There’s no question that some foods pair better with each other than others. The same can be said for beverages. While the thought of experimenting with flavour combinations can be intimidating to some people, I am here to assure you, it’s much easier than you may think!
At this time of year, many people are hosting holiday parties and thus, starting to experiment with different recipes. And I mean, c’mon…who doesn’t like experimenting with different beverages through trial and error until you design the perfect holiday spirit? #Truth.
Whether you’re a newbie, or a seasoned expert, I advise you to always start with the basics. You should always first be asking yourself: “What flavour do I want to achieve?” This answer might come from several different directions, but one of the classic places to start is to consider what type of food the drink will be served with. This can be an intimidating question, and while I’m certainly tempted to go all sommelier on you, don’t worry…I won’t go there. Keep it simple. Ask yourself what kind of beverage you would enjoy drinking with that menu item. Chances are, your guests would enjoy it too. Failing that, enlist the help of a friend to help you design something awesome. And, if you’re still unsure, Facebook me, and I’ll help ;)
As an experienced mixologist, I’ve found that many people are intimidated by creating cocktails. Either that, or they come at it from the wrong perspective; often wanting to accommodate a preferred colour and vessel for the drink, rather than the perfect flavour. People will not drink something that looks pretty if it tastes horrible. Period. You must always first, address the flavour. Consider the characteristics of the drink. Do you want it to be:
- Sour or Tart
- Sweet & Sour
- Sweet & Salty
Once you figure out what flavour you want to achieve, it’s much easier to then focus on colour, garnish and stemware.
Let’s do a little exercise.
We’ll say I’m hosting a Christmas Party. I want to have the perfect beverage to greet people with.
What flavour do I want it to be? Let’s go with a classic; something sweet and fruity.
Awesome. I have a starting point.
So, I ask myself, what’s festive and traditional for Christmas? Well…green and/or red go without saying in terms of colour. What are some traditional Christmas flavours?
- Egg Nog
- Anything decadent and creamy
Perfect. Well, as I said, I want something fruity, so that narrows it down to Cranberry and Clementine. I could take this in a couple of different directions, so I’m going to experiment with both.
Let’s start with Cranberry. What do cranberries taste good with? Personally, I love throwing them in my oatmeal with some cinnamon and clove (HINT: drawing from everyday food experiences is a great tool). Fancy that…cinnamon and clove are both traditional holiday flavours! Since I LOVE using cinnamon sticks to garnish EVERYTHING, I’m going to move forward with cinnamon.
So, I want to design a cinnamon and cranberry cocktail. Since both of these flavours can be overwhelming, I’ve decided that the beverage will be a small serving; say a shooter, or over lots of ice to dilute the flavour.
The easiest way to achieve cinnamon flavour in a cocktail is to use a cinnamon liqueur. Two of my faves are Goldschlager (clear liquid with gold flakes) and Fireball Liqueur (golden amber in colour). Now, seeing as the gorgeous gold flakes that Goldschlager is notorious for, would be completely lost in a glass of red juice, I need to consider some options. Either I use Goldschlager and white cranberry juice, or I stick with Fireball and the red stuff. I think that both of these options are awesome, and since I am often indecisive, I’m just going to serve both!
Next up…stemware. What vessel should I use to serve my drink? As I noted earlier, cinnamon and cranberry can be a bit overwhelming, so I’m going to keep the servings small. I’m going to serve the Goldschlager and white cranberry in a shot glass, rather than diluting it over ice. This way, the gold flakes won’t lose their effect amongst the ice cubes. That leaves the red drink to serve over ice. I’m a lover of cosmo glasses (stemless martini glasses), so I’ll stick with what I love.
Last thing to consider is garnish. No need for me to garnish the shooter. First off, I don’t want anyone to choke on anything, and second, the gold flakes are pretty enough! For the cosmo, I’m going to add a cinnamon stick, and a couple of fresh (or frozen) cranberries. Beautiful.
I’m going to refer back to my past post that discussed “mise en place“. I must be sure to have all of my ingredients before I get started.
For the red drink…
Cranberry Juice (3-4oz)
Fireball liqueur (1oz)
2 – 3 fresh (or frozen) cranberries
Now that I’m thinking about it, a gorgeous modification to this cocktail would be to reduce the Fireball down to 3/4oz and add in some tangerine vodka, or even some Triple Sec or Grand Marnier (citrus-flavoured liqueur) – about 1/2oz. The orange flavour would introduce the lovely citrus element that people love so much about clementines at Christmas time.
To prepare this cocktail is simple. Fill the cosmo glass with 5-6 ice cubes. Pour in the liqueur and top up with the cranberry juice. Add the cinnamon stick and cranberries to garnish. Voila! Gorgeous Christmas Cocktail.
Taste test: Successful. Modify or multiply as needed.
For the white drink…
2oz shot glass
1oz White Cranberry Juice
This drink is probably best served cold, so I’m going to freeze the Goldschlager and keep the cranberry juice in the fridge. (HINT: this is probably not a good shooter to prepare in bulk and pour from a pitcher as the gold flakes in the liqueur may not make an appearance in all of the glasses when poured).
From there, I’ll first pour the liqueur (HINT: shake or swirl the bottle with the lid on to spread the flakes throughout the bottle). Then, add the cranberry juice.
Taste Test: Successful. Modify and multiply as needed.
I often like to name my beverage creations. Is it necessary? No, definitely not, but it can certainly add another element of fun to the game. I usually go about this by using a combination of the ingredient names, the type of occasion and a play on words. For instance, “Cranberry…sauced”, or “Hot Shot” or “Gold Star” (HINT…serve the shooters on a tray with a mini Christmas tree in the middle). Be as creative as you want, or just skip this step all together!
It really is quite that simple. There are certainly more complicated cocktails than others. Layered drinks, flaming shooters, blended cocktails…the list goes on. If you’re new at this, start simple. The more experience you gather and the more flavours you become familiar with, the easier it is to create and re-create cocktails to suit the occasion. Even if it’s a simple soothing cocktail to enjoy in an Epsom bath to soothe your sore tootsies after dancing the night away at your company Christmas party. (Pssssst…vanilla vodka, creme de menthe and Silk are a great combination for just such an occasion!)
‘Til next time…enjoy celebrating the season, and stay safe.
Crazy Vegan Mommy