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Monday, December 11, 2006

Mixology Monday: Drinks for a Festive Occasion

Although this blog is not primarily about cocktails, I've been on something of a cocktail kick for the past few months. Some of my friends tell me I've just been drinking more, and I say to them: "You're right!" But I've also been drinking more widely and more creatively. Moreover, I've been eyeing the Mixology Monday event for a while now; I just hadn't gotten my act together to participate until today.

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday, hosted byThe Spirit World, is "Drinks for a Festive Occasion." My husband and I pride ourselves on our annual Christmas party, but we usually restrict our alcohol offering to wine and BYOB. MxMo could have provided us with the impetus to create some new drinks for this year's party - except that we had friends who made egg nog for us to serve. And it was both delicious and greatly appreciated!

Nonetheless, there are a couple of drinks that we have served at past parties that are probably due for renewal. When serving drinks at a party, the key is to be able to get them out fast, especially if you want to spend any time with your guests, rather than behind the bar. There are a few ways to ensure this: allow your guests to serve themselves, for example, or make a big bowl of punch. Our preferred method is to offer a house highball with only two ingredients. That way, it's quick and easy to assemble, requires no shaking or stirring, and allows you to offer that personal touch of making a drink for your guests.

Our favourite highball at this time of year is cranberry juice and amaretto. It's a festive colour and a festive flavour, and comes together in a flash. I don't think I've ever seen a name for this particular combination, though we've toyed with "Cramaretto" (which doesn't sound so great). Mostly we just refer to it by its component ingredients.

Cranberry and Amaretto
Put 1.5 oz. of amaretto in a highball glass filled with ice. Top with cranberry juice.

We don't usually insist on a garnish, but if you wanted, you could add a half-slice of orange skewered with a fresh cranberry in the middle. If you find the above version of the drink too sweet, you could replace some of the amaretto with vodka, making it a little drier while keeping its kick.

Since I'm here, I'd also like to talk about another favourite drink of mine in the winter months: the hot toddy. At their simplest, my hot toddies consist of a shot of whisky (Scotch or Canadian, depending on my mood), a spoon of sugar, and a mugful of hot water, garnished with a lemon twist. Around Christmas, you can festive it up by adding a couple of whole cloves and a cinnamon stir stick to the glass.

If you want to party-size it, though, there's another approach you can take. I always offer hot mulled apple cider at our Christmas party, and have been known to leave a bottle of rum conspicuously near the stack of mugs. After all, there's nothing that says a hot toddy has to be made with water, right?

Hot Mulled Cider
Sweet apple cider (i.e., the non-alcoholic kind)
Assorted whole spices: cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, etc.

Put the cider in a large pot. Add the spices. Bring almost to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for at least 15 or 30 minutes. The cider improves as the evening wears on, unless it runs out! Don't let it stay at a boil for very long, or a sediment will form. If you don't want to worry about that, use filtered apple juice instead of apple cider.

To make a hot toddy with the cider, simply put a shot of the rum (or whisky) of your choice in a mug, ladle in some of the mulled cider, and garnish with a small piece of lemon and a cinnamon stir stick.


This will probably be my last post for the year, since I'm going to be on the road until January 4. Happy holidays! I'll see you in 2007.


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