Toast holidays with festive cocktails
Unless you’re just out of college, “BYOB” is no way to throw a party. You can have sophisticated invitations, delicious food and glamourous guests. But really, most people are going to want a good drink.
This doesn’t require offering a full bar or expensive Champagne, but it is a time to be creative.
For the inexperienced barkeep, this can mean whipping up a theme drink that can be prepared ahead of time and will require little attention during the party when you may otherwise be occupied.
For our holiday dessert parties, my wife and I go with tradition – a potent eggnog with bourbon, dark rum and brandy that is best made four to five days before the party.
It’s really an easy recipe for a beginner. The only stumbling block is separating the yolks from the whites – of course, that’s after first getting comfortable with the idea of using raw eggs.
While the chance of getting salmonella has dropped considerably since it became law to wash eggs before they get to market, some people still aren’t comfortable eating them raw.
You also can consider trying shell eggs – not egg products – that have been pasteurized, or heated to a temperature that kills salmonella bacteria without cooking the egg.
Rebecca Hays, managing editor of Cooks Illustrated, said the magazine tested recipes – including eggnog – with pasteurized and traditional shell eggs, and found the former produced slightly less rich results.
But she said that with all the cream and alcohol in eggnog, the difference will be imperceptible.
I’ve always had trouble separating egg yolks from the whites, but I recently learned a trick that simplifies this.
Over a bowl, crack an egg into your hand. If you just barely spread your fingers, the whites will drip through and into the bowl while you hold the unbroken yolk.
Since eggnog can be a divisive drink – too many people only know the store-bought variety, which doesn’t do the nog justice – it’s a good idea to offer another drink, too.
New York mixologist Michael Waterhouse suggests a mulled cider that he has served at his restaurants, Dylan Prime and Devin Tavern. It’s a simple drink that tastes better the longer it sits, so make it ahead and serve it in a slow cooker set on low.
If you’re pressed for time and need to serve it right away, Waterhouse suggests adding a few more cloves and another cinnamon stick. Otherwise, know that while whole cloves are tiny, they impart a strong flavor, so go easy on them.
Waterhouse encourages you to add more bourbon if you do not find his recipe to be strong enough, but no matter how much you add, it’s important to reduce the heat before you do so to prevent the alcohol from burning off.
After all, it’s a party.
Preparation time, start to finish: 20 minutes active (made four to five days before serving). Makes 30 servings.
12 large eggs
1 cup superfine sugar
1 cup brandy
1 quart half-and-half
1 quart heavy cream
3 cups bourbon
2 cups dark rum
Nutmeg, to taste
Separate the egg yolks from the whites, dividing them between two large bowls.
To the yolks, add the sugar and whisk until it thickens slightly and turn a lemon color. Add the brandy and mix until thoroughly blended.
Clean the whisk and use it to vigorously beat the egg whites until they are frothy and resemble soap bubbles, about 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the half-and-half and heavy cream. Mix in the rum and bourbon.
In a large gallon-sized sealable jar, combine the egg white and yolk mixtures. Mix well and seal the jar. Refrigerate for four to five days. Before transferring to a serving bowl, shake well. Top each glass with a dash of nutmeg.
(Recipe adapted from http://countryhen.com)
Preparation time, start to finish: 30 minutes. Makes 8 servings.
1/2 gallon apple cider
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
12 ounces Maker’s Mark Bourbon
Dried apple slices, for garnish
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the cider, sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves. Bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally. When the sugar is fully dissolved, reduce heat to low and add the bourbon.
Serve in a heavy glass or mug, and garnish with sliced dried apple.
(Recipe from Michael Waterhouse)
– Howie Rumberg can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.