Tag Archives: cognac

Mixology Monday: Spice — Cranberry Spice Sidecar

Cranberry Spice Sidecar

This month, Mixology Monday is hosted by Craig of Tiki Drink & Indigo Firmaments. The theme this time around is Spice.

I use spices and herbs often in cocktails, so this theme gave me a chance to explore variations in my favorite recipes. My first thought was a cranberry variation on the Blackberry Gin Daisy from this summer — a winter version of a late summer drink.

I love a gin hot toddy with lemon and a stick of cinnamon, and that was my other inspiration. Cinnamon works with cranberries; cinnamon works with gin; lemon works with all of them. Let’s bring them together for a party.

For cranberry syrup, I put 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and 2 cups fresh cranberries in a pot, along with about a half stick of cinnamon and 6 or so whole cloves. (Next time I might add even more spices, and maybe some dried orange peel too.) Simmered 4 minutes, let cool until just about room temp. (Here they are simmering and cooling.) Strained with finest available strainer.

First drink: a cranberry variation on the gin daisy. It turned out to be much too tart. Cranberries are not, in fact, berries. Eat one and you’ll discover how not berry they are. So the syrup was sweet but not so sweet as grenadine, nor as sweet as the blackberry syrup I made this summer. Additional sweetness was in order.

Obvious choice: Cointreau. it’s delicious in everything, and its orange flavor works beautifully with both cranberries and warm spices.

Cranberry Spice Daisy

2 oz gin (Plymouth)
1 oz cranberry spice syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
.25 oz Cointreau

Shake with ice. Strain into cocktail glass, top with spritzer. Garnish with three fresh cranberries.

This was good, but the balance of sweet and tart seemed delicate. Hard to manage, too tricky for my taste.

Knowing how nicely brandy plays with Cointreau and orange, I tried a different tack.

Cranberry Sidecar

2 oz cognac or brandy (Courvoisier in this case)
1 oz cranberry spice syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
.25 oz Cointreau

Shake with ice. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with three fresh cranberries.

This was a much better drink.The cognac blended easily with the various flavors, and everything ended up warm and welcoming (yet nicely chilled by the ice). The spices are subtle, but there’s enough of them to change what might otherwise be a fruity beverage into something more special.

I still think a little spritz of seltzer isn’t out of place, to lighten the drink.

Important note: If you’re the type who likes to munch on your garnish, take care with these drinks. Even after they’ve soaked in booze for a while, fresh cranberries are tart little things.

Thanks to Craig for hosting MxMo this month and choosing such a terrific theme. Please check out his site for a full wrap up of creative drink ideas.

 

(Photo credit: Cranberry Spice Sidecar, originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey.)

MxMo: Variations on the Brandy Alexander

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This month’s Mixology Monday theme is "Variations," hosted by Jimmy at Jimmy’s Cocktail Hour.

Sometimes it seems like every drink I make is a variation on the original. Probably it is. Good cocktail-making is like good cooking: You take a recipe, tune it to your tastes and to the tastes of those who will consume it, adjust for the ingredients on hand, and apply a little chance.

The Brandy Alexander is itself a variation on the Alexander, which is gin, creme de cacao, and cream in equal amounts, shaken with ice. The brandy variation took over its older brother long ago. I’ll guess this is because your average gin drinker doesn’t want his gin softened by a big splash of cream, while in contrast the brandy version turns out to be perhaps the original "girly" drink — soft and sweet but packing a hefty wallop for those who aren’t careful.

Feist (see video above) isn’t the only one to note its danger. It’s a Brandy Alexander that Jack Lemmon’s character orders for a virginal Lee Remick on their first date in Days of Wine and Roses. The sweet young lady loves her first-ever cocktail, and then 45 minutes later her child has nearly perished in a fire and she’s less than an hour from destroying her marriage, all because she can’t drag herself away from the bottle. So much danger in a simple cocktail glass, sprinkled with grated nutmeg.

Movies notwithstanding, the Brandy Alexander is a mild and friendly drink. It is, in fact, a dessert, with creme de cacao turning a perfectly respectable cocktail into a pseudo-chocolate slushie.

I wanted to find a variation that kept the kick of the brandy or cognac, plus the softness of the cream, but offered a bit more with the sweetness part — more flavor, a little subtlety.

I turned to Tuaca, a sweet Italian liqueur flavored with vanilla and fruity spices. This handled the sweetness admireably and brought in nice flavor, but couldn’t quite balance with the cream. So I added a drop or two of Cointreau and came up with a pleasant cocktail.

I have just a few minutes until midnight to post and can’t find a good name for this thing, so I’m going with the obvious:

Brilliant Alexander

1 oz brandy or cognac
1 oz Tuaca
2 or three drops of Cointreau to taste
1 oz light cream

Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into cocktail glass and serve.

Enjoy! And please check out the creations that Jimmy collects for this Mixology Monday of variations. Cheers!