Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday Cocktails

Happy Holidays, everyone!

The holidays are one of my favorite times of year.  I love Thanksgiving, I love Christmas, I love twinkle lights and baking cookies and, most of all, spending time with family and friends.  With Christmas just around the corner, I'm trying to squeeze in as many moments with people as I can, and also fit in as much Christmasing as I can. 

My lovely roommate and I threw a Holiday Cocktail party last weekend as one of those moments and it was a smashing success, if I may say so myself.  In an effort to be a grownup, I wanted to have a couple special cocktails to offer people other than soda out of red solo cups.  But since I'm po, yo, I didn't want to buy a bunch of different liquors to make mixed drinks.

Enter the cocktail mixers in this post.  After snooping around the internet, I decided to make two different mixers: Cranberry Orange Spice and Apple Ginger Cinnamon.  The beauty of drinks is you can do whatever you want.  You don't have the same kinds of concerns you do when you cook, like your roast burning or your cake not rising.  Drinks are a great canvas on which to experiment with flavors.

So let's talk about spices for a minute.  I'm a huge fan of spices, particularly the ones used in these recipes.  I chose cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and star anise, which all pair well together.

Cinnamon, all spice, and cloves, along with nutmeg and ginger, are the flavors found in spice cake and gingerbread.  Star anise has a licorice flavor and is what pizzelles taste like (those super flat lacy cookies), if you've ever had those.

Cranberry and orange is a classic combination, particularly around the holidays, and to make the mixer a little more special I added star anise and cloves.  The result is similar to the flavors in mulled wine.  The other concoction I made was an apple and ginger mixer with cinnamon.  All I could get at the store was pressed apple juice, but if you can get your hands on some apple cider, I would recommend doing that. 

Since I was making these for a party, I needed vessels to put them in, but I didn't have those nice tall glasses you put mixers.  Hence the plastic bottles.  To class things up a bit, I removed the store labels and tied on the name tags with festive ribbon.

Thankfully my friends are as un-grown-up as me. 

These mixers are so simple to make, you should absolutely try your hand at making one over the holidays.  You'll be the host with the most when you impress your guests with a custom cocktail.

Cranberry Orange Spice Mixer
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
zest strips from one orange
4 allspice berries
1 star anise
4 cloves
juice from one orange
1 bottle cranberry juice

Combine the sugar, water, spices, and orange zest strips in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to make sure sugar dissolves.  Let simmer for 30 seconds, then remove from heat.

Remove the berries and cloves from the simple syrup, but leave the orange strips and star anise.  Pour off 1 cup of cranberry juice from the bottle, and add the simple syrup and orange juice to the bottle.  Add in the orange zest strips and star anise.  Give it a good shake and chill til ready to use.

Apple Ginger Cinnamon Mixer
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
1 inch ginger root, peeled and sliced into discs
1 cinnamon stick
1 bottle apple juice/cider

Combine the sugar, water, ginger, and cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to make sure sugar dissolves.  Let simmer for 30 seconds, then remove from heat.

Pour off 1 cup of apple cider/juice and add the simple syrup along with cinnamon stick and ginger.  Give a good shake and chill to ready to use.

To turn these mixers into cocktails, fill a glass with ice.  Then add 1 part alcohol of choice (recommended: light rum or vodka), 2 parts mixer, and 1 part club soda.  Then toast your friends to a wonderful holiday!

Merry Christmas to all!

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