Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tis The Season To Cheat

I recently read that the worst holiday drink is a Starbuck’s Venti 2% Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha which came in at a monstrous 660 calories, 22 grams of fat (14 saturated) and 95 grams of sugar. Last week, I would have looked for another beverage but this week – coming into the start of the holiday season- I say bring it on. In fact, make mine a Trenta.

I can cheat for a few weeks? Starting this minute so don’t try to slow me down or put on my brakes until January 2nd. Will I go crazy and eat everything in sight? Possibly. Probably. Reading through the lines, that’s a definite Yes.
Fact of the matter is, I just don’t have any self control when it comes to Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday.
I am one to take full advantage of a cheat and here’s why. For a gigantic part of the year we try to watch our calories, fat and sugar and do everything by the book but for the next few weeks it’s party time.
We got a little joyful ( ‘Tis the season) testing these holiday drink recipes unlike last year when I threw a few gumdrops in a martini and called it a holiday drink. Funny thing was that it was a hit. This year we poured over a lot of recipes and selected the following 14 as our drinks of the season. 
They are adaptable and you can increase or eliminate the alcohol in them all together. It’s Christmas so use your recipe magic.

I personally got into the mood by dressing the part. Falling off my platform reds is an exercise that I have to carry out at least once a year.

Can I pick a favorite? Like a true holiday party girl, I loved them all!

Bon Appetit!

Gingerbread Punch
3cups water
2 12-ounce bottles Guinness stout
¾ cup sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
12 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
3 whole cardamom pods, cracked
1 orange
1 ½ cups dark rum
Lightly sweetened whipped cream
Ground cinnamon

Combine first 7 ingredients in large saucepan. Using vegetable peeler, remove peel from orange in strips (orange part only) and add to stout mixture. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer over medium-low heat 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes. Strain liquid into bowl; discard solids in strainer. Cover and refrigerate punch at least 8 hours or overnight.
Combine chilled punch and rum in large saucepan and bring to simmer over medium-low heat. Pour hot punch into small teacups or large demitasse cups.
Top with whipped cream and cinnamon.
Holiday Mojitos
Lime Wedge
Superfine Sugar
Marinated Cranberries
3 lime wedges
3 Orange wedges
3 fresh mint leaves
1 ½ ounces rum
1 ounce orange bitters
1 ounce cranberry juice
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1 ounce Mint Syrup
Cracked ice
Club soda

Rub a lime wedge around rim of a glass, and dip in superfine sugar. Place 3 rounded teaspoonfuls of Marinated Cranberries in the glass; muddle until berries are crushed. Add 3 lime wedges, orange wedges, and mint leaves; muddle. Stir in rum, orange bitters, cranberry juice, fresh orange juice, and Mint Syrup. Add cracked ice, and top with club soda. Stir.
*To make, cover fresh cranberries with orange-flavored rum for 2 days to 2 weeks
Pear Martini

1 ounce pear vodka or pear brandy
1 ounce spiced rum
1 ounce pear nectar, apple juice, or orange juice
Cinnamon sugar
Garnish: sliced pear

Combine pear vodka or pear brandy, spiced rum, and pear nectar, apple juice, or orange juice in an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously, and strain into a cocktail glass rimmed with cinnamon sugar. Garnish with a sliced pear.

Holiday Pear Margarita
1 ounce reposado tequila
1 ounce pear nectar or juice
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon chopped cilantro, plus 1 small cilantro sprig for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the ingredients except the cilantro sprig and shake well. Pour into a chilled margarita glass and garnish with the cilantro sprig
Hot Cider Nog
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
1 cup apple cider
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup bourbon (optional)
Sweetened whipped cream
Garnishes: cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, apple slices

Whisk together half-and-half, milk, apple cider, eggs, sugar, 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, 15 to 20 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats a spoon.
Remove from heat; stir in bourbon, if desired. Top each serving with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish, if desired.

Christmas Brown Punch
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg 
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cardamom pods, cracked
1 apple sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 bottles honey amber lager
9 oz rum 

Add the water, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, apple slices and brown sugar to a large saucepan set over medium heat. Stir frequently to dissolve the sugar. Let the mixture reach a slight boil, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the lager and rum allowing to heat, but not to boil. Remove spices. Pour into glasses… transfer the apple slices as well. Makes 6 servings.

