Odds and Ends

No one ever seems to blog much during Christmas week, and I’m no exception. Just wanted to drop a quick post linking out to a couple of other things I’ve been working on.

The biggest news is that I’m contributing to Serious Eats. I’m writing a weekly column for the next several weeks on basic cocktail techniques. Right now, I’m in the middle of a three-part series on party planning. Parts 1 and 2 are up, along with a recipe for a batched Negroni. Part 3 should be up next week. I still can’t believe people pay me to write about what I love.

I also have a recipe that’s part of a crowded field at Food52, competing for best Hot Toddy recipe. My entry, the Rum Tum Toddy, features baked apple and Smith & Cross rum. I love the drink and hope it has a chance, but we’ll see. Here’s a video of me flaming an orange twist to go atop the toddy. I sloppily managed to drop the twist pith side up, which irritates me, but I didn’t get a smudge of match soot on the peel, which would have vexed me even more. (Yes, that’s a box of wine behind me. Sigh.)


How about a nice rum punch?

For last weekend’s blow-out, I mixed up a loose variation of Padma Lakshmi’s Sweet Lime-Ginger Rum Punch. I know you want to mock me for this, but let me remind you that Padma is hot. See? Hot.

I started the day before the party by taking a couple of plastic containers and filling them with a blend of water and lime juice. I lidded them up and stashed them in the freezer. I then juiced three dozen limes and set the juice aside before cooking up several cups of simple syrup, spiced with grated ginger and cracked cardamom pods. Once the syrup cooled, I double-strained it to remove the solids and then poured the syrup into the lime juice. I refrigerated that overnight.

The day of the party, things were simple. Once our guests began to arrive, I set up the punch bowl with the large ice chunks, poured all of the limey syrup into the bowl, and added three liters of amber rum.

And then people started falling down. Yatta!

Party time bottled cocktails!

On Sunday, I wrote up my agua fresca recipe while it was still fresh. My other big hits were my bottled cocktails and rum punch. I’ll get to the rum punch in my next post, but for now I want to concentrate on bottled cocktails.

Last year, when Jen and I hosted a party, I made a couple of bottled drinks–a Manhattan and a vodka martini–but I mostly shook drinks for a crowd of 25. From 2 until 10, I shook drinks. At the same time I was mixing drinks, I was manning the grill because we had 10 pounds of chicken wings to cook on the same day our oven died.

Yeah, that was a bad day.

Jen changed up her menu this year to rely less on the oven, and I switched up my cocktail menu to have more things premade. One of those was rum punch, but I again had bottled cocktails on hand. On this front, I owe a lot to Brad Ellis, from the site The Bar Mix Master Has Spoken. I know he’s not updating often these days, but he’s got a couple of great posts on planning a party and prepping bottled cocktails. He’s got a great formula for determining the ratios of spirit to mixer to water. And yes, you do want water–unless you plan to shake your premix over ice right at serving time, you won’t get any of the water that shaking over ice imparts.

My “bottles” were actually 60-oz. pitchers, so I had to scale his 25-oz. recipe up. Again, I did Manhattans, which were very popular–for the pitcher, I used Rittenhouse bonded rye and Cinzano sweet vermouth with Angostura bitters. And water, of course, to about 25-30%. The martinis this year were gin–Plymouth, to be exact, with Noilly Prat dry, a very light hand of Regan’s orange bitters, and again about 25-30% water.

I wound up shaking nothing this year and I’m not ashamed. You shouldn’t be either. Next time you have a party, make sure you’ve got some bottled drinks on hand and you’ll be able to spend more time with your guests.

Something nonboozy for a change

I don’t know why I’m awake this early, on the morning after our cocktail party. Frankly, I don’t know why I’m alive this early, but here I am, rocking you like a hurricane. The biggest hit of the evening was my rum punch, which apparently is potent enough to bring down nations. We should ship it to North Korea. But I’m not going to write that up just yet. I have a good recipe written down, so I can post that anytime.

What I will talk about is another hit of the evening–agua fresca. Since I was just winging it with that, I want to publish my recipe while I still remember what I did.

Jen has a Southwestern cookbook from which I got the basic recipe, but I doctored it up quite a bit. I have no way of knowing how “authentic” my version is, but frankly I don’t care. The recipe in the book is a pineapple-lime agua fresca, in which you peel, core, and puree a four-pound pineapple and mix that with lime juice and sugar.

Jen ordered a pineapple from FreshDirect, the grocery-delivery service we use. It came to us peeled and cored (but with the core still in the container) and clocked in at 22 ounces. That wasn’t going to make us enough agua fresca, I felt, so I thought for a minute and decided to supplement the pineapple and lime with some pomegranate juice we had on hand.

Agua Fresca de la Dietsch

  • 1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into small chunks (mine was 22 oz.)
  • 2 limes, juiced (about a cup of juice)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup homemade grenadine

Technique: Put about a third of the pineapple chunks into a blender or food processor, along with the lime juice and sugar, and puree until smooth and the sugar fully dissolves into the liquid. Pour that out into a pitcher. Process the remaining pineapple in batches and pour into the pitcher. Add pomegranate juice and grenadine to the pitcher and stir.

Serve over ice and top with seltzer. Or, y’know, vodka. It’s your liver.

You might go easier than I did on the sugar. If you have extra grenadine or simple syrup on hand, it’s easy to adjust the sweetness in the glass to your liking. Better to adjust up than to start with a cloying drink.

Now, can someone please pass the milk thistle?