Your ultimate New Year’s Eve cocktail: French 75 Punch

photo credit: Teri Lyn Fisher, for Cocktails for a Crowd

I know, it’s not even Christmas yet. But New Year’s Eve will be here soon enough, so I’m (re-)publishing one of my favorite celebratory punches. (PS, nothing wrong with serving this for Christmas eve either, if you choose.)  Here’s why this is the drink for your New Year’s Eve bash:

1. It’s sparkling, and you know you need something bubbly for toasting at midnight.

2. Between the fancy block of ice and simple orange-wheel slices, It looks great in a punch bowl. But it’s easy to put together and difficult to screw up. If all else fails, just pour in more bubbly.

3. As the ice melts over the course of the evening, the punch mellows a bit, but never waters down (thank you, gin), so the party keeps going until Auld Lang Syne.

French 75 Punch

From Cocktails for a Crowd

Serves 8

Total Volume: 7 3/4 cups (without ice)

The French 75 is a classic cocktail usually made with cognac, though gin is sometimes substituted, and that’s the spirit I call for in this recipe. It typically isn’t served as a punch but works quite well in this format. Serve this fresh, fragrant variation at any occasion that calls for toasting.

A simple chunk of ice, such as one frozen in a loaf pan or bowl will suffice, but for a special, decorative touch, consider freezing orange wheels inside the ice.

16 ounces (2 cups)  London dry gin
8 ounces (1 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces (3/4 cup) simple syrup
1/2 teaspoon orange bitters
32 ounces (4 cups) dry champagne or other sparkling dry white wine, chilled
1 large ice block
8 orange wheels, for garnish

In a punch bowl, combine the gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters and stir well.

Just before serving, pour in the champagne and stir gently. Add the ice and garnish with the orange wheels.

To serve, ladle into punch glasses.

Like this recipe? Sign up at The Dizzy Fizz now through Jan 16 for a chance to win a copy of Cocktails for a Crowd.

Your ultimate Thanksgiving cocktail: Spiked & Spiced Apple Cider

photo credit: Teri Lyn Fisher

photo credit: Teri Lyn Fisher, for Cocktails for a Crowd

I ran this post last year to help promote my then-new book, Cocktails for a Crowd. It was one of the most-read posts on the site all year, so I’m posting it again – enjoy!

Here’s why I’m calling this recipe “ultimate”:

1. It works with any brown liquor you have on hand: aged rum, whiskey, brandy, in whatever proportions you like.  If you have two bottles of bourbon and brandy, with just a cupful left in each? Use ’em up.  It’s like Thanksgiving leftovers for your cup.

2. You can make and serve this drink without leaving the kitchen. Face it – all your guests are gathered there anyway, right?

3. It perfumes your home with the scent of autumn– spicy, apple-y and amazing.

4. Since this drink pairs perfectly with apple cider doughnuts, you now have an excuse to buy some. You saw them at the greenmarket and wanted them anyway.

Okay, that’s enough rationalizing. Let’s drink!

“Spiked & Spiced” Apple Cider

From Cocktails for a Crowd
Serves 8
Total volume: 52 ounces, or 6 1/2 cups

At home, ladle this warming drink straight from the stove (everyone’s probably gathered in the kitchen anyway, right?) or into a teapot to serve. Alternatively, consider pouring the cider into a heatproof thermos to keep toes warm at a tailgating party.

2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole allspice berries
32 ounces (4 cups) apple cider
16 ounces (2 cups) brandy (whiskey or aged rum may be substituted)
8 Tablespoons (1/2 cup) honey

8 cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Tie together the spices inside a square of cheesecloth and secure with twine, creating a spice sachet.

In a saucepan, stir together apple cider, brandy and honey. Drop in the spice sachet. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and stir again. Discard spice sachet.

Ladle into glass mugs or tea cups and garnish each glass with a cinnamon stick.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider buying the book on Amazon: Cocktails for a Crowd. It makes a great host/hostess or holiday gift, too!

What is a cocktail recipe?

Most food writers, recipe developers, and cookbook authors will agree that a recipe contains a few basic elements:

1. The full list of ingredients.

2. The advised proportions for said ingredients.

3. Instructions for combining and preparing the ingredients, including cooking instructions and suggested tools to use.

4. Instructions for presenting and serving the finished product, i.e. “ladle into a bowl,” or “garnish with mint sprigs.”

