Autumn is finally here in the Northern Hemisphere, and chilly evenings are custom-made for warming drinks. Here are a few that have been sitting around in my Drafts folder, just waiting for the proper time to emerge.
4 C apple cider (the non-alcoholic, apple-juice sort; thanks, Mim!)
1/4 C brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
1/2 C caramel vodka,* or more to taste
Put the cider, brown sugar, and cinnamon into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, stir in vodka, and pour into mugs.
*You can find caramel-flavored vodka in many liquor stores, but it’s also easy to make your own. For either of these methods, you’ll need a 750ml bottle of vodka (the better the quality of the vodka, the better the final result, so don’t use paint-thinner-grade stuff):
- Pour out 1/2 C of vodka and replace with 1/2 C of caramel sauce. If you want to go the full homemade route, you can make your own sauce; otherwise, the store-bought stuff meant for ice cream topping is fine.
- Pour all of the vodka into another container temporarily, add 20 chopped-up caramel candies to the bottle, and pour as much vodka as will fit back in. Cap the bottle, set aside, and give it a good shake a couple of times a day for around 5 days (the smaller the caramel pieces, the faster it’ll infuse).
For either method, you can optionally strain the finished vodka through a coffee filter to remove any leftover small solids.
Candle in the Window
In a mug combine:
2 tsp. Bourbon
1 tsp. cherry brandy
1 tsp. dark Creme de Cacao
2 oz. light rum
Fill with coffee, top with whipped cream, and dust with cocoa powder.
1/2 oz honey
1 1/2 oz. dark rum
1 1/2 oz. red wine
1 cinnamon stick
Zest of 1 lemon
1 pinch grated nutmeg
Put honey in a coffee mug and add a little boiling water, stirring to dissolve. Add rum, wine, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Fill with hot water and dust with nutmeg.
Makes 1 gallon
1 gallon Concord grape juice
8 cardamom pods
4 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 750ml bottle cachaça or vodka
Place all ingredients in a medium stockpot (tie the whole spices in cheesecloth for easy removal later), bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 20 minutes or until juice is infused with spices. Remove from heat and stir in vodka. Punch can be kept warm in a slow cooker set to low.
Hot Rum Punch
Makes 1 gallon
8 C apple cider
4 C cranberry juice
6 C pineapple juice
1 t allspice
6 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 apple, sliced
Zest and pulp of 1 orange
1 12-oz bottle Guinness or other dark stout (don’t use a chocolate stout)
2 C spiced rum
Put all of the juices in a medium stock pot and add spices (tie up in cheesecloth for easier removal) and fruit. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes; periodically use a wooden spoon to squeeze the spice bag against the side of the pot, squeezing out the flavor. Add stout and return to simmer. Remove from heat, stir in rum, and serve hot. Can be kept warm in a slow cooker set to low.
This is less a straight-up drink and more a whole theatrical production. Quimada originates in the Galician region of Spain, and it’s traditionally prepared in a big earthenware pot or cauldron whilst a spell is recited to protect the people gathered from evil creatures. You can read about its history and find the spell at Wikipedia. In Spain the drink is made with a pomace brandy called orujo, but Italian grappa is very similar and can be substituted.
Incidentally, since the brandy is supposed to be set on fire, this is a very good recipe to do outside on the barbecue grill. Keep the pot lid handy to smother flames if necessary.
Peel of 3 lemons (remove in strips with a vegetable peeler, taking care not to get any of the bitter pith)
3 C orujo or grappa
1 C sugar
2 T whole coffee beans
6 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
Add all ingredients to a large, heavy pot. Stir over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Turn off heat, stand back, and use a long match or ignition-type lighter to set the brandy on fire. Allow to burn until the flame turns blue, stirring with a long ladle and reciting the spell if you like. Cover pot with lid to extinguish the flames, then ladle into cordial glasses and serve.
Incidentally, an alternate method of igniting the queimada is to reserve 4 Tbsp brandy and 1 Tbsp sugar, mix together in the ladle, ignite that, and then use it to ignite the rest of the punch. Use whatever method you feel is least likely to burn your eyebrows off.