Archive | January, 2013

Cocktails for a Cold Winter’s Eve

2 Jan

ImageI’ve never been much of a bartender aside from basics like gin and tonic or a Bloody Mary that has way more horseradish than any normal person would want but the resurgence of the cocktail culture has motivated me to give it a try. While some of the cocktails at our local bars seem more like the random experiments of a hipster mad scientist or an excuse to use as many unfamiliar words in a sentence as humanly possible, I do appreciate the creativity of many of them. I also really appreciate the fact that I can easily find something that leans more toward bitter or smoky than sweet. I cannot stand sugary drinks. In college, one of our favorite bars gave away free toys, such a plastic lizard on a keychain that would stick out its tongue when you squeezed its belly, but only with its signature tiki drinks. I spent more time than was healthy convincing the bartenders to make exceptions for my gin and tonics or scotch and sodas so I could add to my collection of useless junk without suffering the indignity of fruit juice mingling with my liquor. I’ve recently had a couple of cocktails that I felt I could reasonably approximate at home, without going to the extreme of creating a shrub, bitters, tincture or anything else that sounds like it’s better enjoyed when produced by someone else. The first was a twist on a French 75 that I had at Bar Cesar in Oakland. They call their drink a Holiday Sparkler and it was a tart and refreshing mix of gin, pomegranate juice, creme de cassis, lemon and cava. The second was a drink called Fire in the Orchard, which is actually something my husband and mom got at Husk in Charleston, SC but something I wished I’d ordered. I don’t quite remember what went in it but it involved apple and something brown and smoky. Both of these drinks involve fruit juice, which usually is banned from my cocktails, but they bear no resemblance to a Cosmo, Screwdriver or anything in the punch domain so I’ve made a happy exception. The third drink I’ve added to my repertoire is a hot toddy. I started drinking a version of the hot toddy when we lived in Cyprus. A friend of our swore that raki, mixed with lemon juice, honey and hot water was the best cure for a cold. I’m not sure how medicinal it was but it tasted better than Nyquil and had pretty much the same effect.

The Shana Tova (my take on the Holiday Sparkler)

I’m calling this the Shana Tova because Holiday Sparkler is an inane and frou-frou name for a delicious drink (sorry Cesar). Shana Tova is Hebrew for “Happy New Year” and is the traditional greeting for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Pomegranates are also traditional for Rosh Hashanah–it’s said that there are as many seeds in a pomegranate as their are mitzvot (commandments). Although I made this for the regular New Year, it would be just as appropriate for Rosh Hashanah and would probably make services a lot more fun.


  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 oz. creme de cassis
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Cava, champagne or sparkling wine

Mix the gin, pomegranate juice, creme de cassis and lemon in a flute and top with cava or sparkling wine.

Oaktown Apple Juice

This is my attempt to recreate the flavors of the Fire in the Orchard cocktail I stole sips of in Charleston. It’s probably nowhere close but it’s pretty damn tasty and looks good in one of our neglected brandy snifters (a spur of the moment wedding registry add and inhabitant of the back corner of our kitchen cabinet).


  • 1 oz. smoky Scotch (such as Laphroaig)
  • 1 oz. applejack or Calvados
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • Dash bitters
  • 3 oz. chilled apple juice or cider

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add all ingredients and stir, then strain into a brandy snifter or glass of your choice (I’m not too picky about these things). Or just be lazy and mix it all in the glass–I promise it’ll still be good.

Temescal Toddy

Hot toddies are usually made with honey but after we ran out, I tried one with maple syrup. This is equally as good with honey though. Hot toddies are perfect on a chilly evening, when you have a cold, or on New Year’s morning when you want to chase away the cobwebs but still achieve all-important hydration.


  • 1 1/2 oz. bourbon (you could also use another type of whisky or brandy)
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 8 oz. hot water

Mix the bourbon, maple syrup and lemon in a glass or a mug, add your hot water and stir.