy orange-peel garnish for the Fall Spice Cordial, and ended up with an absolutely stunning photo; ditto for Cocktail Hacker’s luscious round of blood orange floated atop a martini glass. And “Foodie Princess” Heather Jones added a salt-and-pepper rim to her Red Dawn glass, a zesty touch that left me thinking, “Now why didn’t I think of that?”

Seasonal ingredients also played a part – For a week, I found myself checking Twitter daily to follow Rachel Kuptz of Girly-Drinks as she chased down the first of the early-Spring fresh rhubarb. Would she be able to get her hands on some or not? In the end she did, and her result was the prettiest rhubarb-pink “girly drink” of them all.

Thank you again to our fabulous bloggers – and if you missed the party, here’s the full set of links:  click, sip, enjoy!

Spice & Ice Virtual Cocktail Party, part 1

Spice & Ice Virtual Cocktail Party, part 2

Spice & Ice Virtual Cocktail Party, part 3

Spice & Ice Virtual Cocktail Party, part 4

Spice & Ice virtual cocktail party, part 4

Every party – including the virtual variety! – has a few late stragglers, those who arrive fashionably, even fabulously, late.  But I think you’ll agree these divas are worth the wait. Taetopia treats us to a particularly memorable blog entry written from the point of view of the drink, (Oh my. Every time I read this one, it gets a little bit funnier!)  while Big Night In author Domenica Marchetti shows us how to do cocktails at home, Oscar style. Welcome to the party, we’re so glad you’re here!

This is the final installment in the party, as a dynamic group of bloggers, cocktailians, food/drink writers, and authors make drinks from Spice & Ice and “bring it to the party” on their respective blogs, and mine. Please click through to read the full stories behind each drink, and thanks for joining the party!

Blackberry-Poblano Margarita:  “Kara, daaaahling, I’m so sorry I’m late. Yes, yes, I know the party started eons ago, but my dear Felix absolutely insisted I stop by the market to pick up some blackberries for my perfume. The scent drives him wild with passion, and you know I simply can not deny him anything…Your book party is a smashing success, my dear! I haven’t seen so many well-dressed peppers in one place since my cotillion.” —Taetopia

Red Dawn:  “The amount of harissa specified is 1/2 teaspoon, but in the headnote to her recipe, Kara throws down this glove: ‘Masochist alert: double the amount of harissa if you dare!’  Which, of course I did.  The full teaspoon turned out to be just the right amount for this jaded palate; in fact, I may even kick it up a little more next time. The drink was sharp, savory, and yet refreshing.” —Domenica Marchetti, author of Big Night In

Spice & Ice virtual cocktail party, part 3

The party continues, as a dynamic group of bloggers, cocktailians, food/drink writers, and authors make drinks from Spice & Ice and “bring it to the party” on their respective blogs, and mine.  Once again, please click through to read the full stories behind each drink.

Some participants from the group took the “virtual cocktail party” even further….hosting real-life parties. Which I totally endorse. Take a look:

The Produce Stand:  “It went perfectly with all the freshly bronzed bodies running around. With fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, and lime, you get a mouthful of summer in every sip.” —Judy Bennett 

Blood Orange-Jalapeno Margarita:  “This is a recipe with a little leeway: Spicy/mellow, tart/sweet – play with it and see what works best for you.  The resulting drink had a robust but balanced mixture of flavors. I could feel the heat of the jalapeño, but even at extra-strength, it wasn’t overpowering and blended nicely with the bright, fresh taste of the citrus juice. It would make a great accompaniment to a meal – with the very first sip, I found myself craving Mexican food.” — Nora Maynard, The Kitchn

Sparkling Ginger Daisy:  “I made this zippy cocktail to start off a Friday night with two close friends, who both loved the mix of ginger and bubbles sparkling together.  It made an ordinary Friday night seem downright festive!” —Sweet Blog o’ Mine 

Spiced Iced Tea:  “I have read the book cover to cover and tried several recipes all of which are a hit in our house. Specifically what I love about them is that Kara has taken utmost care that the drinks taste like drinks and not science experiments! After all the joy of a cocktail is that it should be fun and satisfying and yet have a bit of a surprise in each sip and her drinks fall under that category.” —Monica Bhide, author of Modern Spice 

Spice & Ice virtual cocktail party, part 2

The party continues, as a dynamic group of bloggers, cocktailians, food/drink writers, and authors make drinks from Spice & Ice and “bring it to the party” on their respective blogs, and mine.  Once again, please click through to read the full stories behind each drink.

