Cocktail Advent 8: Spiced Apple Brew


Sure, this recipe was actually sent to me for a Halloween promotion, but a good apple cider(ish) drink can carry you through the entire winter season in fine form and I think this one would work well cold, as presented, or sans ice and on the warm side.

Image via Basil Hayden

Image via Basil Hayden

Basil Hayden’s® Spiced Apple Brew
Created by Thomas Waugh (New York, NY)


  • 1 ½ parts Basil Hayden’s® Bourbon
  • 1 ½ parts cool Lapsang Souchong Black Tea
  • 1 part Apple Juice
  • ½ part Lemon Juice
  • ½ part Simple Syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura® Bitters
  • 1 slice of Ginger
  • 1 Apple
  • 2-3 sprigs of Mint


1. Muddle small slice of fresh ginger in a cocktail shaker.
2. Add Basil Hayden’s® Bourbon, black tea, apple juice, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters over ice and shake.
3. Strain into a tall highball glass over fresh ice.
4. Garnish with a fan of apple slices and mint sprigs.

***This recipe was submitted by a representative of Basil Hayden. I am not affiliated with the brand nor was I compensated for this post, not even with review samples. As always, we encourage responsible refreshment and the use of the Designated Driver. No drunk monkeys, please!***

AlcoHOLidays | Devil’s Food Cake Day | Cocoa Diablo



Does chocolate cake sound good to anyone else right about now?

This coming Sunday, May 19, is National Devil’s Food Cake Day and I’m pretty much sold on the idea, truth be told. Might have to squeeze in some baking between appointments on Saturday.

What makes Devil’s Food cake different from other chocolate cakes? Good question! Generally speaking (i.e., according to Wikipedia), Devil’s Food cake usually contains coffee and usually uses cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate for the primary flavoring agent.

Of course it would have been super simple to construct a cake-sweet cocktail for today with chocolate vodka, chocolate syrup, some Kahlua and maybe some milk to tie it all together, but we’ve been down that road and that cocktail–while tasty!–has been done to death. Instead, let’s take a different path today. A more feisty path.

Does madness follow down this road? Maybe so, but it’s tasty madness.

Cocoa Diablo

2 oz strongly-brewed Coffee (preferably chilled)
1 1/2 oz Dark Chocolate Vodka (like Van Gogh)
1/2 oz Absolut Pepar
pinch of Spicy Rim Blend

Spicy Rim Blend: 1 part red chili powder, 2 parts powdered ginger, 4 parts cocoa powder

Run a wedge of lemon or lime around the outer edge of a cocktail glass then drag the rim of the glass through the Spicy Rim Blend. If you’re unsure of your guests’ heat tolerance, only rim one half of the glass.

Combine the cocktail ingredients over ice in the bottom of a shaker and shake like Mephistopheles, himself, is on your tail. Strain into the prepared cocktail glass and sip with caution.

If you make this with warm or hot coffee, you will end up with more water in the mix–this may or may not be a good thing to your thinking. Proceed accordingly. This looks like your average chocolate martini (sans milk, obviously) with a cocoa powder rim. Looks can be deceiving. Fact is, this is a more-spicy-than-sweet chocolate cocktail that lives up to it’s name. It’s not a relaxing cocktail to wind down a dinner with, more of a get the party started tipple.. And, yes, it might be useful if you feel like daring a friend to try something shocking.


AlcoHOLidays | Mexican Independence Day | The Caliente


Raise your hands, all of you who think (thought) Cinco de Mayo was Mexico’s Independence Day.

Okay, put your hands back down.

For the record, Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) celebrates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Fifty-two years earlier, however, Mexico began it’s fight for independence from Spain with the “Cry of Dolores” (Dolores being a city, not a person–the actual “cry” came from a Roman Catholic Priest by the name of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla) on September 16, 1810. Even though they would not be completely free of Spanish rule until 1821, September 16th is recognized as the National Day of Independence in Mexico.

Partida Tequila and the Caliente cocktail for Mexican Independence Day

Now that we’ve had our history lesson for the week, let’s raise our glass, once again, to independence.

Tequila Partida contacted me about the upcoming holiday and sent me some samples of their lovely, lovely tequilas. They also wondered (and I have to join them in their puzzlement) why Americans celebrate Mexican holidays (or, you know, Tuesday) with blanco tequila, when the aged reposado and anejo tequilas are the grades of choice for celebrations in Mexico.

