Yesterday, we talked a little bit about the history of eggnog, as well as the ingredients and associated debates with how to make a quality eggnog. Whether you’re a British brandy purist, a colonial rum lover, or a bourbon boasting American, eggnog is wonderful treat, especially this time of year. So, time to gather up some ingredients and whip up some of this rich and creamy beverage, either in a punch bowl or a mug for yourself.
Here we are, a few days from the winter solstice, getting near the close of the year, and in the midst of the holiday season. I have always loved the winter, and having the excuse of the holidays to spend some quality time with my family and friends. Recently, at a holiday party and in various conversations, the topic of what is probably the most iconic of holiday libations, eggnog, has come up a few times. Questions of what spirit to use, homemade versus store-bought, and how to enjoy this creamy punch without making a punchbowl’s worth, all have come up, and with some decidedly varied opinions. So, what better than to weigh in with my opinions here, for all to see.
I have a great fondness for a good cup of eggnog, though that’s often hard to come by in my experience. While it may not be a drink for everyone, I think that more people would enjoy this drink that dates back to the mid 18th century if they were exposed to a good, homemade batch, and steered clear of the gloopy store-bought premade varieties.
If nothing else, I hope that this post gets more people to put down the carton or plastic jug of mass produced concoctions that start flooding the grocery store shelves this time of year. Making a delicious, quality eggnog doesn’t have to be daunting. Whether you’re making a big batch for a party, or want to enjoy a single cup at home by the fire on your own, let’s look at a bit of the history of this wonderful drink, and talk about the ingredients, and the debate surrounding some of them. (more…)
A few days ago, I shared a post about the delicious restorative, the Corpse Reviver #2 as I started my vacation. That same night, after finishing off that cocktail and going to make another, I discovered I had used up my last lemon. Now, what was I to do? You can’t very well make a Corpse Reviver #2 without fresh lemon juice, as I covered in the last post. And then I found my answer, right there in front of me, minus the #2.
The Corpse Reviver, or Corpse Reviver #1 to some, is another entry in the family of curative cocktails like its more popular secondary namesake. While the #2 is a light, citrus-centric, and cleanly bracing drink, this is a completely different animal. Brandy based, with a bit extra brandy, and the clean nearly astringent notes of Lilet Blanc and absinthe replaced with the warm and rich notes of sweet vermouth, the Corpse Reviver strikes me as more of an after dinner drink, or a tonic to be fed to someone pulled from icy water, than a morning pick me up. Warm where the #2 is cool, rich and deep where the #2 is light and refreshing, the Corpse Reviver is still a subtle drink in its own way, and the three ingredients play together just as nicely.
Combine the following in a mixing glass with a modest portion of ice:
Unlike the #2 where we shake the ingredients to combine, thus chilling the drink more, stir the combined ingredients for a moment, just enough to drop the temperature and mix them fully. Strain into a cocktail glass that you’ve chilled previously in the freezer or by filling with ice before prepping your drink, dumping the ice prior to pouring the drink.
In this instance, I used my go to cognac, Decourtet VS, which is a marvelous cognac and at a price that won’t make you cringe. I used Laird’s applejack as it’s what I had on hand, though using calvados will impart slightly stronger apple notes with a twinge less of sweetness, in my opinion. For the vermouth, any sweet Italian vermouth will suffice, though I used my personal favorite, Carpano Antica Formula, using the original recipe created by its namesake, the late 18th century distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano, the father of the now familiar vermouth. Carpano Antica is an amazingly rich drink, and well worth picking up for using in cocktails or drinking on its own as an apéritif (the good people at Post Prohibition wrote a wonderful piece about this complex, bittersweet vermouth), and it’s the perfect choice for this recipe, if I may so.
While sharing a name with the Corpse Reviver #2, this is a completely different drink, but just as pleasing in its own way, and well worth a try if you’re a fan of brandy, Manhattans, or simply looking for something warming and comforting.
Tonight I officially start a much needed vacation. In celebration, I decided I needed a tasty libation, and one that would serve as a bit of pick me up after a tiring week of trying to make sure everything would be covered while I’m out of the office for the next week and a half. What better than a Corpse Reviver #2?
The Corpse Reviver #2 is perhaps the best known cocktail from the Corpse Reviver family of drinks. Recorded in Craddock’s famous Savoy Cocktail Book, this drink is meant to be a hangover cure. While I’ve tested having this drink after a particularly hard night of over imbibing, I don’t know if it’s particularly effective for the purpose, but it is a tremendously drinkable, and subtly complex cocktail nonetheless.
