A Holiday Cocktail

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I’m often tempted to break up my bar reviews with the occasional short post devoted to making a particular cocktail at home. Not that I have anything profound to contribute to the world of mixology. I just figure it would serve as a nice change of pace and give me a chance to talk about some of my favorite drinks or share a recipe for something original. The reason I always talk myself out of the idea is because, over the course of the past 9 or 10 months, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some highly accomplished bartenders who have clearly worked hard to perfect their craft. I have the utmost respect for those individuals who have spent countless hours learning how different ingredients complement each other, interact with one another, and combine to make a unique cocktail. The kind of drink that, yes, might get you buzzed, but will also prompt you to take notice of the flavors and appreciate the thoughtful composition.

My fear is that if I put my own concoctions on the blog, then regardless of how many qualifiers or disclaimers I include, it will look like I’m putting my drinks on the same level as the talented mixologists I write about. Maybe I’m overthinking it. But I’d rather focus on the work of people who do this for a living than on amateur cocktail hour at the Boston BarHopper headquarters.

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cocktailcollage

This week, I’m making an exception. A fellow blogger, Erika, who runs the excellent Beautiful Life and Style site, asked a few other bloggers to submit their holiday-themed cocktail recipes for a post she was writing. I was honored to be invited and excited to participate.

Given the occasion, I wanted to make a special drink. Something decadent and desserty, with flavors that recalled the season; the kind of thing you’d only make this time of year. After a week or so of mixing, matching, making my ingredient list, checking it twice, sipping, pacing, and sipping again, I settled on what in bartending parlance would be called a Frangelico flip. But I call it the Hazelnutcracker.

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This simple recipe yields a creamy, frothy, nutty drink that you can reward yourself with after a long day of Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, sending greeting cards, rigging up the lights, what have you. It calls for a raw egg, which tends to make people a little squeamish. An egg was not uncommon in older cocktail recipes, but over time it became something of a lost art. I’ve been seeing it more frequently in recent years, as mixologists revisit classic concoctions like fizzes and flips. It contributes a meringue-like creaminess that, unlike milk or cream, doesn’t weigh the cocktail down. Still skeptical? Just use a fresh egg (organic if that’s the way you roll), shake well, and you’ll be fine. Adding a little extra alcohol can’t hurt, either. Plus, I downed enough raw eggs to make Rocky blush while I was testing this bad boy, and I lived to write the blog post.

Here are the ingredients:

One large brown egg.

2 ounces Frangelico (if the holiday stress is really getting to you, throw in a little vanilla vodka).

Nutmeg.

Crack the egg into a shaker. Shake vigorously for at least one minute; your egg should look thick and frothy. Add the Frangelico and four or five ice cubes. Shake again, for at least another minute; frost should form on the exterior of the shaker.

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Strain into a glass. Sprinkle with nutmeg, and use a stirrer or straw to swirl the nutmeg on the surface.

I also tried this with a few variations before settling on the final recipe. The coffee flavor of Kahlua nicely accompanies the hazelnut, but it spoils the texture. Bailey’s works with the soft, frothy texture, but it completely dominates the flavor, rendering it a large glass of Bailey’s (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). As mentioned above, vanilla vodka is the best addition, if you feel like it needs something more. I tried one version with all of the aforementioned liqueurs, but when I thought I heard reindeer clopping around on the roof, I knew I’d overdone it. Ultimately, the Frangelico by itself allows for a warm, nutty flavor that needs no further accompaniment.

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The Hazelnutcracker is best enjoyed on a snowy night in front of an open fire, with the holiday jazz stylings of the Vince Guaraldi Trio providing a peaceful, happy soundtrack.

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It might also help take the edge off when the magic of your Christmas celebration gives way to the powerful lungs of young children or the vocal political opinions of relatives. (If things really take a turn, you can just say the raw eggs didn’t agree with you and excuse yourself; it’s a very useful drink.)

You should also check out Beautiful Life and Style if you have a chance. It’s a lovely site, and in the same post that I contributed to, you’ll find three other tempting seasonal drinks. Despite my week of nightly cocktails, I couldn’t resist trying two of them (I’d have made the third, too, but I didn’t have the ingredients). There’s nothing like a hot, potent drink to help you shake off the winter chill, and this Hot Buttered Cider did the trick.

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The Yule Mule offered a tasty, festive twist on a Moscow Mule.

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You’ll have to follow the link for the recipes, and you’ll be glad you did.

Thanks again to Erika of Beautiful Life and Style for coming up with such a fun idea. I wonder if Santa would bring me a new liver…