Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Winter cocktails can help knock the chill off

Gordon Kendall

Good Libations columnist Gordon Kendall

  • Gordon Kendall's column, "Good Libations," runs monthly in Extra. He welcomes readers' questions and comments about wine, beer or spirits.

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You have just braved bone-chilling cold to shovel a metric ton of snow from your driveway. Your fingers, ears and nose are numb and tingling. You need something to warm you from the core. Perhaps a warm cocktail might hit the spot.

People have been experimenting with warm cocktails for hundreds of years. In Colonial America, folks had hundreds of permutations of rum-based drinks, but hot buttered rum seems to stand out.

Rum was readily available because of the slave trade. Ships coming from Africa filled with slaves picked up molasses from the Caribbean Islands that colonists fermented and distilled into rum. Rum was plentiful, while tea was kept in locked boxes. Politicians used rum instead of heavy advertising to persuade voters. In 1758, George Washington plied Frederick County voters with copious quantities of rum to help secure the election.

Recipes of the day called for a batter to be made of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, mace and cloves. The batter could be stored for months to develop flavor and when cocktail time arrived, some batter was placed in a glass, boiling water poured over it and then it was spiked with a shot of barrel-aged dark rum.

Today the drink has fallen out of favor with bartenders, primarily because of its high caloric content, but it can be prepared at home.

A similar libation is the Hot Toddy, a drink made with liquor, hot water, sugar and sometimes lemon, honey and cinnamon to provide relief to those suffering from a cold or flu.

The port of Foynes, County Limerick, Ireland, is the birthplace of Irish coffee. Foynes is situated next to a protected bay where flying boats were able to land easily. In 1939, the old Monteagle Arms Hotel was converted into an airport terminal where it operated until 1945, welcoming luminaries such as John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Humphrey Bogart.

One winter night in 1943, a flying boat departed Foynes, bound for Newfoundland. After battling horrific flying conditions for several hours, the pilot decided to turn around. A Morse code message was sent to the airport staff requesting assistance for the freezing passengers.

Chef Joe Sheridan fortified some hot coffee with Irish whiskey and topped it with local cream. When a passenger asked if the drink was Brazilian coffee, Joe spontaneously replied that the drink was Irish coffee. From then on, Irish coffee was served to passengers arriving at Foynes. Today the old terminal is home to the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, where a replica of a Boeing B314 is on display.

Modern bartenders have developed new twists on the warm cocktail. I was able to catch up with master mixologists Jacques Bezuidenhout, brand ambassador for Tequila Partida, who gave me some tips.

He likes to use barrel-aged Reposado and Anejo tequila because of their richer, deeper flavors. Partida, named for a respected agave growing family, uses valley-grown agave.

"Valley tequilas, due to soil differences and climate differences, make for tequilas that are a little more robust, spice-driven and herbaceous," Bezuidenhout said. "We don't cut any corners when making our tequila or add any modifiers, coloring or sugar to our final product."

Partida has won numerous awards. I asked him why tequila would be a good choice for winter cocktails.

"If you take great aged tequila like Partida, then you have all those barrel nuances that add to the spice, which gives you plenty of creative choices for winter cocktails. My favorite recipe is the Heated Affair." Bezuidenhout has spent many hours behind bars (not the prison kind) perfecting his craft.

Below are some classic and some innovative new recipes for warming libations.

Hot Buttered Rum

1 cup dark brown sugar

4 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg or mace

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/8 tsp. salt

6 oz. boiling water

1 1/2 oz. dark rum

1 Tbsp. light cream

1 pinch of grated nutmeg

To make the batter, combine butter and the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Refrigerate in a sealed air-tight container. This mixture can also be frozen for up to one year before using.

To make the drink, add 2 Tbsp. of the batter to a warmed glass and pour in boiling water. Stir to mix and add rum. Float cream on top and sprinkle with nutmeg. Enjoy!

Original Foynes Irish coffee

1. In a stemmed heavy glass, place a teaspoon and fill with boiling water for 5 seconds.

2. Dump out the water. In this pre-warmed glass with a warm spoon, put 1 tsp. of brown sugar and a good measure of Irish whiskey.

3. Fill the glass to within a half inch of the brim with really hot, strong black coffee. Stir well to melt all the sugar.

4. Then carefully pour lightly whipped cream over the back of the same teaspoon so that it floats on top of the coffee.

5. Do not stir after adding the cream, as the true flavor is obtained by drinking the hot coffee and Irish whiskey through the cream.

- Courtesy Foynes Flying Boat Museum

Mexican Hot Chocolate Martini

1 oz. quality Reposado tequila, such as Partida

1/2 oz. Godiva dark chocolate liquor

1/2 oz. 1921 Tequila de Creme

1 oz. creme de cacao

Chocolate syrup

Cinnamon stick

Pinch of chili powder

Combine all ingredients and shake well in a cocktail shaker. Pour the drink into a martini glass, add chocolate syrup and let it swirl up to the tip of the glass. Then, rim glass with chocolate syrup and sprinkle cinnamon on top. Garnish martini with a cinnamon stick. For some extra spice and heat, add a pinch or two of chili powder.

- Mixologist Jeret Richard Pena, San Antonio

Heated Affair

2 oz. Partida Anejo Tequila

6 oz. hot spiced apple cider

Heavy cream

1. Prepare the spiced apple cider: In a pot add organic apple juice and winter spices such as clove, cinnamon stick, allspice and orange peel.

Start off by adding a few cloves, one cinnamon stick, etc., to find the right apple cider spice flavor (you can always add more spice later). Bring everything to a low heat for about 15 minutes. Taste for flavor. When the desired flavor is reached take off the stove. Strain out all the spices and orange peel.

2. To make the drink: Add Partida Tequila and hot apple cider to a small, warm wine glass. Float heavy cream over the back of a spoon on top. Grate fresh nutmeg over cream for garnish.

- Courtesy Tequila Partida

Gordon Kendall's column runs monthly in Extra.