I’ve never been a huge fan of blanco tequila (aka unaged tequila)–it’s often too harsh and lacks that wonderful warmth that I associate with a good margarita (and that would be a margarita on the rocks, none of this slushy nonsense thank you very much). True, the aging process (while adding quality) does add to the price, but for superior flavor I think it’s worth it..

I had the opportunity to sample the Partida’s blanco, reposado, and anejo tequilas and I have to say, I was surprised that I liked the blanco better than the reposado, but not at all surprised that I enjoyed the anejo even more. What’s the difference?

  • Blanco is not aged at all, but Partida’s blanco is relatively smooth, light and crisp without the hard edges the other blanco’s I’ve tasted have had.
  • Reposado, by Mexican law, must be aged a minimum of 2 months. Partida ages their for 6 months, which gives it a nice, light amber color. While I enjoyed the depth of flavor, it hadn’t smoothed out as much as I would have expected.
  • Anejo, by Mexican law, must be aged a minimum of 1 year. Again, Partida goes beyond the minimum and ages their anejo for 18 months, the outcome of which is a smooth, complex flavor and a nice, golden color. Tasting them side-by-side, even a tequila novice would be able to tell the difference in how smooth and mellow the anejo is compared to the reposado. This is what I want in my margaritas from now on.

Of course, you know me, I like my spirits best in a well-balanced cocktail, and this recipe (courtesy of Jacques Bezuidenhout and Tequila Partida) might be just the thing to add to your tequila cocktail repetoire.

The Caliente

3 chunks of fresh Pineapple
2 coins of fresh Ginger
1/4 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Agave Nectar*
1 1/2 oz aged Tequila (like Partida Reposado or Anejo)
1 oz Ginger Ale

In a mixing glass combine the pineapple, ginger, lime juice, and agave nectar and muddle until the ginger is broken up a bit. Fill the glass 3/4-full with ice and add the tequila. Shake like you’re keeping time with a lively mariachi band. Pour in ginger ale and swish it around to chill everything together before straining into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a piece of crystallized ginger.

Jacques will have to forgive me as I made some tweaks to the recipe–he recommends Partida Reposado, I would go with Anejo, and he used a scant 1/4 oz of ginger ale and I thought why bother if that’s all your adding? I also have you serve it in a cocktail glass where he suggests over ice in a highball. Do what you like. I liked the ginger in this cocktail, the tequila gives it a very nice flavor, but I do wish the pineapple were more foreward–it gets a bit buried under the oompf of the other flavors, so you might want to try pineapple juice instead of the ginger ale or maybe even pineapple soda!

*Agave Nectar is making quite a buzz in culinary circles, and therefore with the home gastronome as well. Most folks say it’s lower calorie but that’s not really true. What is true is that, ounce for ounce, agave nectar is sweeter than table sugar, so you can use less–IF you use less, volumetrically-speaking, then yes, it’s reducing your calories, but a gram of sugar and a gram of agave nectar both add the same amount of calories. Read those labels, though! Manufacturers have been known to stretch their agave nectar in the name of profit with high fructose corn syrup, so check that the ingredient list includes only 100% agave nectar before bringing it home.

Okay, folks, remember to go for the gold? Age before beauty? Something like that! But if you were looking for a reason to try some really good tequila this weekend, now you’ve got it!

And come back next week to find out what we’re celebrating next!

“¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva la independencia!” 


FTC Disclaimer: I was provided samples of Partida Tequilas for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. 

Arabian Nights


Juniper Genie Cocktail

The metamorphosis of this week’s cocktail was a bit of a long and winding road. A road, in point of fact, that begins France or thereabouts* and ends somewhere in or near Morocco. Neither place I’ve been but both I’d like to visit one of these days.

At any rate, it started back when I was, oh, 10 or 11 years old and a family friend was being cute(?) and singing the song Jennifer, Juniper and saying that my name (Jennifer) meant Juniper. Now, being the precocious child I was I had already looked up the meaning of my name in the massive Encyclopedic Dictionary we had at home and knew full well that Jennifer is a modernization of Guinevere and had absolutely nothing to do with junipers. And told them so. Snootily.

Despite the misleading connection in the song, it did make me think of Gin–one of our two base spirit options for this series–which only left me figuring out what to add. I went through several j-possibilties and eventually devolved into j-sounding ingredients and ginger was the winner.

Now, at first I was going to be cute and spell it Jin and Jinger but I needed something else. Namely, another ingredient, another flavor. And looking around my bar shelves I found rosewater and that was all it took. Suddenly my mind was filled with the scent of chai, we needed spice and we needed it now!

