When I picture my perfect Memorial Day -- meaning the Monday proper, after most of us have had our share of barbecue beers and whatnot -- what I'd really like to do on that day is sit on a porch, in a nice, big, comfy chair (rocking, or Adirondack -- I'm not picky) and spend the afternoon reading a good book and sipping on something wonderful.Read More
Wedding season's sprung up early this year here at the blog. Last week, besides my trucking down to NJ to attend Cousin Mark's fiancee's shower, one of you e'd me desperate for help with a groom's cocktail to serve at his upcoming nuptials. Why desperate? Because of when upcoming: This very gracious gentleman, Jon, e'd me on a Wednesday needing a recipe for the reception on Saturday. Ladeeeeez, dudes and wedding planning OMG AMIRITE??!?
Obligatory awwwWWW! pic of Mark and his fiancee, Molly!
Now, let it be known that a) I lurve weddings (all the more so having had my own); b) I think the idea of a bride's cocktail and a groom's cocktail is an idea whose time has come (the PhoBlograpHusband and I had his-and-her cakes; how rated-G were we?); c) I am happy to be asked by Jon and whomever else to help them craft their own wedding's signature cocktails. ("If there's something you'd like to try/Ask me I won't say now/How could I?")
In Jon's case, he and his betrothed had already settled on a Her recipe, cheekily named The Blushing Bride: Prosecco (a blush sparkler!), Aperol and OJ. Go, Jon! I consider that a fantastic wedding cocktail for several key reasons:
- A simple recipe with few ingredients means it can be churned out fast and/or in large quantities.
- It's a pretty color.
- Non-cocktailers will be put at ease by its two more familiar, quotidian ingredients (OJ and bubbly), thus assuaging any trepidation they may have about the less-familiar third (Aperol, an Italian liqueur which of course wouldn't hurt a fly).
So, that left the question of what kind of cocktail to craft for Him. As Jon put it, "I love alcohol and love Scotch and bourbon... can you think of a drink that most people can drink? I can handle any type of liquor, but I have seen people turn down 21-year-old single malts because they don't like the taste!" I hear you, Jon.
The Him cocktail should reflect the Hers in certain ways, I thought, so I wanted to tie in the Aperol, make it a motif throughout. Scotch + Aperol = quite interesting and good, really. And then I thought we'd mimic the Blushing Bride's fizz by adding either club soda or ginger ale (it wound up being ginger ale). Oh-so-many reflective motifs -- where's my Master's in Critical Cocktail Theory, please?
I further recommended to Jon serving The Gushing Groom in a likewise flute, as pictured in this post, but Jon told me he went with double old-fashioned glasses. Jon, that is just such a right-on, manly-it-up choice. (His exact words: "Some guys might be flute-averse.") Please quit making me look bad, Jon.
The Gushing Groom
1/2 ounce Aperol
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Ginger ale to fill
Combine Scotch, Aperol and bitters in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir briskly. Strain into ice-filled double old-fashioned glass. Top with ginger alge.
Of course, you can use ginger beer instead of ginger ale. You can garnish with a lemon twist, an orange twist, or whatever sprig or blossom is a part of your groomsmen's boutonnieres.
Scotch is not 1000% my bag, but the Arran Malt (coincidentally, a wedding gift we received) is a fave of mine because it's not super-peaty. Then again, it's not super-easy to find on your average liquor-store shelf, either. I mean, really, it's no coincidence that the only reason we have it is because its expense counts as "really nice wedding gift." So to sub, Sean recommends plain, old Dewar's, or Johnnie Walker Black for a shelf up. You all might have even better suggestions, which you should totally leave in the comments.
This is a post about friendship, a subject that tends to worm its way into your cranium quite a bit when a) it's January and b) you're spending your first of several years abroad, hundreds of miles from the people you like best and also from a TV that carries American college basketball.
Our friends Michelle and Dan, back in New York, are pretty awesomesauce peeps. I knew Michelle vaguely but fondly from the first time I lived in the city, before moving to the Midwest for several years. From the very minute I moved back to Gotham, thanks to forces I'll never quite understand but will forever appreciate, the friendship was just there, fully realized and present. We both met our respective fiances within a year, doubling the number of very cool people we got to hang out with whenever we hung out together.
Of course, Michelle and Dan are big cocktail fans. (Srsly, why else would Sean and I ever hang out with anyone?) They're not quite as fanatical as we are, I'd say, because in their hearts they save some room for beer, and also their whiskey allegiance veers towards the waters of northern Europe (IRL, UK, etc.) rather than the Nation of Kentucky. But a couple summers ago when Sean and I wanted to drive upstate to the Tuthilltown Distillery's Facebook Fan Appreciation Day (yes, that was a real thing -- shut up, Sean won a bourbon barrel!), we knew exactly who we wanted to come along with us.
If you were to ask me today for my favorite Michelle-and-Dan story, the one I'd tell was one I wasn't even around to witness firsthand. In fact, it happened while the two of them were vacationing on the Emerald Isle. The way I remember Michelle telling it, they were sitting in one of several pubs or B&B lounges that they stopped into on their trip, it was just the two of them, they were being quiet and sort of reading different things independently, and then Huey Lewis and the News' "Power of Love" came on the sound system. Without a word, they instantly high-fived.