If I’d been hired to create a recipe (food or drink), and omitted any of the above elements, I’d be fired, and deservedly so. Anyone who has tried to successfully make a recipe with any of the above elements missing will also likely agree that all of these are critical elements — and the leading reasons that otherwise good recipes fail is because the instructions are unclear, incomplete, or key ingredients have been omitted.

It puzzles me that lately, when I’ve requested drink recipes from PR pros representing bars or restaurants, what I’ve received has been a description hurriedly skimmed from an online menu. For example (and I’m deliberately excising the name of the bar and the drink’s name, since it’s not the bar’s fault), the following to my request for a punch recipe:

Pisco, Lemon-grass Syrup, Fresh Lime Juice, Ginger Juice, and egg white. Dusted with Chai Green Tea and Angostura Bitters

This is not a recipe.

I suppose I could take this as a compliment, a suggestion that surely, I’m such an insider I’ll know how to piece this list together into a cocktail recipe.

No. Not even close. There’s a big difference between 1 ounce and 1 1/2 ounces of spirit, shaken or stirred or something else altogether. Do the first two ingredients need to be combined together first before the third is added? What of those ingredients commonly omitted from menu descriptions, but critical to a successful finished dish? In the food world, you’ll rarely see olive oil or seasonings listed on the menu, for example; in the drink world, that often applies to acid/citrus and sweeteners. In this case, lime is specified, but this is not always the case. Is that simple syrup a 1:1 or 1:2 sugar to water ratio? What type of sugar is used? And a common thorn in the side of drink recipe writers (and followers) is those custom-made ingredients, such as “house-made” bitters, tinctures, etc. Tell me how to make ginger juice and lemongrass syrup.

That doesn’t mean that every drink recipe has to be standardized to the point of boring. The earliest cocktail receipt writers were masters of descriptive language. More recently, I love Dave Wondrich’s drink descriptions, in which drinks are shaken “viciously” rather than merely shaken. It’s no coincidence that Wondrich has probably logged more time immersed in early drink recipes than any other living writer. But even the oldest and floweriest recipes still contained all the needed elements for a reader to successfully replicate the drinks. For example, consider the following, from Jerry Thomas:

Glasgow Punch

(From a recipe in the possession of Dr. Shelton Mackenzie.)

Melt lump-sugar in cold water, with the juice of a couple of lemons, passed through a fine hair-strainer. This is sherbet, and must be well mingled. Then add old Jamaica rum—one part of rum to five of sherbet. Cut a couple of limes in two, and run each section rapidly around the edge of the jug or bowl, and gently squeezing in some of the delicate acid. This done, the punch is made. Imbibe.

Is this a recipe? YES. It’s not the format we commonly use today, but it tells the reader about the ingredients, how much to use, and how to prepare and serve it (jug or bowl). And extra points to Mr. Thomas for giving credit to Dr. Shelton Mackenzie, rather than simply stealing the recipe, as so many would-be recipe writers do today.

Now here’s a second, more modern, and unorthodox format, a tweeted recipe. The source here is the Mixoloseum, an online chat board populated by amateur and professional cocktail geeks, who invariably know more about cocktails than I do. Okay, this punch recipe required two tweets, which I’m conflating, but still, it shows what can be accomplished in a streamlined format:

New Zealand Rum Punch: 1oz Coruba, 1oz Oronoco, 1oz grapefruit juice, 1oz Don’s Spices, .5oz lime juice, shake with ice and dump into a pint glass, top with soda water, garnish with a lime spiral (@cocktailnerd

Is this a recipe? YES.  Ingredients and proportions? check, check. Suggested prep? check. Presentation? check. And all in 140 characters or less (times two).

So once again, I’ll present the response I received to my request for a drink recipe:

Pisco, Lemon-grass Syrup, Fresh Lime Juice, Ginger Juice, and egg white. Dusted with Chai Green Tea and Angostura Bitters

and I’ll ask:  Is this a recipe?

I”d love to hear your thoughts.

