We've received a fair amount of snow over the last week. I'm not sure of the exact amount. Probably somewhere between three and four feet. Sure, shoveling and dealing with parking bans is a pain. In general though, I don't mind the snow too much. Mostly because it has a tendency to reinforce, heck, encourage even, a natural tendency of mine - to stay at home. Who wants to drive around in a blizzard? Nobody, that's who. The following drinks have helped us get through numerous rounds of snow removal while softening the impact of repeated 'Did-the-furnace-just-kick-on-again?' groans.
Up first is the Puritan. Gin, dry vermouth, Yellow Chartreuse. This one falls somewhere between another favorite, the California Palace (gin, dry vermouth, Green Chartreuse, maraschino) and the Alaska (gin, Yellow Chartreuse). More rounded and complete than the latter but not quite as heavy and herbal as the former. The end result is a gentle variation on a classic (not dry) Martini.
Next, a riff on the Boulevardier that has been a house staple for a couple of years now. I love splitting the vermouth called for in various recipes with Cynar. In the case of the Boulevardier however, using Cynar to replace it altogether makes for a darker, heavier and more bitter version. Whiskey, Campari, Cynar - I'm sure I'm not the first person to go down that road. That's probably because drinks like the Boulevardier, while fantastic in their own right, are incredibly malleable and a lot of fun to experiment with. Toby Cecchini has a great article along those lines here.
Lastly, a punch. Ever since reading David Wondrich's book on the subject I have found myself turning toward this festive and often (but not always) low alcohol crowd-pleaser.
You need people around for punch. Usually. There are times however, when there are no plans involving company yet the afternoon seems to lend itself to a glass or two of punch. You could, in such a situation, scale everything down and make a small batch. Or, if the punch in question happens to be your most favorite punch in the world and you have all of the ingredients on hand and you were planning on making it for a get together anyway that got called off...well, in that case, you might as well go ahead with the full amount. There are worse things than having a few day's worth of punch bottled and chilling in the fridge. Such was the case this past Sunday. Super Bowl plans fell through but I had already psyched myself up for a batch of Regent's Punch.
There are many worthwhile punches out there. Books, blogs and articles abound with punches new and old. For my money however, Regent's Punch stands alone. Brandy, rum, maraschino, tea, citrus and sparkling wine? I'm in! It's much more than that though. It's rich with super funky rums and brandy yet light and festive with sparkling wine and citrus. The green tea is subtle and the maraschino lingers in the background adding to the sweetness and texture. That description falls well short though. Regent's Punch is sublime. This one is a classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Much greater. Seville oranges are only available around here for a couple of months. When I got a text from Sean, who had spotted them at Whole Foods, I knew this one was in my immediate future.
Puritan - Frederick Knowles, The Cocktail Book: A Sideboard Manual for Gentleman, 1900 (or 1912, or 1926 sources seem somewhat inconsistent)
2 oz Gin
3/4 oz Dry Vermouth
2 tsp Yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes Orange Bitters
Garnish - Lemon Peel
Stir, Strain, Up
2 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Cynar
Garnish - Orange Peel
Build over ice
I usually make the Boulevardier with 1 1/2 oz Bourbon but lately I find that an extra half ounce comes in handy for this one. Probably because it's been below freezing for weeks and I love bourbon.
Regent's Punch - early 18th century, via David Wondrich's Punch
1 Seville Orange
4 oz Sugar
1 pint Green Tea
8 oz Cognac
2 oz Jamaican Rum
2 oz Batavia Arrack
2 oz Maraschino*
1 bottle Champagne
Peel the citrus and muddle the sugar with the peels in a bowl. Let this sit for at least half an hour. You want the oil from the peels to mix thoroughly with the sugar. Make the tea and add it to the sugar/citrus stirring to dissolve the sugar. Juice and strain the citrus and add that to the mix as well. Strain, pressing the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the liquor and refrigerate for an hour. Pour into a bowl, add the Champagne and a large block of ice.
*Rich pineapple syrup can be subbed for the maraschino. Make a 2:1 simple syrup dissolving 4 cups demerara sugar with 2 cups water over low heat. Let cool. Add a pineapple cut into half inch pieces to the syrup and let sit overnight. Strain.