Made from equal parts of nearly all of the ingredients, I suppose one should expect a fairly balanced drink, but this is one of my favorite classic cocktails for how marvelously well balanced it is, and how well each ingredient plays off the others. The sweetness of the Cointreau balanced by the dryness of the gin, played against the tartness of the lemon juice, the slight oily note of the Lilet cut by the other three primary ingredients, all capped by the cool bite of the absinthe which seems to heighten each other ingredient’s more subtle flavors somehow.
To make your own, either as a nice evening cocktail, or when in need of a bit of the hair of the dog that bit you in the morning, mix the following together in a shaker with ice:
- 1 part gin
- 1 part Cointreau
- 1 part Lilet Blanc
- 1 part fresh lemon juice
- 1-2 dashes of absinthe
After a good shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or coupe if you like, optionally add a maraschino cherry, and enjoy.
A note on the absinthe: some add it to the shaker, others rinse the glass with it. I typically prefer the latter, as I find it makes the aroma of the absinthe a little more pronounced and present in the drink, but then I am a great drinker of absinthe. By adding it to the shaker with the other ingredients, you may find it a little mellower, which is a perfectly acceptable option if you’re not a huge fan of absinthe.
For the gin, I chose the wonderfully dry Leopold Brothers offering for its clean, strident taste, but I’ve made this drink with probably close to a dozen different gins and been pleased each time, though I do prefer this with a drier gin typically.
While we’re talking about the specific ingredients let’s talk about substitutions. If you can’t get your hands on Lilet Blanc, but can find Cocchi Americano, that’s a perfectly fine substitution that won’t tremendously alter the profile of the drink. For the Cointreau, often times recipes will suggest using triple sec as a replacement for Cointreau, but I really can’t recommend it in this drink. As I mentioned in my post about the Sidecar, triple sec is sweeter than Cointreau which this drink doesn’t want, and less flavorful, which will unsettle the wonderful balance of this drink. For that reason, I do implore you, don’t substitute triple sec in for the Cointreau here; the difference is subtle but it is noticeable in my opinion and not in a good way.
While switching out the Cointreau for triple sec isn’t a huge sin, using bottled lemon juice in place of the fresh most definitely is. You’ll lose the crisp citrus flavor, and instead find acid in its place. A key to making great cocktails, just like great food, is using fresh, flavorful ingredients, and you should always be using fresh citrus if you can. I used to occasionally pre-juice citrus for the next few days, but stopped because I found that I’d let a couple days turn into a week or more, and the longer you let it go, the more the flavor changes. Nowadays, I only juice citrus in advance if I’m going to be making a large number of drinks that day or the following perhaps, and don’t want to be stuck juicing between every drink I’m serving.
One of my very favorite cocktails, the Sidecar is an undeniable classic. Attributed to being created at Harry’s Bar in Paris sometime around 1930. Supposedly, it was named for a regular customer who loved the drink and drove a motorcycle with sidecar, though some are dubious of this claim. Whatever the origin story, the Sidecar is a well balanced, incredibly drinkable number, and is a great example of the rule of 3; one spirit, one sweet, one sour. You end up with a drink that is refreshing on hot summer days, warming in the cold of winter, and always hits the spot, balanced nicely between sweet and sour. It is, at its heart, a very simple drink, but the flavors play together so well, it’s as if this drink is what these three ingredients were made for.
The recipe is simplicity itself:
- 1 part cognac
- 0.5 parts Cointreau
- 0.5 parts fresh lemon juice
Combine the ingredients with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon peel.
Traditionally, as is pictured here, the glass should be given a sugared rim. This is actually a rather important step in balancing this drink, as the sugar rim lends extra sweetness to the drink to help balance the tartness from the significant amount of lemon juice. To make a sugar rim, simply cover a small plate in a thin layer of sugar, wet the rim of your cocktail glass (either with water or lemon juice in this case), and then set the glass, rim down on the plate. You can move the glass around to help collect sugar. Let the sugar dry into a crust, and chill the glass.
I will occasionally forgo the sugar rim, either because I’m feeling particularly lazy, or because I don’t have Cointreau on hand, and must make do with triple sec. In the former situation, I’ll typically back off the lemon content a hair, or add a couple of dashes of simple syrup. In the latter, I’ll leave the proportions alone, as triple sec is sweeter than Cointreau (though less flavorful), and makes up for the absent sugar rim.
Brandy can be substituted for cognac, which I frequently do, because in the past I hadn’t found an affordable cognac that I cared for, and brandy will do the trick nicely in this cocktail and often at a much more reasonable price for similar quality. Lately, I’ve discovered Decourtet cognac, and their VS is extremely affordable at around $20.00 for a 750 mL bottle, and is excellent for mixing, and is my go to for Sidecars these days.