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Turkey Day Cocktails – A Quest

by Cat Spencer     22. November 2012 18:00

Today is two things: 1. It’s a day all the trains from London were delayed dramatically. 2. It’s Thanksgiving!

What do these 2 things mean when combined? Well, I found myself a rare free moment to muse upon all things American. Being a Yankee far from home at this time of year can be a bit sad (hello, 4-day weekend!), but luckily there’s enough turkey, cranberries, and canned pumpkin in the UK to get me through.

This year, I thought I’d add something new to my holiday tradition: pre-dinner cocktails. Normally, the drink of choice for Thanksgiving is Beaujolais Nouveau (I still recall the colourful paper signs propped in the liquor store window of my hometown: Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!), but this year’s crop has been low, so the bottles have been allocated and as such are in limited supply in the UK. Boo.



It goes so well with turkey…

We’ve picked another wine option, and chucked in some champagne to boot, but what to serve guests to get them in the harvest/Thanksgiving/feasting/American mood?

Loads of people recommended a Pumpkin Pie Martini—but why on Earth start a massive 4-hour meal with a boozy dessert? Would you feed your guests Chocolate Martinis before a meal? My stomach is turning…

Why oh why was such a thing created? Isn’t Egg Nog enough to clog the arteries?

The answer (I believe) is Bourbon. Bourbon is like the US in a glass—smooth and sweet with a bit of kick and punch, and always inviting—and the more I learn about it, the more I love it. [Stay tuned as I delve into the world of Buffalo Trace and Balcones.]

I’ve been asking around since the end of August (Ryan Cheti, I’m looking in your direction) for suggestions as to what sort of Thanksgiving Cocktail I could make. Bear in mind, this isn’t for some intimate gathering of close friends; this is a dinner party for 16 people. NB: I am not a bartender. I had thought about going for the Handmade Cocktail Company’s Old Fashioned to save time (and labour—we have to roast 2 turkeys to feed this lot!), but I got caught up on the idea of cranberries and wanted to highlight this traditional ingredient, pumpkin not being an option (see above).

The best suggestion I received was from a highly-respected London mixologist who even crafted a brilliant serve: blend cranberry juice (the sweet kind, not the real stuff) with Aperol, freeze in ice lolly molds, and serve in a glass of bubbly. Beautiful and delicious.

Take it. Break it. Share it. Love it. DRINK IT!

And time consuming.

So, I went to that most famous of American hostesses for the answer to my quandary. How do I combine Bourbon, Cranberries, and an Old Fashioned Cocktail for the perfect Thanksgiving serve? Martha Stewart delivered. What a kick ass lady (I don’t care what you say!).

Even Betty Draper couldn’t do better for Don on Thanksgiving.

Here’s how I’m going to try it:

Cranberry Old Fashioned

8 fresh cranberries

2 tsp brown sugar

2 dashes Angostura

50ml Four Roses Bourbon

Orange zest (not peel)

Muddle the sugar and cranberries with the bitters and orange zest in a tumbler, dissolving the sugar completely. Pour in the bourbon and serve on the rocks!

Next week, I’ll post the attempt to make this cocktail in giant batches along with feedback from the guests. Here’s to investing in new holiday traditions!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! What will you be toasting with tonight?

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