Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates this holiday, and Happy Holidays to everyone else. Regardless of your traditions, hopefully it involves getting together with friends, family and loved ones.
Naturally, that often involves great food and plenty of drinks. I was just out and about and lots of people were stocking up on booze and beer for their holiday parties. We’ve had a number of features recently and in past years with suggestions on cocktails, beer and wine. Bob Westal gives us weekly ideas with his Drink of the Week series helping us with both traditional and new cocktail recipes. His recent article covered several Christmas cocktails that you might consider for tonight and tomorrow.
Several years ago Mike Barkacs offered up his top 5 holiday beers which should give you some ideas on how to stock your refrigerator, and naturally you can check out all of our beer reviews.
Then check out our wine reviews as well for ideas on what to serve with your holiday meal.
Finally, check out our Booze Gift Guide for last-minute ideas on bottles you can bring to a party or add to your own stock for this week and next.
The good folks at Grand Marnier sent us their new Signature Collection, the smooth and delicious Raspberry Peach. The Signature Collection Series is a unique annual flavor offering from Grand Marnier featuring an all-natural fusion of fresh fruit ingredients and exotic orange essence, blended with premium Cognac. Here’s how they describe it: “The House of Marnier Lapostolle is proud to present our latest expression, Signature Collection No. 2 Raspberry peach. The natural flavors of succulent European raspberries and rare red peaches from Ardèche, in the South of France, are combined with world-renowned Grand Marnier, made from our exceptionally smooth Cognac and wild tropical Haitian oranges.”
It sounds incredible, and it totally lives up to the hype. Just pour it into a cocktail glass with some ice and you have a delicious drink with a nice kick. It’s not too sweet or syrupy like some liqueurs and it makes for a great sipping drink. If you’re a fan of Grand Marnier you have to try this, and we recommend it to anyone who enjoys spirits.
Here’s a punch recipe provided by Grand Marnier and created by mixologist George Carney that you can serve if you’re hosting a holiday party, though we like the Raspberry Peach so much we would serve it straight on the rocks:
GM Raspberry Peach Holiday Punch
2 quarts Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach
1 ½ cups cinnamon syrup
2 quarts water
1 quart lemon juice
1 quart overproof rum
4 oz apricot brandy
Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl and serve. Optional: freeze raspberries and pieces of peach in purified water and add to punch bowl.
For individual portions:
2 oz Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach
1/2 oz cinnamon syrup
2 oz spring water
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz overproof rum
1/8 oz apricot brandy
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a punch glass.
With the holidays coming, Grand Marnier Signature Collection No. 2 – Raspberry Peach is a great choice to bring to a party. It can also be a great gift for both men and women as the flavor will have broad appeal. Buy an extra one for your home bar!
Booze and the movies go way back. From the self-medicating part-time hooker heroine of 1931′s “Safe in Hell” — a highlight of 2013′s Turner Classic Movies Festival — to the lovable dipsomaniacs of “The Thin Man” and “Harvey” and on into more recent times with such frequently soused superheros as James Bond and Tony Stark, the movies have glamorized alcohol. When the movies wanted to, they could make habitual drunkenness charming, funny, and, of course, sexy.
While the movies once celebrated cigarette smoking as well, modern day Hollywood Boulevard makes it tricky for smokers to indulge in their passion, give or take some hookah bars and a medical marijuana “clinic.” Booze, however can be obtained with great ease. All you need is plenty of ready cash to afford the inflated prices or a clean credit card or two and you can have your fill of cocktails.
And that’s exactly what I did between classic, near classic, and merely really interesting movies the weekend of the 2013 TCM Fest. What follows is a (relatively) brief journal of the drinks I found going up and down the boulevard we call Hollywood the final weekend of April.
Now, I should add that this listing is my no means exhaustive and is, with one exception, limited to cocktails one can purchase on Hollywood Boulevard proper, no side streets allowed. They can all be obtained within a fairly easy walk of Sid Grauman’s old Chinese and Egyptian Theaters and the legendary Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the heart of Hollywood and the home base of the TCM Fest.
And so we begin our journey across the street from the Egyptian at what is still Los Angeles’s most famous bar.
When you’re stocking your home bar, you always want to make sure you have the staples like vodka and bourbon, but you definitely want to offer your guests some unique spirits as well, particularly with the exploding popularity of unique cocktails.
One item to consider is KAPPA Pisco, produced by the Marnier Lapostolle family that is best known for its Grand Marnier Cognac. Pisco is like Cognac in that it’s a spirit made from the double distillation of wine. However, unlike Cognac which must be aged in oak, Chilean Pisco can be either aged or unaged in oak. KAPPA is the unaged variety that results in a delicious white spirit that offers an excellent option when mixing cocktails. It’s definitely unique and the beautiful bottle from renowned designer Ora-Ito will look great on any bar.
The grapes for KAPPA Pisco are sourced from the Elqui Valley in Chile which boasts 300 days of sunshine a year and fresh water from the Andes Mountains.
You can use KAPPA Pisco for all sorts of cocktails, and you can find tons of great drink recipes on their website. Cinco de Mayo is behind us, but margaritas are always popular. Here’s a recipe for what they call the “South American Margarita.”
1.5 oz KAPPA Pisco
0.5 oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
0.5 oz agave nectar
1 oz fresh lime juice
Shaken, strained over fresh ice into rocks glass, garnish lime wheel.
Give KAPPA Pisco a try and you just might find a new staple for your home bar or something to order when you go out.
We love celebrating the Kentucky Derby, and one critical component has to be enjoying a Mint Julep which is the drink you’ll see everywhere during Derby weekend.
Here’s a great recipe:
1.5 oz. Bulleit Rye
2 oz. Stirrings Simple Syrup
Fresh mint leaves
Preparation: Muddle mint leaves, Stirrings Simple Syrup and crushed ice in rocks glass. Add Bulleit Rye and fill glass with ice. Pour into cocktail shaker, shake vigorously and serve in rocks glass with fresh mint garnish.
Of course, a big part of Derby weekend is betting on the race, and the folks at Bulleit teamed up with professional handicapper Tony Gold to give us six tips on picking a Derby winner:
1. Peaking performance: The most important rule of all is to find the horse that will peak in the Derby meaning, look for horses who improved with each race with either a strong first, second or third finish after a long layoff, with more room to improve. You can eliminate half the field simply by doing this.
2. Age factor: If the horse is two years old and hasn’t raced, the chances of it winning are slim. These are not fully mature horses and getting to a mile and a quarter requires much conditioning.
3. Time comparison: Log resulting times from each horse’s last prep race with the rest of the board.
4. Prep race outcomes: Look at what prep races historically produce the most winners.
5. Jockey experience: Consider the jockey’s skill set from previous races. The derby is a large field and a good experienced jockey can position a horse well early and avoid trouble, which can make or a break a horse’s chances.
6. Tactical speed: A Derby winner will jump early and can be found somewhere from mid-field to the second or third place by halfway around the course.
Of course, your girlfriend might do better just picking based on a cool name, but that’s what makes this race so much fun. Enjoy!