Cross posted from the Mixoloseum Blog.
Wassailing, now known mostly as that strange word in that one Christmas song, was once a holiday tradition so filled with mildly hidden threat, the Victorians banned the festivities. Laborers, ne’er do wells, and whoever else happened to be in the vicinity would drop by the boss’ or governor’s manse, wishing joy and peace in trade for a bit of tipple. Of course, in the lack of tipple, there could also be a lack of joy an peace, if you get my drift. A bit of the Trick or Treat, just more wintry. For more information on the history of the tradition, check out Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle for Christmas.
Of course, what could be a better pick me up during a night of drunken revelry on a winter night than a warm bath of mulled ale or cider, known then (as now) as Wassail.
In my research on this tasty winter beverage, I found two clearly distinct lines of Wassail. One, such as exampled in my copy of Joy of Cooking (1963), and another at Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Wassail post. This Wassail omits the Ale or Cider, and instead hefts up the Brandy, and adds a whole lot of egg. This seems more in the tradition of an Egg Nog or Tom and Jerry, with a big foamy dope hefting the liquid about. I’ll admit to not having yet made it, as I’m far too fond of the more traditional method, which is that of a warm mulled ale or cider.
Here’s the recipe I used at a recent holiday feast. The original recipe comes from Stanley Clisby Arthur’s Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix Em. For a bit of a traditional twi, I added hard cider, to apple things up a bit, and increased the proportions to satisfy all guests as well as fill the crockpot. It went over smashingly (by jove!), and I think you’ll like it too.
’tis the Season to have a crockpot, for sure.
- 3 Baked Apples
- 1/2 cup fine sugar
- 1 Tbsp ground Allspice
- 1 Tbsp whole Allspice Berries
- 1 lemon, juice and peel
- 1 Liter Hard Cider
- 1.5 Liter Brown or Winter Ale
- 1 pint warm sherry
Spiral slice the apples (or however you can maximize surface area), coat lightly in brown sugar, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes until browning begins. Place apples in a crockpot with all other ingredients, and set the crockpot to Hot for about 30 minutes. Leave the Crockpot on warm to serve. Serve in warmed punch mugs. Makes about 3.5 Quarts
This drink warms to the toes, and fills your brain with just enough bubbles to start tossing out the holiday cheer left and right. The first batch I’d tried, the apples weren’t imparting enough flavor for me, hence the addition of cider. The Cider used was Blackthorn (cheap and good!) and the beer was Pyramid’s Snowcap, a nice full-bodied, mildly spiced winter warmer.
Got your own holiday classic crockpot drink? Post your favorite in the comments!
Orgeat, fashionably French soda sweetener, or one of the best ingredients ever set behind the bar?
First, for a quick peek at how to properly pronounce the word, see this pic by Humuhumu from Martin’s recent presentation on the subject.
Here is a classic recipe from 1835. It’s quite a bit simplified, and I’ve got a bit more detailed modern method below it, with plenty of pictures.
Orgeat has been around since somewhere around the dawn of time. Originally a barley based syrup flavored with almonds, eventually the barley was ditched for the far more flavorful, but still oily and wonderful almonds. Most of the commercial product is made as almond flavored syrup, and can be purchased from Fees, Torani, and Monin. They all just have a bit of something missing though, and the effort to make real orgeat is well rewarded with some of the best flavors possible. Real Orgeat, as made below, is a thing of beauty. It is an aromatic enhancer with rose and orange flower water, and acts not to purely sweeten the drink, but really changes the profile to something entirely different, neutralizing a lot of the bitter and sour flavors. It’s what made the Mai Tai, so there’s gotta be something to it!
The origin of the below recipe comes from the fxcuisine recipe, such as Erik used, but I’ve done a few twists here and there for my own purposes, mostly in measuring by volume.
I’m not going to push too heavily that you should blanch and chop your own almonds, but it seems to give it just a little bit more flavor and texture. There’s something about that fresh oil just under the skin of the almond that works wonders.
The following recipe yields around 1/2 gallon
You will need:
- 1/2 lb. blanched whole almonds
- (approximately) 3 Quarts Sugar
- 1 Quarts Water
- Bitter Almond Extract
- Rose Water
- Orange Flower Water
|To blanch the almonds, set the almonds in a large bowl. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, then cover the almonds with the boiling water. After 2 minutes, strain the almonds from the water, return the almonds to the bowl, then cover the almonds with cold water. The almonds should now slide easily from their skins.
||Roughly chop the whole almonds. A food processor at a low speed is highly recommended.
Add the roughly chopped almonds, and pour an equal amount of sugar to almonds (by volume) into a large pot.
|Add 1 quarts water to the pot and bring to a boil.
One it has hit boiling, take the pot off of heat, and leave to rest for 12 hours or overnight.
After 12 hours, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth. Repeat a few times if greater clarity is desired. Me, I strain it once as I like to preserve a bit of the almond powder for each bottle, but to each their own.
Measure the strained liquid by volume. Add sugar in a 3:2 ratio the strained liquid (for example, 16 oz of strained liquid would require 24 oz of sugar). Put the pot on a low heat to carefully dissolve the sugar.
|DO NOT let the mixture BOIL. You’ll ruin the batch and give yourself one helluva cleaning job for the pot. Like I recommend for any syrup, a combination of agitation, low heat, and an alert cook in the kitchen should do just fine.
Once the sugar is dissolved, and no more granules are present, remove the pot from heat.
