By Nathan Greene, Resident Mixologist and International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event Star of the Bar Winner
Holiday season is in full swing as Thanksgiving quickly approaches followed by everyone’s favorite - yeah, right - prelude to Christmas, Black Friday. If the thought of entertaining family and friends or braving the crowds at the mall is making you overly anxious, why not stir up a couple boozy concoctions to spice up the festivities?
These days punches are all the rage and many of us can thank cocktail historian and writer, Dave Wondrich, for his amazing book Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl for helping spur on this trend. Many great recipes for all types of punches can be found in this piece, and the best part is, you can adjust the recipes, like any recipe, to suit yours and your guests’ tastes. One my favorite recipes is the “USS Richmond Punch”:
Jamaica Rum 1 quart
Brandy 1 quart (he suggest a VSOP Cognac)
Strong Black Tea 1 quart
Port Wine 1 quart
White Sugar 3 cups
Curacao, ½ pint
Tip: Just before serving add 10 bottles of soda water or sparkling wine to 3 quarts of stock and use plenty of ice.
The punch is Tiki-like in nature, which is popular again, too, but for me, everything from the color to the aroma to the taste is what makes this punch a winner. I actually serve my own version of this at my bar in Las Vegas and we always sell out quickly.
If punches aren’t your thing, a simple yet original cocktail is sure to please your guests. Perhaps a whiskey cocktail? Nothing makes me think of Fall like whiskey. A nice Old-Fashioned or a Manhattan is right up my alley (although not just for Fall!). But how about a subtle twist on another old favorite, the Whiskey Sour?
2 oz Rye Whiskey (Michter’s or Bulleit are a couple of my faves)
1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 oz Honey Syrup (1:1 Honey to Water, heated till the honey has dissolved)
1 Sage Leaf
Tip: Shake and strain over fresh ice in an Old-Fashioned glass. Spank a sage leaf and let it float on top.
You can experiment with different honeys to make your syrup, which, as you notice in the above recipe, is different than using your typical white sugar simple syrup. Because I’m using sage for garnish, I like sage honey. It’s a little more delicate in flavor than your typical clove or orange blossom honey, and a little bit sweeter, too, which balances the rye and the acidity of the lemon. Most people don’t know that honey itself is nearly as acidic as your typical citrus fruits, so there’s another good reason to go with a sweeter honey.
There you have it. A great punch and a different take on a classic to keep you warm and festive through this Thanksgiving weekend.
Happy Thanksgiving and until next time, kanpai!
Blogger's note: Nathan Greene is Bar Manager at the Vanguard Lounge in Las Vegas.