Aromatic herbs and spices like sweet cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and vanilla define our culinary palate this time of year, and that goes for cocktails too. Thankfully, you don’t need to stock the cabinet with a fortune’s worth of pretty liquor bottles to enjoy these delights.
Infusing your own spirits at home and making flavored syrups are easy ways to build ingredients for your home bar. It's fun to have a few specialty drinks on hand that will wow your guests when hosting parties. After all, tis the season for cups filled with cheer, making memories, and merriment!
Here are 5 of my favorite herbal sipping treats for winter celebrations...
Rose & Cardamom Eggnog
- 2 super fresh, organic eggs
- 3 oz (by volume) organic granulated sugar
- ½ tsp organic cardamom powder
- 2 oz brandy
- 2 oz spiced rum
- 6 oz organic whole milk
- 4 oz organic heavy cream
- 2 tsp organic rosewater
- organic nutmeg shavings to garnish (find a nutmeg grater here)
Beat farm fresh eggs in a blender or food processor for one minute on low speed. Slowly spoon in the sugar and continue blending for one minute to combine. With blender still running, add cardamom, brandy, rum, milk, and cream. Blend the ingredients together for one minute. Chill thoroughly to allow the flavors to meld. Stir in the rosewater and serve in two chilled glasses, grating nutmeg on top before serving.
Orange Spice Manhattan
- 2 oz orange spice infused bourbon*
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Fill a glass with ice and pour in the infused bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Stir to combine and then strain the cocktail into a chilled glass. Garnish with a candied orange peel. Serves one.
* To make the Orange Spice Bourbon, combine 8oz of bourbon with the outer peel of one orange, one organic cinnamon stick, one chopped organic vanilla bean, and two organic cloves in a glass jar. Allow to infuse for 2 weeks and then strain.
Elderberry Champagne Cocktail
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz elderberry syrup
- Lemon peel garnish
- 4 cups cold water
- 2 cups organic dried elderberries
- 1 organic cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp fresh grated ginger root
- raw local honey
To make the syrup, combine the berries and herbs with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow herbs to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and mash the berries in the liquid mixture. Strain the berries and herbs through cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice. Measure the liquid and add an equal amount of honey. Gently heat the honey and juice for a few minutes until well combined. Do not boil! Bottle in sterilized glass.
Pour gin and elderberry syrup into a flute glass. Top with chilled champagne and garnish with a lemon peel.
Spiked Vanilla Bean Cocoa
- 8 oz organic milk
- 8 oz organic half-and-half
- ¼ cup organic cacao powder
- ¼ cup simple syrup
- 3 oz vanilla bean infused brandy
- vanilla bean whipped cream
Gently simmer milk and half-and-half in a saucepan over medium heat until just warm. Do not boil! Whisk in the cacao powder, add the syrup, and stir. Divide between two mugs and add 1 ½ oz of infused brandy to each. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.
Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
- 1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
- 1 Tbsp organic sugar
- 1 tsp organic vanilla extract
- Pulp from one half of a split and scraped organic vanilla bean
Add all ingredients to a quart sized mason jar and tightly screw on the lid. Shake the jar for several minutes until the liquid stops sloshing. Open periodically to check for a fluffy consistency. Be careful not to over shake, or you’ll have vanilla butter instead!
Chai Snow Punch
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1/4 cup organic chai loose tea
- 1 organic cinnamon stick
- 1 1/2 cups brandy or cognac
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp organic vanilla extract
- Organic cinnamon powder for garnish
Combine the milk, half-and-half, loose chai tea, and cinnamon in a pan and bring the temperature up to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Stir constantly. Cover with a lid and remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature before straining out the herbs. Whisk together the chai infused milk, booze, sugar, and vanilla. Pour into a covered glass bowl and freeze for 12 to 24 hours, stirring several times to break up large ice crystals. Stir well before serving to make the appearance of snow. Spoon into chilled glasses with a sprinkling of cinnamon. Serves 6 to 8.