Hot Toddies : Mulled Wine, Buttered Rum, Spiced Cider, and Other Soul-Warming Winter Drinks
When the weather outside is frightful, what could be more delightful than a hot toddy? From the scent of nutmeg-laced hot buttered rum to the fizz of a poinsettia cocktail, there's nothing like a classic winter drink to bring true festivity to the season. And it's easy as pie--whipping up an eggnog from scratch is a whole lot simpler than cooking the perfect turkey, and your guests will appreciate the gesture as much as the taste. From spiced cider to champagne punch, Hot Toddies is the perfect little collection of winter refreshments, with fail-safe recipes that will make any holiday party shine.
These delicious seasonal drink ideas are as perfect for wintertime as a cold smoothie is for summer. Rather than offering guests the same lackluster wine, heat it with sweet spices, spike it with Aquavit, and serve up an authentic Swedish gl�gg for some true Christmas spirit. Tempt friends with the luscious richness of chocolate eggnog, topped with real chocolate whipped cream. Curl up on a blustery winter's day with a steamy, frothy Irish coffee, or combine apple cider, bourbon, and spices for a Thanksgiving Day batch of harvest moon punch. In addition to these flavorful recipes, useful tips on everything from keeping punch cold to stocking a bar will help you concoct special drinks all winter long--even the whole year round.
Whether it's a stocking stuffer, a hostess gift, or a great addition to your next holiday party, Hot Toddies is the perfect guide to celebrating the season.
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May 29, 2012
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Excerpt from Hot Toddies by Christopher O'hara
Allspice is the household name for the berry of the West Indian myrtle tree. Also known as pimento (not to be confused with pimiento, the popular pepper found inside your martini's olive), allspice is an essential ingredient in the Tom & Jerry, wassail bowl, and Grandmother's Punch, to name a few. Used sparingly, allspice imparts a subtle but unique flavor similar to a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Some of the recipes call for easily available ground allspice, but most call for the whole dried berry. You can find whole allspice in gourmet shops, specialty stores, and online at dozens of sites.
Brown sugar is simply regular white sugar combined with molasses, which gives it a soft texture and richer taste. Dark brown sugar has more molasses than the light brown kind. Brown sugar is a key ingredient in many traditional holiday punches, including mulled wine and the wassail bowl. It's also the perfect sweetener for tea-based punches, and you can't make chocolate eggnog without it. Brown sugar blends perfectly with liquor, mildly sweetening with a taste reminiscent of a freshly baked cake-the ideal flavor association for a holiday drink. To soften not-quite-fresh brown sugar, place a chunk of it on a small dish along with an apple wedge or a slice of soft white bread, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and microwave for 30 seconds. Discard the apple or bread and stir the sugar.
Unless you mix your own curry blends, make Arabic coffee, or bake a lot of bread, you will seldom have the opportunity to grab cardamom off the lazy Susan. And that's a shame, because cardamom is actually a wonderfully versatile spice, adding a unique, pungently sweet flavor to coffee (sprinkle a bit in the grinds before brewing), coffee cake, and apple pie. A member of the ginger family, cardamom is usually sold as small, cranberry-sized pods that contain about 20 seeds, which are more pungent than the pod itself. White cardamom pods are the type most often found in supermarkets, but the green (not the black) pods stocked in Indian groceries may be substituted if you have trouble finding the white pods. For maximum flavor, purchase cardamom whole rather than preground, as the essential oils in ground cardamom dissipate quickly, resulting in less flavor. To make your own freshly ground cardamom, pry open the pods and remove the seeds. Then crush the seeds using a rolling pin or a mortar and pestle. For a milder flavor, add whole seeds to warm punches such as gl�ogg.
Chocolate, in its many forms, is an essential part of the complete holiday and wintertime bar. Use unsweetened cocoa powder to create chocolate eggnogs and hot chocolate drinks; chocolate syrup for an irresistible mocha latte; and grated semisweet chocolate to garnish an ice-cold chocolate martini.
If there's a more traditional spice than cinnamon around the holidays, I don't know what it is. Be sure to stock both ground cinnamon and a good supply of whole sticks. You'll use ground cinnamon to flavor hot punches, eggnogs, and coffee drinks, while the sticks look great floating on top of a hot punch, and make an excellent stirrer for mulled wine or a hot chocolate drink. Even though cinnamon is one of the most common spices, many don't realize that it is actually tree bark-specifically, the bark of the tropical cinnamon tree, a small evergreen. Harvested when moist, the bark curls into the familiar cinnamon-stick shape when dry. Although cinnamon sticks look wonderful, don't discount their power-they can be almost as pungent as the ground spice. One benefit of using the sticks is that they don't add the dark color and somewhat gritty texture of ground cinnamon when you're flavoring a punch or hot drink.
Love them or hate them, cloves are another quintessential holiday spice. The small brown unopened flower buds of a tropical myrtle tree, cloves got their name from the French word for nail, referring to the small spike protruding from each bud. Use cloves to add rich, spicy depth to eggnogs, punches, and hot tea drinks. Insert cloves, spiky end first, into whole oranges or lemon wedges to create festive centerpieces and elegant garnishes.
Nutmeg is the brown seed of the Myristica fragrans evergreen tree, which also produces the spice mace (the seed's outer membrane). Historically used as an aphrodisiac and stomach-pain remedy, it's the principal spice in eggnog and many other holiday delights. You'll also use nutmeg to create special holiday coffees, teas, and punches. Add ground nutmeg to coffee prior to brewing to give it a tinge of holiday spice, use it to gently powder the froth of a mocha latte, or stir it into mulled wine.
Next to nutmeg, few ingredients are as essential to preparing holiday cocktails as vanilla. Germany's traditional Grandmother's Punch (page 48) uses chopped whole vanilla beans; vanilla-bean ice cream is a key ingredient in Classic Eggnog (page 28); and vanilla extract is used in all the eggnogs and many of the hot coffee drinks in this book. Vanilla starts its life as the pods of the tropical Vanilla planifolia orchid, which acquire their characteristic aroma only after curing. When the pods are steeped in alcohol, their delicate vanilla flavor is released, creating vanilla extract.
Butter is made by churning cream, the fatty part of milk, until it reaches a semisolid state. Butter is sold salted, in which salt is added as a preservative; and "sweet," meaning that it has no salt. Sweet butter adds richness to just one holiday classic in this book: Hot Buttered Rum (page 40).
To make classic eggnogs from scratch, you'll need to break a few eggs. As unappetizing as it might sound, raw eggs are the key to making eggnog and its many variations. All the eggnog recipes require you to first separate the yolks from the whites. Usually, the yolks will be stirred with sugar, cocoa, and vanilla to form a batter-the basis of the classic eggnog. The whites are usually whipped until peaks begin to form, and then folded into fresh whipped cream to thicken the topping. You may opt for prepackaged eggnog mixes for fear that a bad egg will spoil the party-a legitimate concern, to be sure. A popular myth holds that in alcoholic eggnogs, the liquor will "cook" the eggs, offsetting any bacteria that may cause illness. The somewhat overcautious USDA disagrees, recommending against consuming raw eggs in any form whatsoever. If you are unwilling to gamble, buy the pasteurized, prepackaged mix sold in your local supermarket. If you are the sporting type, just make sure the eggs you purchase are kept in constant refrigeration until use, and purchase the freshest eggs possible.