I don’t drink much. Not even before the current job situation. As a result I tend to be choosy – if I’m going to splurge, make it worth the splurge.
Now oddly, I’ve a few things I like that are traditionally holiday drinks. It being the season, I thought I’d share a couple of my favorites.
The classic holiday drink is eggnog. Now, you can buy it in the store and it’s … depending on brand somewhere between bad and ok. If you’ve got access to fresh eggs and are willing to do the work, try making it once. Now most of the recipes you’ll find make LOTS. It’s traditionally a party drink, so that’s what all the recipes will tell you to make. Me, I can’t make that much. So instead, let me help you make a small batch.
You want three bowls. In one you’re going to make a loose egg-yolk custard. To this you’ll add the contents of the other two bowls – a bowl of whipped cream, and a bowl of stiffly beaten egg whites. For those paying attention, we’re almost making a mousse.
Bowl one is your flavor. Beat an egg yolk and a tablespoon of sugar together till somewhat stiff and about the color of butter. Add your alcohol (an ounce to a jigger – 1.5 oz – traditionally, adjust to your taste – zero works, two ounces pushes the limits of balance), add a dash of nutmeg, and stir in a half a cup of milk. Yes, this will loosen it. Now in bowl two you beat half a cup of whipping cream till stiff, and in bowl three you beat the egg white from that egg, again till stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the first mix, then fold the egg white into the whole. It is supposed to keep – drinkable – for two to four hours, though I recommend (since it’s a small batch) you keep what you’re not drinking in the refrigerator. Note I said “supposed to” – mine never lasts. Alcohol? Rum, Brandy, Cognac, Bourbon – whatever runs to your taste. (My taste tends to be a mix of light rum and jack daniels – one ounce total.)
My other two holiday drinks are really “winter” drinks – they just don’t really work for summers. Well, that’s the theory, though sometimes if I’m in the mood… Anyway, first is a hot toddy. A particular hot toddy – the butterscotch. Here, friends, I demonstrate my laziness. In a coffee mug, combine 6 ounces of water, two tablespoons of brown sugar and a tablespoon of butter. Put in a microwave for one minute and stir (it should be just around boiling temperature – adjust time as needed.) Add a jigger of scotch. For me scotch is single malt, and for this drink I prefer a “sweeter” scotch – like the Glenlivet or Glenfiddich. Though I had one with a Laphroaig once and it worked quite well. General note here – I can taste the scotch. Some people can’t – or don’t care. In that case, using a vatted or blended scotch works. And frankly the smoothing effect of the butter and brown sugar works with several whiskys. I’ve a friend who thinks the best beverage for this is Bushmills single malt (Irish whisky).
That’s one. The other is the classic Irish Coffee. Since I rarely have it, I do it “right”. Three things – good coffee, good irish whiskey, good cream. OK, 12 ounce coffee mug. Add 6 ounces of coffee in to which you stir two teaspoons of sugar (Yes, I like mine sweet) and an ounce of Irish. (The ranges are 6-8 oz of coffee, 1-2 teaspoons of sugar, and one oz to one jigger of Irish). You then float the heavy cream on the coffee, and drink the coffee through the cream. OK, this needs some unpacking – if you’re going to do it right… (grin).
Coffee. I am sure I’ve written about this before, but what the heck, it’s Christmas. Great coffee starts with a CLEAN dish, GOOD water, and GOOD grounds. If you don’t have the first, the next two are going to be significantly hampered. If your water isn’t good, even great beans will taste like, well, crap. And as to grounds, it turns out that this is definitely eye of the beholder. I don’t think much of the infamous Jamaican blue mountain. On the other hand, the worst arabica I’ve had was still better than the best robusta – BY MY TASTE. Yeah, that needs noted. I know people who swear the best coffee nobody’s drinking is Kopi Luwak. Me, I think their taste buds are influenced by the dollar signs, but to each their own. ANYWAY…
My preferred way of brewing coffee is infusing – aka cold brew. Grind fairly small, and place in clean jar. I use a quart jar, so let me give you these measures. In the quart jar, 1 1/2 cups of grounds, fill the jar with water (the grounds will float for a while – add more if after the grounds swelling there is room.) Let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Now for the tricky part – strain the liquid from the grounds. I made a mesh top by making a lot of holes in a flat. I put that on, then a cheesecloth, and hold it on with a ring. (Look at canning supplies, folks, you’ll get what I mean.) Turn it upside down to drain into a container, and let it go for a few hours. I’ll get a couple of cups or so of this infusion. It is STRONG for caffeine, but very, very smooth. For most use, I add roughly two to three parts hot water to one part infusion. I said smooth – I have had the infusion straight and had no problem with taste. Jitters, yes, taste no.
So that’s two ounces of extract and four ounces of boiling water. Add the sugar – no big deal. Irish…
Again, I truly like single malts. Thus for me Bushmill’s single malt – or green spot if I can find and afford it – are pretty much the end of the choices. Thing is you want a whiskey that’s fairly smooth but which you can taste over the coffee. I’d avoid any scotch that tasted heavily of peat (or any other processing – good as it may be most of the time).
Finally it’s time to “float” the cream. Note one – if there is no sugar in the coffee, the cream won’t float. Note two – if the cream enters the coffee too violently, it will mix instead of floating. The classic way – and the way I use most of the time – is to pour the cream from a pitcher held close over the cup, and pour it over the back of a spoon that’s held just over the coffee. As the cream rises, raise the spoon. Continue till the cup is full. Now, I’ve seen good results from long-stem pitchers with a diffuser on the end, but those seemed to me to be very specialized tools I can’t afford for a once-in-a-while drink.
If I’m not in the season for one of the above, my first choice is a singlemalt (scotch or irish). Some dinners deserve a wine instead (the whisky will bury the taste). I’m not averse to other drinks if they’re served – I’m an egalitarian in that regard. I thought the peppermint schnapps in hot cocoa was a great holiday drink though not quite my taste. I enjoy hard lemonade and margaritas when they’re served. But that’s all a digression and if it’s MY money for ME… well, I’ve meandered enough on this topic.
Have fun – and if you drink, designate a non-drinking driver (or drink at home), please.