Juniper Genie

1 1/2 oz Gin
1/4 oz Rosewater
1/4 oz Grated Ginger
a generous pinch of Cardamom
1 oz Ginger Ale
Crystallized Ginger for garnish

Combine gin, rosewater, ginger and cardamom over ice and give it a good shake to wake up the genie inside. Double-strain (to get out all the ginger bits) into a chilled cocktail glass, top with the ginger ale and garnish with a piece of crystallized ginger.

The flavors of the drink are well-layered, each one asserting itself as you continue to sip. First comes the rosewater–the scent is very strong and dominant, followed by the warm, sweetish flavor of the cardamom. Under that, the bite of the ginger starts to assert itself and, subtly at the bottom is the herbal taste of the gin. It’s what I imagine a small spice market would taste like.

Usually I’d infuse the alcohol with the spice but this time it really wasn’t necessary. Cardamom is so expensive that a suitable quantity for infusion would have been risky and the dried spice shaken in was plenty to get the point across. If you’ve never had cardamom that you know of, it reminds me of Apple Jacks cereal.

*Further research shows that the singer, Donovan, was actually Scottish and became famous as an English folk singer but the last verse of the song in question is in French, hence my misunderstanding.

MCC: A Tarte of Proines (aka Spiced Plum Spread)


Medieval Cooking Challenge buttonIt’s the second month of the Medieval Cooking Challenge, an experiment where we take real Medieval recipes and prepare them in our modern kitchens, bringing the past into the present.

Spiced Plum Spread on Olive Oil Toast, garnished with Lemon Zest

Spiced Plum Spread on Olive-Oiled Toast, garnished with Lemon Zest

After last month’s Andalusian Lamb (which was a little complex), we’re going later within the Medieval period and a bit simpler in method of preparation. This recipe for a dried plum (aka prune–but don’t let the connotations of the word scare you off!) spread that is great on slices of baguette as an appetizer or an afternoon snack or used, as the name would suggest, as a tart filling or topping.


The original recipe is from 1587 England, from a book known as The Good Huswifes Jewell, 1587

To make a Tarte of Prunes [alternately spelled Proines]

Put your Prunes into a pot, and put in red wine or claret wine, and a little faire water, and stirre them now and then, and when they be boyled enough, put them into a bowle, and straine them with sugar, synamon and ginger.

Gotta love that creative spelling from back then!

The redacted recipe quantities I’ve taken (and adjusted ever so slightly) from a fabulous modern book: Shakespeare’s Kitchenby Francine Segan. Not all of the recipes in this book reference their original Italian or English inspirations but some do, and it was indispensable as I planned my first Medieval feast for 60-80 people.


Spiced Plum Spread

1.5 cups Red Wine
9 oz Pitted Dried Plums (aka prunes, about 30)
3 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tbsp minced Ginger
2 Cinnamon Stick (2 inches or so)

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and simmer until most of the liquid has either been absorbed or evaporated and what’s left is very thick. Remove the mixture from the heat and remove the cinnamon stick. Mash the cooked mixture until a fairly smooth consistency is reached.

Step-by-Step Spiced Plum Spread

Makes approximately 1 cup.

Originally I’d suggested using crystallized ginger and adding it to the mixture between the cooking and mashing stages but decided to go with the minced ginger since I had it on hand. (I buy it in the tubes from the produce section–comes in very handy and keeps wonderfully!) You can use more or less of the ginger and cinnamon to suit your own preferences.


At this point what you do with it is up to you. You could go old-school and fill a single large or several small tarts shells with the mixture and serve it as is. Or you can serve it, warm, in a small crock with fresh bread and soft butter like you would a marmalade or jelly. Based on the rich flavor this dish provides, I’m thinking a topping for a cream cheese tart would be fabulous–the cream cheese only slightly sweetened so as to cut the richness of the plum topping the way vanilla ice cream can cut through the richness of a double-chocolate cake.

If you have fresh plums available (I know we have a few left over from a recent farmers’ market trip) you can use them in addition to or instead of the dried variety but you’ll need to use more of them to start with as well as more sugar (drying concentrates the fruit’s flavor and sweetness) and it will probably need to cook longer to give it enough time to thicken properly.

I’ve got a party coming up next month so I’ve stashed mine in the freezer to save until then–it’ll be a nice addition to the menu I’ve got planned.


Did you try this month’s Medieval Cooking Challenge? Make sure to leave you link in the comments!

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