It’s race week here in Key West, but my thoughts are with Donna in chilly Cleveland. It’s winter when I most crave bitters in a cocktail. Happily a suggestion on Twitter brought up a new cocktail for me, the Bitter Elder, and before I departed for southern climes, we gave it a go. The cocktail, which balances the bitterness of Campari with the sweet elderberry flavors of the liqueur, makes for a splendid libation, especially for those in the cold grays of the north. I salute you from the southernmost and wish you a happy Friday Cocktail Hour. The Bitter Elder 1.5 ounces gin 0.5 ounces Campari 0.5 ounces St. Germain 0.5 ounces lemon juice Twist of lemon Stir the liquids with ice in a shaker and pour into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a Read On »

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The Major Award/Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman Last year, Claudia Young created this truffle-infused cocktail for The Velvet Tango Room, Paulius Nasvytis’s well-known Cleveland bar. It’s today’s choice for the Friday Cocktail Hour because it is the very embodiment of the holidays: rich, fragrant, expensive, delicious. I loved milk punch when a friend introduced me to that simple concoction—bourbon, milk and sugar. This is a milk punch times ten—a decadent but simple combo of Scotch, truffled honey, and half-and-half. This Cleveland original (first posted here), was named by a Clevelander for a movie filmed here, a movie about Christmas. What more appropriate drink could there be as Christmas approaches for today’s Hour? The Major Award To serve 1: 1.5 ounces Oban (or other single-malt whiskey) 1 ounce truffle honey syrup made with a 1:1 water Read On »

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“You’re gonna be a Scotch drinker,” my Grandma Rose said to me at the end of a Christmas dinner, with an approving smile. I was all of about six years old. This was still the 1960s and everybody drank. I had asked for, and was given, a sip of my father’s after-dinner cordial, a tiny glass of Drambuie, and had claimed to like it. I did like it, in fact—unlike that nasty martini my father would often have (story of that first taste here). The Drambuie was syrupy sweet and I marveled at the way the alcohol seemed to blow up inside my mouth. Alas, a sip was all I would get. My tastes today, contrary to Rose’s prediction, run to bourbon, but I still love the flavor of Drambuie, the Scotch-based liqueur. It and Read On »

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Owing to a misspent youth and for reasons I’d rather not get into, I have no taste whatever for blended Scotch whiskeys. Thus the dearth of Scotch-based cocktails during the Friday Cocktail Hour. But there are some fine Scotch-based elixirs that deserve attention, such as the classic Rob Roy, inspired by a 19th-century Broadway show. This was a tradition back then, naming drinks after shows—a tradition worth reviving, I think.  How about it, mixers out there? Give me a Kinky Boots! Or go downtown with a Designated Mourner. Or my fave theater experience of the year, also at the Public Theater, Here Lies Love. I’d love to hear that uttered at a bar. “What’ll it be, pal?” “Here Lies Love.” “Comin’ right up.” Herewith, a true classic, served in classic proportions. I am forced by my Read On »

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Plan ahead! Not long after I began this blog in 2006, I wrote about and made aged eggnog upon reading about it at CHOW. Two years later Donna photographed it. A year after that, we finished the batch. It was a little funky and that was part of its deliciousness. I’m writing about it now so that you can, if you plan ahead, make it this weekend or next, for this holiday season, and the next, and, if you have the discipline, for December 2015. It needs at least 30 days for the aged flavor and for the alcohol to take care of any bacteria. After that it will keep for a long long time. Jonathon Sawyer liked it so much he began experimenting with different whiskeys. Last one I tried he’d use Oban, an excellent Read On »

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