Two parties, two punches

Last week, I participated in two events, and punch was the featured libation at both. A few snaps (and recipes) to share:

Event #1:  The Holiday Spirits Bazaar – This event was hosted by The Dizzy Fizz. I was there selling copies of Spice & Ice, so of course I showcased a drink from the book, writ large in punch format.  I also had hot sauce available for sale, the hottest I could find!

Punch #1:  Sparkling Ginger Daisy Punch (click for recipe)

  
 

 

Event #2: Monastic Liqueurs & Cheeses – This was an event hosted by The Culinary Historians of New York, and focused on the rich foodways that monks have provided throughout history, and continue to provide today. The event was held at the National Arts Club, who provided the gorgeous silver punchbowl.

Recipe #2:  Alchemist Punch  The punch (recipe after the photo) showcases Benedictine, a liqueur once made by monks as long as 500 years ago. It’s not supposed to be bright red (I used blood orange puree since I couldn’t find mandarin orange puree). But it sure does look festive, doesn’t it?

Alchemist Punch

Alchemist Punch (courtesy of Benedictine)

Organic honey (50 ml)

Water (300 ml) (10 oz)

1 bottle of Benedictine (70 cl)   

Mandarine Puree/Nectar (500 ml) (16.6 oz)   

Freshly squeezed lemon juice (350 ml) (11.6 oz)

Fresh slices of lemons (2 lemons)

Fresh wedges of tangerines (3 tangerines)

Fresh thyme (for garnish)

Glassware:  Punch bowl + glasses.

Method:  Start by diluting the honey with hot water in the punch bowl. Assemble all the other ingredients, stir to harmonize all the flavors, fresh fruits last. Macerate and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Take the punch out. Serve in a cup/glass with ice cubes and garnish with fresh thyme.

Where You’ll Find Me This Weekend

There’s no need to stay thirsty this weekend!  (okay, long weekend, since I’m including Monday). Here’s what I’ll be up to – please come out and say hello!

Saturday, December 11: Holiday Spirits Bazaar (Brooklyn, NY). A one-night shopping and tasting extravaganza, benefiting the Museum of the American Cocktail. I’ll be signing & selling books, and serving up some Sparkling Ginger Daisy Punch!  Buy tickets here.

Sunday, December 12: Heritage Radio Network. Along with cheese expert Diana Pittet, I’ll be talking with cheesemonger Anne Saxelby, host of “Cutting the Curd,” about monastic heritage in cheeses and liqueurs. 

Monday, December 13: Monastic Liqueurs and Cheeses, a lecture and tasting event with cheese expert Diana Pittet and me, presented by The Culinary Historians of New York. (National Arts Club, Gramercy Park, New York — Excuse me, but have you seen what the NAC looks like all decked out for the holidays?!? Wow.) An amazing raffle basket also will be available, including a limted edition 500th anniversary bottle of Benedictine. Buy tickets here.

Drink recipe: Sparkling Ginger Daisy Punch

photo courtesy Marleigh Riggins

So far, the Sparkling Ginger Daisy has proven to be one of the most popular drinks from the Spice & Ice book. I made it at the book launch party; I made a non-alcoholic version of it on TV; and it’s even going to be appearing in a major women’s magazine very shortly (shhh….more on that soon).

And now, it’s also avaiable writ large, in punch format, at the request of clever spirits rep MIchelle Ponto, for a holiday party.  And why not? Punches are everywhere this season (thanks, Dave Wondrich!)

Hmmm. I can’t resist a challenge. It took just a couple of minutes with a measurement converter tool, and a tweak here and there. Voila!

Sparkling Ginger Daisy PUNCH!

 Yield:  enough for 8 guests. Double this recipe for 16 guests (or 8 hard-drinkin’ types)

1 cup Plymouth gin

1 cup Domaine de Canton

1 cup lemon juice

½ cup grenadine (or a little less – some people find the recipe as is a little too pink)

Approx. 2 cups Brut Champagne, Prosecco, or other sparkling wine.

In a large punchbowl, stir together gin, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, and grenadine. Add large chunks of ice to keep everything chilled (such as frozen in a round Bundt pan). Add the sparkling wine, and stir again.

Serve with a ladle, and consider keeping a bowl of maraschino cherries next to the punchbowl for guests to garnish their own drinks.