This group of partyers has more cocktailian leanings than the last. In fact, very few were able to resist the temptation to tinker with the drink recipes –which is fine by me, and frankly, was encouraged!   The photos are a treat too, ranging from luscious to ethereal to downright hilarious (thanks for the drawing, Dr. Bamboo). Let’s see what they’ve brought to the party:

Blood Orange-Jalapeno Margarita:  “To summarize, the Blood Orange-Jalapeno Margarita is damn good.  You can tailor it to fit your heat tolerance and I think it would pair really well with a nice salty snack or some good southwestern food.  This is definitely a recipe I’ll be mixing up again.”  —Cocktail Hacker

Sparkling Ginger Daisy: “The original was good, but I was sure I could take it apart and pull together an all-new remix, so I set about doing just that… Light and refreshing, it is a straight-forward take on the daisy. Mine requires a bit more work, but I think making the two side-by-side is a fun experience—especially with a full bottle of sparkling wine to finish.” —Marleigh Riggins Miller, SLOSHED!

Rhubarb Cooler:  “I received a copy of Kara’s book last week and immediately found the recipe that I wanted to make: The Rhubarb Cooler. Turns out, rhubarb is ridicuously hard to find in the winter. Perhaps that’s why Kara placed this recipe in the “Spring” section of her book, but I was set on making a rhubarb cocktail.

Luckily, I found rhubarb yesterday and promptly set out to make the Rhubarb cooler this morning. I mean afternoon.” — GirlyDrinks

Dragonfire Cocktail/Drago Amaro:  “The first change I made was to swap in some Sriracha for the jalapeno. Documenting my love for Sriracha would require an entire post of its own…What I ended up with is shown below. You can drink it anytime, but given the provenance of its ingredients, it’s probably best enjoyed while watching a Fellini movie. In a Asian restaurant. With Salma Hayek.” —Dr. Bamboo

Spice & Ice virtual cocktail party, part 1

Welcome to the party!

I’ve invited a dynamic group of bloggers, cocktailians, food/drink writers, and authors to make a drink from Spice & Ice and “bring it to the party” on their respective blogs, and mine.  Credit for this idea goes to Modern Spice author Monica Bhide, who held her own “virtual potluck” a few months back (and who will be one of the party guests here as well). 

Check back over the next couple of weeks as party-goers share their stories and photos. I’ve also encouraged everyone to tweak recipes as they see fit.  Meet the first group below — and I encourage you to click through to read the full posts on the individual sites — such wonderful stories!  So pour yourself a drink, and join the party…

Fall Spice Cordial:  “So, how does it taste? Intriguing and delightful! The acidity of the orange tempers the sweet caramel notes of the bourbon; and the hint of chipotle provides a rather addictive bit of warmth on the finish. Simply put, it makes you want to take another sip – and that’s the sure sign of a well-crafted cocktail. I loved it and you will too!” Diva on a Diet / Beach Eats    

Dragonfire Cocktail:  “For over a week I was surrounded by dragons. My neighborhood, on the edges of NYC’s Chinatown, was in the midst of Chinese New Year celebrations. …So it was only natural that for the virtual cocktail party I’d make the Dragonfire Cocktail. 

The verdict: Hot stuff, but not overly so. This is a potent drink, yet it was smooth to drink… I enjoyed the lingering taste of jalapeno, lime and orange. The copious amounts (for me) of tequila acted as a potent sleeping elixir. Even if a real dragon had passed by my window that night, I’m certain I wouldn’t have heard it.”  –The Busy Hedonist 

Sparkling Ginger Daisy:   “The drink is not-too-sweet, with a lovely bite. The unexpected pairing of gin and ginger works beautifully and the grenadine adds colour to an otherwise pale beverage. I’m not usually a champagne girl, but the added fizz is perfect in this cocktail. I can see Sparkling Ginger Daisies becoming a summertime drink I could like a little too much.”  – Charmian Christie

Red Dawn:  “This drink is not your mother’s Bloody Mary… The Red Dawn cocktail gives you the familiar flavor profile that you love in a Bloody Mary and it’s frightfully easy to make. One ingredient that pulls it all together is Harissa.  Harissa is a Moroccan chili paste whose components easily replace the traditional tabasco, lemon juice, worcestershire, and celery salt combination that is normally found in a Bloody Mary. 

But please do not take my word for it.  You’ve got to try this drink for yourself.”  —Heather Jones, Project Foodie