Leave to cool before adding the extra flavorings. Just a few drops, 3-6 each, of bitter almond extract, rose water and orange water seem to add plenty of aromatics and flavor. If you add them while the syrup is hot, their flavor might evaporate.
This makes a big batch of Orgeat, somewhere around 1/2 gallon. Hit up your local brewing supply (mine is F. H. Steinbart) for a case of 375 mLs with twist on caps. A case of one dozen usually costs you just under a dollar per bottle, and it makes a great hand out once your friends are hooked on Mai Tais and Japanese made with the real deal.
Real orgeat syrup will split after a few days in a thick, solid white layer of almond powder on top and syrup below. This is normal and happens with real orgeat syrup, all you need is insert a skewer in the bottle to break the top layer a bit, close and shake.
If you’ve made the above recipe one too many times, you can try varying it here and there. For example, try using natural cane sugar, such as Zulka, for a bit of a richer flavor. Just be sure to give it a turn in the food processor so it dissolves easier. I recently took some Cane Sugar I had mixed some Vanilla Beans in and made a rich Vanilla Cane Orgeat, which is getting a good reputation as Liquid Heaven.
Boy do I feel late to the party. After a few excellent shrub posts by Gabriel, Jamie, and Rick, and Chip and Andy, there’s not a lot more to say, but I’ve got a few tips that might come in handy when “rolling your own“.
The basic concept of a Shrub, other than preservation of the juice, is to impart a bit of sourness from acetic acid, developed by naturally occurring bacteria, to add a “kick” to the drink, as you might get with a carbonated beverage. A decent shrub should not be entirely vinegar, but should have just enough for a nice zing in the flavor and particularly in the late stages of the taste through the aftertaste.
I recently put together a Rum Shrub with Black Currants based on a recipe from Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide. The recipe noted that the shrub can be bottled and strained after “6 days or whenever”, so I gave it a good six weeks. After even this amount of time, the juice had still not begun to vinegarize, so taking some tips from the Vinegar man, I introduced a really nice apple cider vinegar to the mix. Within days, the mother of vinegar had started to develop, and it was getting quite pungent, so I strained and bottled it. The flavor was… well, I can really only reduce it to sound effects, with a lot of ZIPS and WOWS. It’s good stuff, and quite an unexpectedly delicious kick. It’s quite potent though, and can be added to hot or charged water, or just about anything else you can think of.
Here’s the recipe straight from the Trader’s mouth, though you may want to reduce quantities a bit.
Rum Shrub #3
- 1 gal. rum
- Juice of 10 lbs. cooked currants
- 2 lbs. sugar.
Dissolve sugar in a little water; mix with rum and currant juice; cover closely and let stand a week or more. Mix and strain through muslin bag and bottle.
The best way to do the muslin filter is by finding a place that sells canning goods and buying a Jelly bag and bag holder. They hold a lot more than a coffee filter, and do just about as good of a job. If the mother of vinegar (gooey stuff at the top) falls in with the bottle, it’ll continue to ferment until you’ve got a nice bit of pure vinegar. I wasn’t quite satisfied with the above recipe, and added some tartness and culture with Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar.
Now that that’s out of the aging jar, I’ve put in a formula from Classic Liqueurs said to mimic closely the long lost Forbidden Fruit Liqueur. Only 3 weeks of aging and agitating left!
Much thanks to Darcy O’Neil for his post on Brandy Milk Punch.
They’re not often heard of beyond the Bloody Mary or Mimosa here in the west, but breakfast cocktails have been around since man first thought to mix 2 parts hair of the dog with 3 parts morning after medication (eggs, milk). I’ve been aware of milk punches for awhile, but finally was inspired by Darcy’s Brandy Milk Punch post. I’ll let you head there for the recipe.
I’m not going to say it was a complete flop, but just reinforces how much the right ingredients are necessary. For the Brandy, I used Christian Brother XS. My experience with Brandy is pretty much limited to my parents’ Hot Toddies, with the ancient bottle of Christian Brothers brought out only during the winter holiday season. Beyond Christian Brothers, I’ve had a few excellent Pear Brandies, but still haven’t found that Brandywine so lovingly discussed as the drink of heroes. Christian Brothers seems, like so many brands, to have a bit of a sharp burn just to remind you who they are, almost as though they are branding your memory via your tongue. So, I can’t really say the Brandy mixed that well. However, I will give it credit in that there was not a drop of half and half or whole milk in the house.
Milk or cream is something that just cannot be skimped upon. A bit sadly, we live in a world (well, at least I do) that has moved on from Cow’s Full milk, the kind that invades your cereal’s bright colors, and sticks to the roof of your mouth. Nowadays, in this household, it’s skim skim skim. I used Skim Royale, a whipped concoction attempting to make skim milk more like 2%, but I’m now seeing, or really, tasting, the error of my ways.
When a proper cream is used, the flavor can be so spectacular, hiding any alcohol burn from the spirits. In this case, however, the Skim Royale had met its match, and laid down to die. The nutmeg, taking up the call, decided to increase the spicy burn of the Brandy. I was a little overzealous (had to take a pretty picture!).
A failure? Partially. A misery? No. I will say this though, my morning is feeling very eXtra Smooth. As my dear friend Craig would say “How else would you stop the shaking in the morning?”
Brandy Milk Punch
2 oz Brandy
3 oz Milk
1 tsp Sugar
Shake the Brandy, milk, and sugar with ice and strain into a Double Rocks glass. Garnish with nutmeg.
A great variation I’ve seen done at Screen Door here in Portland adds a rum of Pernod and sugar to the glass, which is utterly delightful.
Drink and Enjoy!