Salted Caramel Mocha

1 cup milk
1 cup hot, strong coffee
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons caramel sauce
½ shot rum or brandy
For the topping:

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
      Whipped cream
Caramel sauce

In a medium saucepan, heat milk over low heat until very hot. Remove from heat and froth milk with a frother, whisk or immersion blender. Or, pour into a Mason jar, screw on lid and shake until very frothy.
While the milk is heating, whisk together the coffee, cocoa, sugar and caramel sauce. Split the coffee mixture between two mugs.

Pour the hot milk and foam into the coffee, dividing evenly between the two mugs. Add the liquor.

For the topping, mix together salt and sugar. Top each mug with whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce and a hefty sprinkling of the salt and sugar mixture. Makes 2 servings.

White Chocolate Eggnog
1 quart eggnog
1/2 cup white rum
1/2 cup white chocolate liqueur
1 cup whipped topping
Grated white chocolate, for garnish
Pumpkin pie spice, for garnish

In a punch bowl, combine the egg nog, rum, and white chocolate liqueur. When you are ready to serve, whisk the egg nog to make it frothy and pour the mixture into cups.

Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the whipped topping into each cup. Garnish each with the grated white chocolate and a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice.

Peppermint Patty

1/2 oz. crème de cacao
1/2 oz. peppermint schnapps 
1 oz. cream

Stir with ice, strain into shot glass.
Candy Cane Martini
1-1/2 oz vodka 
1 tsp peppermint schnapps 

Mix all ingredients with ice in a shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Option: Garnish with a small candy cane or create a candy cane rim with crushed candy canes.

Mexican Hot Cocoa

2cups reduced-fat (2 percent) evaporated milk
1/2cupwhole milk
1/2cupchocolate liqueur
1teaspoonvanilla extract
1tablespoonunsweetened cocoa
1 1/2teaspoonsground cinnamon
1/4teaspoonancho chili powder
10cinnamon sticks
1dried red chile
2 1/2ozbittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1/4cupheavy whipping cream

Whisk evaporated milk, whole milk, liqueur, vanilla, sugar, cocoa, 1 tsp of cinnamon and chili powder in a heavy saucepan. Add 2 of the cinnamon sticks and chili and cook gently over medium-low heat until warm. Add chocolate and cook, whisking until melted. Gently bring to a high simmer; reduce heat and simmer until liquid thickens and reduces slightly, whisking often, 10 minutes. Combine heavy cream with remaining 1/2 tsp cinnamon and beat until peaks form. Ladle 1/3 cup hot cocoa each into 8 teacups; top each with 1 tbsp whipped cream and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Serves 8.
I rimed the glass with a blend of chili spices. Delicious!
Bloody Mary Martini
1 medium-sized piece fresh horseradish, peeled and julienned
20 black peppercorns
1 pint vodka
5 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
½ teaspoon celery salt
4 celery stalks

Place horseradish and peppercorns in vodka bottle; seal; chill at least 24 hours. Puree tomatoes; drain with fine-mesh sieve; discard pulp. Add celery salt. Fill a shaker with ice; add 2 oz vodka (not peppercorns or horseradish), 1 oz tomato puree; shake.
Strain into martini glass. I used a cute little wine glass instead. Garnish with celery. I used a pickle – my favorite garnish for a Bloody Mary. .Serves 4.

You think these are just for kids? About 2 weeks into the holiday parties, I’m all about the Milk Shooters.
Candy Cane Milk Shooters
1 % milk
Mini-Candy Canes

Crush a few candy canes until they are dust and use them to rim two shot glasses. Fill each glass with milk and dip a candy cane in right before serving. Enjoy!

Last but not least…if you get into it and have too much holiday fun, try this for a morning after cure. It works especially well if you add a shot of whatever it was that did you in the night before.

The Cure
Seltzer water
1 cup sugar
5 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt
6″ of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
Combine 2 cups of water, salt, ginger, sugar, and red pepper flakes in a pan over the stove.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from heat and let it sit, covered, until it is cool.

Strain the syrup into a jar and put it in the fridge to chill.
Fill a tall glass with ice.

Put 2 Tbsp. of the spicy-giner syrup and a lemon wedge into a glass. Add a shot of what ever you drank the night before.

Fill the glass with soda water and stir.