The Cranberry Negroni

The Bittman is a source of contention around here. Me, I don't think much about The Bitt one way or the other. I never read The Bitt's Minimalist column with regularity and have never understood the cult of his personality. He's just a goofy white guy who mostly cooks off-book, right? Who can't do that? Buy whatever's wholesome and on sale, go home and Google "easy [something you just bought] recipe," pick the one you can fudge the best and make. (At least, that's what I do.)

(Having said that, my new love is Gojee.com, which lets you search blogged-about recipes by ingredients you have/crave/dislike. And I'm not just saying that because this blog is included in the new Gojee Drinks database!)

Anyway, Sean hates The Bitt. What Sean has to say about The Bitt is, "He's just annoying and he seems like a hack. I don't understand why anybody cares what he has to say. I do not trust his authority. I feel like anyone could be Mark Bittman, he just happens to be the one, probably because he knows somebody or various other social injustices."

Yet I couldn't look away when a recent Bittman headline in the Times touted "A Radical Rethinking of Thanksgiving Leftovers." Just how "radical" were we talking here? Well, The Bitt had me at "pan-fried stuffing  cakes," and so I read until the end, where I was rewarded with the notion of a Cranberry Negroni. Or really, tortured by reading in print that The Bitt had come up with a way to sneak a cocktail into his list of 20 radicalizations, and WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT, DAMMIT?! DAMN THE BITT!! (I'm not the only one who feels this way, either.)

So yes, The Bitt's Cranberry Negroni is pretty wondrous and awesome in its simplicity (erm, minimalism) and I highly recommend it as a way to get rid of your cranberry sauce reserves. Using sauce instead of juice adds a little gritty texture to the cocktail that I found I quite liked until the very end of the drink, when it got to be a bit too much. Also, The Bitt says to mix equal parts cranberry sauce, gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, but when I did this I found that you really couldn't taste the cranberry, so I amped that up.

The Cranberry Negroni

(Adapted with minor additions from the New York Times Dining section)

About an ounce of cranberry sauce

About 1/2 ounce each of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth

Orange peel and/or dried cranberries, to garnish

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously to allow the cranberry sauce to mix well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel, and/or several dried cranberries speared onto a toothpick umbrella.

Tasting Notes

I have to try this with my World's Greatest Cosmopolitan.

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The Afterbird

My gosh, today kinda sucks, no? Not to rain (or snow, as it is up here in the Great White North) on anyone's Thanksgiving Eve Parade, but this is always a busy and stressful day. What with the last-minute cleaning and shopping and cooking and fretting that your mother-in-law is going to get stuck in a snowbank somewhere north of Albany on her drive up to see you. And, even if you're the self-employed, work-at-home type like me, the assignments you're trying to get out the virtual door before getting yourself out your actual one, where walkway clearing awaits so Mom doesn't kill herself on her way from her car to your apartment. Meanwhile, your dog won't let you type at full speed because she likes her paw held while snuggling on the couch next to you, which results in typos like this one that just happened: "ci 980hkmn."

Phew, *breathe*! My point is, I've got one more to-do to put on your list today, and it is worthwhile and it is this: Buy Underberg at your neighborhood's finer liquor store. (Or Dean & Deluca.)

Last November on TastingTable.com, I read about this pocket-sized vial of Germanic, herbaceous elixir: "This shockingly bitter, aggressively alcoholic Germanic beverage is meant to be taken in one swig from its handsome miniature bottle, which promises that 'after a good meal' it will confer brightness and alertness upon the drinker." Of course, they don't have Thanksgiving in Deutschland, but they do have Oktoberfest. For that reason alone I'll take their word on its overindulgence countereffects.

Mere days after I read this, the PhoBlograpHusband and I were stocking up on holiday booze essentials at The Wine Library in New Jersey and there was Underberg, lined up on the shelf next to the bitters. They come three 2/3-ounce bottles to a box the size of a cigarette case. I dutifully purchased one and held onto it for almost a year. Now I am here to share with you the digestif cocktail I invented so that you can incorporate your Underberg into your post-pie euphoria.

What does Underberg taste like straight? Like acrid licorice, like smoked Jagermeister. Kinda gah, if you ask me. Definitely not something I'd have any natural inclination to swig in one swallow.

As you may well know from my recent posts, the liquor supply chez Lorre is way low as of late. (Mom-in-law is bringing us a bottle of Buffalo Trace this afternoon! Go Mom-in-law!) At the same time, I happened to have some raw egg yolks, with a bit of whites, kept in an airtight container in the fridge, left over from when I made my Bathtub Gin(ger). Furthermore, I have been hellbent for months on devising a successful flip, a cocktail that makes use of a whole, raw egg instead of just the whites; I'd made a Cynar Flip a long while back, based on a recipe from a bar in Boston, but have had no luck writing a flip recipe of my own from scratch. Maybe now was the time; Underberg is as potent and pungent as Cynar, after all.

I wound up going a little crazy coming up with this cocktail, in what I think of as a very good kind of crazy. Adding raw egg to Underberg mellowed out the start of the cocktail but still left it with a long, unpleasant finish. I scoured my liquor shelf and decided to try yet another ingredient that I'd long longed to find a use for: Hispaniola Mamajuana, a Dominican, rum-based, herbaceous-yet-soft liqueur. (You learn about stuff like Hispaniola Mamajuana when you spend three years of your life living In The Heights.) The Hispaniola worked wonders on rounding the whole thing out, start to (still nice and long) finish. Then came the espresso (by which I mean, black coffee, but we're not fancy with the caffeine around here) and -- and this is great, truly! -- the Tabasco, which melded with the bitter herbs at the finish in a tongue-tickling way and reminded me a bit of a Sandinista. (Wait a minute, she said as she looked at the meager Google results for "Sandinista recipe." You mean nobody knows what a Sandinista is outside of St. Louis? The blog will remedy this soon. To the blogmobile!)

