Friday, December 23, 2011

Punch Up Your Holiday Party

You've untangled your lights, hung some tinsel, and put together one heck of a playlist. But once the finger foods come out, what will your guests be drinking?

While you will certainly want to have some sparkling wine on hand for those holiday get-togethers, there are few libations as festive as punch. And unlike those garnished neon concoctions at the awkward dances of your past, nobody needs to secretly spike them. These boozy parties in a bowl predate the cocktail, and warm or cold, spicy or sour, there's delicious variety to be found in an array of tasty recipes. They're also just about the easiest way to keep your guests happy while giving your cocktail shaker a rest. Look at a few basic ingredients, and you can build something delicious around each.

Just make sure to follow the same basic practices you would for a single cocktail: follow the recipe in order, and make sure to use simple syrup rather than sugar unless the recipe specifies the method for dissolving granulated sugar. If you're making a warm punch recipe, make sure to use a bowl that can take the heat - namely, a metal one - or prepare the bowl with some warm-to-hot water before serving. Nothing ruins a swinging party like shards of glass in your drink.

On to the drinks!
Swedish Punsch
There are several delicious classics that you can make with a bottle or three of Batavia Arrack van Oosten, a delightful rum-like spirit that's also made with fermented rice. This stuff only became available in the United States again a few years ago, and we're rediscovering some delicious drinks. Swedish Punsch is one drink that just couldn't be made properly with a substitute, and it's a crowd-pleasing way to celebrate.

180ml Batavia Arrack
100 ml brewed tea (strong)
135g sugar (bakers)
¾ tsp natural vanilla extract
Lemon peel, fresh cardamom

Or, if you'd like to try something a little bit brighter, try out this more citrusy version from Jerry P. Thomas.

Imperial Arrack Punch
1 quart Batavia Arrack
6 lemons, cut into thin slices
1 lb sugar
1 quart water (boiling)
Allow lemons to soak in arrack for 6 hours, dissolve sugar in boiling water, mix.

Fish House Punch
Originating in an ultra-exclusive fishing club in Pennsylvania (that claimed the father of our nation as a member), the real recipe for this drink is shrouded in mystery. You'll see a ton of variants of this one, and heated debate regarding the inclusion of ingredients like green tea. Here's the recipe presented in The Bon-Vivant's Companion, credited to a Charles G. Leland, Esq.

Take 1/3 pint of lemon juice
¾ pound of white sugar dissolved in sufficient water
½ pint of Cognac brandy
¼ pint of peach brandy
¼ pint of Jamaica rum
2 ½ pints of cold water

Planter's Punch
The first reference to Planter's Punch appeared in a 1908 issue of the New York Times, provided as follows:

"This recipe I give to thee,
Dear brother in the heat.
Take two of sour (lime let it be)
To one and a half of sweet,
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,
And add four parts of weak.
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong--
I know whereof I speak."

As it implies, this stuff is great in warm weather, but it's also a delicious year-round crowd pleaser. A basic proportion to follow is one part simple syrup, two parts lime juice, three parts Jamaica rum. You'll also find variants that use an array of tropical juices and other sweeteners. Try making individual-sized drinks to test out the version you like best.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Make Your Perfect Hot Toddy

As the season cools down and rainy weather inevitably turns to snow, there are few things more satisfying than a warm, strong drink. And whether you're feeling a little down with a cough or cold, or just want to warm up your cold fingers and nose, one of the best ways to ward off the chill is with a Hot Toddy.

There are a number of stories as to where this delicious drink originated - from the Indian term for a fermented palm tree sap drink, to Edinburgh's water source of Tod's Well - but regardless of the origin, it's delicious in most of its iterations. Their combination of warmth, slight sweetness, and citrus brightness is just what's called for while waiting for spring.

We've seen these available more and more in Brooklyn bars and restaurants during the fall and winter months, but it's an incredibly easy drink to enjoy at home after a cold day with some very simple mixing. If you have a fireplace to sip by, all the better.

Grab a spoon, some hot water, and your favorite mug. We'll take it from there.

The Classic Scottish Recipe
This original version of the Hot Toddy is simple, straightforward, and tasty. This is a boozier recipe, best suited to those who like to taste their whisk(e)y. All you'll need is about a teaspoon of Demerara sugar, a lemon peel, 2 ounces of the Scotch whisky of your choice (we'd like a generously-peated Islay malt, but it's hard to go wrong here), and boiling water. Combine in your mug, and sip away. 

The Classic English Recipe
Throw some black tea leaves in that boiling water for a few minutes before combining it with the other ingredients. Cheerio, you've discovered the other basic version. 

