A drink to start the festivities

For  a Thanksgiving cocktail, I had in mind an autumnal aperitif that would  whet the apetite...a spirited libation that could take the edge off both  chilly air and holiday anxiety....yet something light enough in alcohol  not to floor us before our meal (and freely flowing wine and aquavit)  has even begun.

1 ½ oz bourbon or rye

¾ oz cider

½ Carpano Antica*

½ oz fresh lemon juice

⅓ oz Wood’s Boiled Cider**

dash angostura bitters

Pour  all the ingredients into a shaker. Fill it with ice. Shake it hard,  until it’s nearly too cold to touch. Strain the drink into a chilled  cocktail glass. Alternately: make a huge batch, ice it, and serve it as  punch.

*Carpano  Antica, an herbaceous Italian vermouth, isn’t available everywhere. If  you can’t easily find it, use another sweet vermouth and an extra dash of  bitters.

**Wood’s  Boiled Cider is a syrupy cider reduction. You could replace it with a  rich demerara syrup. Gently heat and stir 2 parts demerara (raw) sugar  with one part water until dissolved. Use what you need and keep the rest  in your refrigerator to make yourself an old fashioned when all the  guests are gone.

Toddy Time

It’s getting chilly here in New York. There’s no comfort like a toddy to take the chill from your bones before you nod off under a heap of blankets. And these are recipes that don’t require careful measuring: an important feature when you’re cold and tired.

Whiskey Toddy
This soothes a sore throat as well as cough syrup, and tastes a lot better.

big splash whiskey
half a lemon
generous spoonful honey
(herbal tea, optional)

Squeeze the lemon into a mug, straining the juice through your fingers to catch the seeds. Add the honey and whiskey. Top this with boiling water and stir. Use a teabag if you like. I like to throw the lemon rind right in. Taste it, and add more lemon or honey or whiskey if it needs it.

Variation: Breuckelen Gin makes a limited amount of aged gin, which I’ve been enjoying in my toddies. Ransom Old Tom would also be delicious.

Spiked Cider
Bitters are an easy way to add the flavor of mulling spices to a mug of cider. I favor Angostura, Bitter Truth Aromatic, or Fee’s Old Fashioned. Whiskey or rum could stand in for the apple brandy.

apple cider
apple brandy/applejack

Heat a mug of cider, douse it with booze, stir it, and dash a few drops of bitters on top.

Now cozy up!

Bourboun Peach Smash

Peaches are ripening from coast to coast, and what could be more summery and American that a peach smash? Ok, maybe apple pie, so look forward to that recipe in the fall! For this recipe I suggest an inexpensive but good bourbon, like Four Roses Yellow Label. Depending how sweet your peaches are, adjust the lemon and simple syrup to taste.

2 oz Bourbon

1/2 peach, cut into a few pieces

1/2 oz simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water disolved together)

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice (seriously, it needs to be no older than a day)

a few mint leaves

(a sprig of mint for garnish)

Combine everything but the garnish in a cocktail shaker (I prefer a pint glass and Boston shaker).* Smash it a few times with a muddler or spoon. Shake it really hard with lots of very cold ice, then dump the whole mess into a glass. Add a bit of fresh ice. Slap the mint to bring out it's scent and use it to garnish.


*check back soon for posts and videos about basic cocktial skills in the "Tools & Techniques" section!