Michelle and Dan are getting married in August. Sean and I are very touched that they asked us to create a cocktail for the occasion. Now, as I know from experience, there are several things you've got to consider when developing a wedding cocktail: What liquor brands does your reception site carry, and which are they willing to pour many times over? What's the glassware situation like; do they have 150 cocktail glasses, or better to stick with highballs? How much hooch can your guests handle? (This is the tricky part, coming up with something that will please the hardcore cocktailers and the I-never-touch-the-hard-stuff relatives au meme temps.)
Michelle and Dan, you can consider this cocktail a first draft if you like. In it, we used the Tyrconnell whiskey you brought back to the States for us. We also used Aperol and homemade cherry brandy, which, erm, probably takes this drink out of the running...? (Then again, neither's expensive, so maybe you and us and the cool place in Brooklyn where you're having your reception whose name I can't remember at the moment can work something out.) Besides my neverending love of wordplay, I wanted to name it Tyr Na Nog because, well, because something cheesy about marriage being like a mythical island where your fairy spirits will forever protect one another. (That was a first draft of a bad wedding toast.)
Or we can come up with something else and call it Awesomesauce.
The Tyr Na Nog
1 ounce The Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey
1 ounce cherry brandy
1/2 ounce Aperol
About 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into cocktail glass.
I believe that, for this recipe, you could either buy a cheap-o cherry brandy like Hiram Walker's, or you could buy an almost-as-cheapo brandy-brandy and then cherrify it yourself. When we make cherry brandy at home, what we actually do is use this recipe to make brandied cherries, and then the leftover brandy we cook those in, we consider that to be our cherry brandy. It's served us well.
There's a great future in aperitifs and digestifs. I don't just mean that in a Benjamin-Braddock-searching-for-meaning-in-the-60s-oh-I-get-it-she's-referencing-The Graduate kind of way. Italian liqueurs are mega-trendy big right now and I say good on it, because they're relatively cheap (~$20 a bottle, less for vermouths), a little goes a long way, they're becoming easily available, they have the best ad posters, they were born to make nice in endless kinds of cocktail recipes, and once you start you'll want to collect them and play with them and come up with neat at-home displays for them like you used to do with your Smurfs.
The Rinfrescante Italiano is the first cocktail we've come up with in house to make use of our new-favorite toy/aperitif, Aperol, which is like a lighter-bodied version of Campari. Like yesterday's Champagne Julep, it's a fizzer. With the Aperol's bittersweetness and the bubbly's carbonation mixed together, Sean's cousin Chris said it tasted like an Italian soda, hence its given nomenclature, "the refreshing Italian."
(Speaking of Chris' toys, I must interrupt myself here to explain what you're seeing in the pic above, a gift he received for Christmas. It is basically a six-sided jigger, with each side recessed to a certain degree, such that each in effect works like a pyramid-shaped liquid measuring cup. It appears from the online homework I've done that Chris' comes from Vat19.com. It blew me away at first look but disappointed me at first try, mainly because it is very awkward to pour. You know how sometimes have to pour something from a cup into another container and if you don't pour at just the right speed the liquid winds up cascading down the side of your cup and not into its intended receptacle? That's what happened here, unless I poured from the jigger while holding it with two hands, in effect making me feel like a toddler trying to pour her own milk for the first time. Yes, the cube jigger has corners that kinda look like they should work like spouts, 'cept they kinda don't. I'd much rather have me a single, classically designed jigger with several easily visible notches inside.)
Oh! And, back to the Rinfrescante, it has applejack, aka Jersey Lightning, which
was my street name in high school is like a super-strong, apple-based brandy. Chris and his cohorts had some lying around, and that's another liquor you're going to hear a lot about in the coming year, and another one I'd been dying to try for a while, 'cept that in Fronche Canada you have to settle for (equally awesome) Calvados.
The Rinfrescante Italiano
1 ounce Laird's applejack brandy
1/2 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
About 3 ounces Champagne or sparkling white wine
Lemon twist, to garnish
Pour applejack, Aperol and lemon juice into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into chilled Champagne flute. Top off with Champagne. Garnish with lemon twist.
What Santa didn't bring me for Christmas
this last year, I got for myself at The Wine Library back in the States, including two key ingredients for The Apropos: 1) the Italian aperitif Aperol, Campari's genteel cousin: lighter in color and alcohol content, but produced by the same parent company (nowadays, not originally); 2) yellow Chartreuse -- likewise, not as strong as the better-known green Chartreuse -- which was actually on the wish list of a bartending friend back in Canadia. (By the way, remind me never to tell you about the time the PhoBlograpHusband and I managed to transport a double-digit number of booze bottles across the border by being completely honest with the customs guard. I don't know who reads this blog.)
The Apropos' recipe is another one I spied at SeriousEats.com and held onto because I liked the sound of it, being a twist on the Negroni and similarly elegant in its simplicity. Its dry sweetness makes it a perfect aperitif for just about anyone, while its coral hue means it'd be a good tipple to try on that friend of yours whom you've resolved to turn into a real cocktail drinker in 2012 -- you know, the one who still orders Cosmoplitans. (Yeah, like it's still the mid-90s. Gorsh, how about voting for Newt Gingrich too while you're at it, you Monica/Rachel/Pheebs?!)
1 1/2 ounces Bombay London Dry Gin
1 ounce Aperol
1/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Orange twist, to garnish
Combine all liquidingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.
The Gramercy recipe calls for the drink to be strained into an ice-filled higball glass, but since I like my Negronis up, I did the same here.
You probably did not hear it here first, but Italian liqueurs were huge in 2011 and are gonna be huger in '12. We'll talk more about that later, but getting yourself a bottle of Aperol (only $20 and the label is so classic and lovely to look at!) is a good start.