At this point, all that was missing was some heft and body -- I think the raw egg took some of that away -- which I added back with the Benedictine.

This cocktail is loopy, yes. But then again, so's your Grandma Ruthie when she takes her dentures out and puts them on the dinner table. It's in the spirit of the holiday! Let us rejoice and be thankful.

The Afterbird

1 1/2 ounces Underberg

1 ounce Hispaniola

1 ounce Benedictine

1 whole, raw egg

 3 drops Tabasco

1/2 ounce freshly made espresso

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake shake shake shake shake it! Seriously, shake it a lot, because you've got liquid ingredients of every possibly viscosity in there and you need to mix it all up really well. Strain into a cocktail glass that's been very very very well chilled. Seriously, like very well chilled, because thanks to the egg, this drink can get thin-tasting quickly and the chilled glass will combat that.

Tasting Notes

I have a hunch you could take this cocktail even further. Specifically, I suspect that an aged tequila (anejo or reposado) would be a good base liquor, in addition to or instead of the Benedictine, to drive up the heat quotient. If you'd rather emphasize the smoky, try adding an ounce of Scotch. Also, I am quite sure you could garnish this with sprinkles of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, maybe even cayenne pepper. (Tell me if you do! Happy Thanksgiving!)

P.S. Look how foamy this cocktail is!

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The Pimm's Cup

Thanksgiving-narrative guest post by Leslie Deak, who previously chronicled for us her experiences of drinking ice creaminess while having pizza stolen by an NBA player.

The following is a story of the wrong cocktail in the wrong place at a really, really wrong time. But it all works out in the end. So, three wrongs make a right, I guess.

My husband’s family has a tradition of gathering together for Thanksgiving, and last year was no exception. We found ourselves ensconced in one of the well-appointed residences at Jekyll Island Club in Georgia. After a lovely Thanksgiving morning bike ride, a freak accident involving another member of the family resulted in an ER visit, thus leaving me and my sister-in-law to our own devices for most of the day. (Don’t worry, everyone is okay.) With unplanned downtime, I considered my options. Hey, look -- the club has a bar!

I perched myself in one of the rockers on the porch of the old hotel, overlooking the marshes at a distance. I waited until a respectable noon (well, it was mostly noon!) before moseying up to the bar. MISTAKE.

The bar was mobbed with well-heeled southerners meeting their families for The Big Feast. The tiny U-shaped bar was manned by one efficient, polite, overworked bartender with a line three people deep around the perimeter. As I approached the bar, I overheard one patron inquiring as to how the bartender made a Pimm’s Cup. “Pimm's, ginger ale, and a twist of lime,” was the response. Intrigued, i asked what Pimm’s tasted like. The bartender, patron, and her companion all looked at me with bemused expressions. “It’s just... Pimm’s,” said the bartender. Suddenly, I was quite self-conscious of my three heads, but proceeded nonetheless.

(Later research revealed that Pimm’s is a British liqueur, and Pimm’s Cups are generally considered to be a summer drink. I was in southern Georgia over Thanksgiving.)

Feigning sudden remembrance of the liqueur and its heritage (mind the gap!), I told the bartender that I’d give it a whirl. I waited patiently for my turn, and was rewarded with a gingery, spicy, citrusy concoction that perfectly married the turkey-and-chilly-weather vibe of Turkey Day with the porch-sitting warm weather around me.

I was hooked, and ordered the same cocktail once (or five times) more. Hey -- repetition makes it easy for the overworked bartender to recognize you and your drink! I sat on that porch, sipping Pimm’s Cups, watching southern toddlers in seersucker suits and fancy dresses run around on the lawn in front of me. Throughout the afternoon, I was repeatedly deployed as the photographer for family portraits, a request I was happy to indulge. As it turns out, the Pimm’s may have enhanced my arteeeeeestic vision.

Pimm’s Cups and the Jekyll Island Club made a potentially bad situation into a lovely memory that I can bring back with a simple cocktail.

The Pimm's Cup

2 ounces Pimm's No. 1 

4 ounces ginger ale (ginger beer tempered with sprite will work in a pinch)

Twist of lime  

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add Pimm's and ginger ale. Twist a peel of lime above the top of the glass and drop in. Swizzle well and serve.

Tasting Notes

Leslie wants to mention to y'all that a mix of  ginger beer and lemon-lime soda can nicely sub for ginger ale.

I'd like to mention that many, many, many sources will tell you that a proper Pimm's Cup contains not just a citrus twist, but large pieces of unmuddled cucumber and strawberries (and sometimes the meat of citrus fruit as well, not just peel). However, clearly Leslie's bartender was going by the bottle. While its back label does not identify this recipe for a Pimm's Cup per se, it does state quite plainly, "Fill a tall glass halfway with ice. Add 1.5 oz Pimm's. Top off with ginger ale or lemon-lime soda. Garnish with a slice of lemon." No mention of other fruits. I also happen to believe that one of the reasons a Pimm's Cup gets a bad rep as the unpalatable equivalent of Marmite is because people think they have to be proper and submit to the cukes. You can go your own way.

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