Monday, January 4, 2010

Merriment Insurance.

There seems to be one label that quickly becomes a part of my reputation with nearly every person I meet. (Actually, there's a lot of them, but this blog isn't the place to talk about being absent-minded, disorganized, and air headed.) Far be it from me to refute this label, either. Much to the contrary; I embrace it, I wear it like a badge. Almost anyone who knows me would describe me as a lush... and I am, quite simply, flattered.

In the varied and inexplicable history of social acceptance, the casual drink has been touted then vilified, exonerated then shunned, made indispensable then dispensed with. However, in my humble and elitist opinion, no party has ever been complete without a signature cocktail. There are a few reasons for this: they give you the opportunity to set or or reinforce the theme to the party, they allow your guests to expand on the horizons of their palate, they provide a sturdy piece to the foundation of a gathering that makes it an unforgettable event, but most importantly they still serve as the best form of social lubricant.

I have been to far too many gatherings where your only drink offerings are a cooler of beer, a few bottles of alcohol and some soda are set on a table somewhere for you, as a guest, to make your own drink. Maybe this is a learned trait from attending to many frat parties in college, I don't know, but it's just wrong. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with having a table like this, but to have only these drink offerings is seriously a missed opportunity to make a lasting impression. It's like picking a boring tie to wear with your $2500 suit, and it's just shameful.

Just as there are a plethora of themes for your party, there many times more options to select of create to supplement and reinforce these themes. Tiki Party? How about a Mai Tai. Black Tie Affair? Introduce your guests to the French 75. Girls Night out? French Twist Martinis will get even your prude friend dancing. Toga Party? If a Genoa was good for Caesar it's good enough for your guests, right? From wine tastings to martinis to mulled cider, your options are vast. If you're the creative type, then the possibilities to create a new drink are practically infinite. Simply put, the selection and preparation of your bar ware and the creation of the perfect cocktail can be every bit as fun as it is functional and necessary.

In recent history, there has been a trend of adding alcohol (perhaps back) into the mix of my family's holiday gatherings. Growing up, I can only remember a few occasions where there was anything more available to my parents aunts and uncles than some cans of beer in my grandmother's basement fridge. In my observation, I think the reintroduction of other libations coincides with the majority of my cousins and I (the "kids") reaching drinking age. Regardless of whether my theory is true, it's a trend that I am all about supporting and reinforcing.

Now, come Christmastime, I like a little "merriment insurance." Therefore, I have started my own tradition of creating a cocktail for my family's Christmas Gathering. Year after year I put more and more effort into researching and recipe testing the cocktail that I hope meets with rave reviews. (Which is not always the case. For example the failed Cable Car.) Now, I spend many waking hours tirelessly and selflessly conducting hours of research in the most exotic and well versed bars over the course of the year. Suffering through hangovers and bar tabs just to find inspiration for a truly memorable cocktail. This year, I think I may have nailed it.

The drink in question is a Classic St. Germain. It's sweet, exotic, aromatic and delicious. Pair a drink like that with a very pleasing presentation and you'll have people Raving. I discovered the cornerstone liqueur in this drink partly by suggestion and partly by fluke. A friend suggested that I have a drink of this on my birthday, and in my drunken state, I happened to remember this. When I found it, I couldn't help but to try it, and I am now forever changed. St. Germain Liqueur is made from the aromatic elderflower and has one of the most distinctive flavors I have ever come across. It's a bit pricey and ever more difficult to find, but worth all of the effort to obtain this heavenly liquid.

I started a day in advance preparing the Champagne Glasses in which I would be serving the drink. The presentation of the drink deserves almost more thought than the actual drink itself. A great looking and unique cocktail practically begs to be imbibed, a poor presentation will just blend into the background. To Prepare the Champagne Glass in this case I dipped the rim of each glass in red-colored, Lemon flavored hard tack candy. Let this serve as a warning to you: DIPPING GLASS IN ANYTHING EXTREMELY HOT (SUCH AS MELTED SUGAR) IS A VERY DANGEROUS PROCESS. Heed all of my advice, but proceed at your own risk... You have been warned.

Hard Tack Rim:
1/4c sugar
2T Corn Syrup
2T Water
1/8t Lemon Extract
Food Coloring

Place your champagne glasses on the stove near the pan you're working with. This is for 2 reasons: 1) It will warm the glasses and make it less likely that they will shatter when you dip them and 2) once the candy is done you need to work quickly as the candy will harden fast. Mix All ingredients in a saute pan over medium high heat stirring frequently and allowing to come to a boil. When the candy is at soft crack state, remove from the heat. lightly dip the rim of a warmed glass in the hot candy mix, allow the excess to drip into the pan and cool slightly before placing in the upright position. Once complete, cover each glass with cling wrap to store. (and... good luck getting the leftover candy out of the pan.

Now onto the cocktail. Be Sure to have enough made for half of your guests only immediately before they arrive. This drink is fizzy and if you prepare it too early, it will go flat.

Classic St. Germain (TheBrettT Style)
Into a prepared Champagne glass
1oz St. Germain Liquer
1oz Club Soda
Top off with Champagne (for Drier) or Asti (for Sweeter)
Squeeze in a Twist of lemon
and add a curled lemon peel to the edge of the glass for garnish.

Trust me on this, your guests will be happy and stay that way all night with one of these in hand. But regardless of the cocktail you choose, just choose wisely. If you pay attention to these details, your holiday party will be talked about all year.