The Variations
From those simple beginnings has come a whole host of interpretations of this popular tipple, and while we’re generally biased toward classic cocktails, we've sipped some delicious, creative versions of this drink that will warm you down to your toes. A few easy swaps: try using honey, maple syrup or agave syrup instead of sugar, or add homemade flavored syrups created with ginger or quince. Throw in some of your favorite sweet spices like whole cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, orange peel and allspice. If you like the English original, try swapping in different types of flavored and herbal teas. And though it might seem blasphemous to purists, some love these warm drinks made with Bourbon, brandy, or even rum. With lots of cold days ahead, you can mix to your heart's content.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Behind the Scenes: Greenall's Original London Dry Gin

G&J Greenall has been creating fine spirits for over 250 years and is the oldest continuous producer of London Dry Gin in the world. We recently spoke with Caroline Whitfield, Greenall's Director of Marketing to learn more about this historic brand.

1. G&J Greenall has been producing fine spirits for over 250 years - what is the history behind the brand, and how did it all begin?

The story begins in 1760, when Thomas Dakin built his distillery on Bridge Street in Warrington, north-western England.  Dakin's first distilling was delayed until 1761 because the grain harvests of the preceding few years had been so poor that the government prohibited gin manufacture in order to maintain the grain supply for bread making.  Once Dakin began, in 1761, "Dakin's Warrington Gin" proved a great success and eventually Thomas's son Edward Dakin took over the business.

Practically 100 years later, in 1860, following Edward Dakin's death, fellow entrepreneur Edward Greenall leased Dakin's Bridge Street distillery and, then in 1870, purchased the enterprise outright.  Edward, with his brothers William and Peter, had been operating a prosperous brewery a mere twenty miles away, which had been established by their father Thomas Greenall in 1762.

Incidentally, the 'G' & 'J' of the now familiar G&J Greenall comes from the Greenall's younger brothers, Gilbert and John, and in 1894 "G&J Greenall" became an incorporated company. Dakin's Warrington Gin was renamed Greenall's and continued to be made according to Dakin's original 1761 recipe.  The same botanical blend Dakin used in 1761 is used today.

2. Greenall's Original London Dry Gin has a wide array of distinctive aromas and flavors - which botanicals were selected for Greenall's and why?

Greenall's Original London Dry Gin uses eight different botanicals - juniper berries, coriander, lemon peel, angelica, orris, liquorice, cassia bark and bitter almonds. These are macerated in wheat neutral spirit and purified water in a pot still for at least 24 hours prior to distillation. This allows the dried botanicals to rehydrate and infuse their aromas into the spirit.

The original botanicals selected reflect the trading route of herbs and spices going through the UK, and build upon the core of juniper. They created a balanced taste profile in 1761 and they still do 250 years later in 2011!  Drinking Greenall's Original London Dry Gin is truly a step back in time.

Also, as a 'London Dry Gin', as opposed to gin without this, the highest quality designation in existence for gin, the botanicals are placed into our traditional copper pot stills and allowed to rest with spirit and water, prior to being distilled together. Ingredients are given time to fully diffuse, awakening and releasing flavours to create the refreshingly smooth and complex taste sensation. In a gin without the 'London Dry' designation, artificial flavourings can be added, and colours and flavours can also be added after the distillation is completed.  Crafting a true 'London Dry Gin' is a far more involved process.

3. What other elements set Greenall's apart from the competition?

Greenalls is the oldest continuously operating distillery in the UK so we have an unmatched depth of understanding of how to create consistently excellent gin.  After 250 years we also believe that we have a unique pedigree in the global marketplace.  There are not many companies or brands that can legitimately claim to be older than the United States itself.  We also are extremely proud to have the world's only female master gin distiller.

In 2011, we updated our packaging with what we feel is a 21st century sleek, contemporary look and we hope that this will encourage more people to try Greenall's.  Greenall's Original London Dry Gin is as much a spirit of today as it was a spirit of 1761.

As for the taste of Greenall's:  The gin has a clean nose of coriander, juniper and citrus, leading to a palate in which these three flavours dominate followed by hints of liquorice, parma violets and cracked black pepper. While very dry on the palate, Greenall's has a slightly creamy mouth feel, and a peppery, minty freshness lasts through the long dry finish.

4. What's next for the company? Are you currently working on any new projects or planning any for the future?

We are currently focused on making Greenall's a success in the USA. After 250 years of selling gin to the rest of the world, our first priority is to win the hearts and mouths of American consumers!

5. What is your favorite way to enjoy Greenall's Original London Dry Gin?

In an ageless classic, the Greenall's Gin Fizz:

2 oz gin
dash of lemon or lime juice
1/2 tsp superfine sugar or homemade sugar syrup
soda water
mint for garnish

Preparation:  Pour the gin, juice, sugar into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake vigorously and serve.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!