With everything at one’s cyber fingertips, the convenience of virtual recipe hunting has fulfilled an immediate gratification for instantaneous discovery. I’m here to say as much as I too love the spontaneous hop online for a new food or drink find, nothing can replace the feeling of holding a good book in your hands; sliding one’s hand across a page, admiring the experience of good presentation that only a live read provides. Now that we exhale from the madness that is Halloween and settle into the cozy time of the year with earthy, deeply flavored food and drink, have I got a book for you! Just this week ‘Winter Cocktails’ by Maria del Mar Sacasa was released. It is a book that will make you want to curl up in a reading chair by a fire with a blanket and pore over every page and photo. As a writer, food stylist and recipe developer having worked for Vogue, Lucky and Cook’s Country, del Mar Sacasa really knows how to deliver the goods to entice. As the name suggests Winter Cocktails offers a series of classic cold-weather cocktails as well as thoughtful, accompanying appetizers to celebrate the season. Classics we love are there: Hot Toddies, Mulled Wine, and Hot Buttered Rum. Twists on the traditional such as Pumpkin-Bourbon Eggnog, Butterscotch Eggnog and Mulled White Wine, punctuate the book making the reader tempted to immediately hop to the liquor cart to give it a try. These recipes set a tone for warm, gatherings with friends or sitting and watching the snow fall.
Winter Cocktails begins with a primer on what should be kept in a versatile, well-stocked bar, descriptions of tools and glassware. Photographic tutorials on basic techniques such as Muddling a Cocktail and Opening Champagne, ensure even the most novice of home barkeeps will be well prepared to dive into the wonderland of hot and chilled cocktails to follow. Also included at the end of the book are some of their sources, which for me being a bit of a resource-aholic, is the perfect ending to a well told tale! For regular readers of Boulder Locavore there will not be surprise at my sheer delight in stumbling upon the chapter ‘Underpinnings, Infused Liquors, Simple Syrups, Etc’. My own liquor pantry is bursting with home infusions however with recipes for mixtures such as Rose infused Gin, Serrano-Lime infused Tequila and Celery-Black Pepper infused Vodka, I will need to make a bit more space! To compliment all the luscious libations such as English Christmas Punch (touted as ‘Yuletide in a Bowl) and 1,001 Nights (cocktail) is a chapter of small bites that range from sweet to savory. Recipes such as Homemade Marshmallows, Candied Bacon, Cheese-Crusted Olives and a series of ‘Cheater Doughnuts’ made using store-bought biscuit dough, deliver something for any occasion.
The crowning jewel of Winter Cocktails for me (by the way, there are non-alcoholic recipes such as Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate or a White Witch which is a bolstered Chai in a white chocolate base; amaretto optional!) has to be the photography. Being personally passionate about food/drink photography, photos that introduce the food and drink by setting a mood always rocket to the top of my list. Winter Cocktails’ photography by Tara Striano tells the visual story of this luscious cookbook. Her work has been seen in House Beautiful, O: The Oprah Magazine, Garnet Hill and Elle Décor. If life truly does imitate art, Striano is conduit to portray the art found in life. I’d buy this book for the photos alone. This book is beautiful and delicious. It is a perfect christening of the cold weather season and definitely should be on your holiday gift list (perfect hostess gift too!).
- 2 ⁄3 cup blanched almonds
- 11 ⁄2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar , divided
- 6 cups whole milk
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- Rind of 1 lemon*
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
- 8 large egg yolks
- 1 cup white rum or aguardiente**
- Pulse almonds with 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor until ground to a fine paste.
- Bring milk, cinnamon, lemon rind, vanilla, and baking soda to a boil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottom saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks, the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, and ground almonds until thick and pale. Remove cinnamon and lemon rind and discard. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk to the yolk mixture.
- Return mixture to pan and cook over low heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool completely, about 2 hours.
- Stir in rum or aguardiente. Serve.
*Remove the lemon rind with a vegetable peeler, being careful to avoid the white pith, which will impart a bitter flavor.
**Aguardiente literally means “burning water” in Spanish. It is a strong (29% or higher) spirit distilled from fruits, grains, and commonly sugarcane. It’s available at most liquor stores.
Recipe excerpted with written permission from Winter Cocktails cookbook (Quirk Books)