Why break the ice when you can melt it?
By Jeffery Lindenmuth
I n the era before space heaters and Thinsulate, simmering concoctions of wine, beer, and spirits were a staple of colonial taverns. By 1939, in The Gun Club Drink Book, author Charles Browne disparaged Hot Buttered Rum, Wassail, and Bishop as "Old Time Drinks," calling them "ancient drinks of strange and seemingly incompatible ingredients." Fortunately, modern imbibers show a renewed appreciation for these steaming libations. Whether après ski, or just following a long walk, these five recipes are sure to warm you to the idea of a hot cocktail.
While Browne quipped that the floating butter on this drink served only to lubricate one's mustache, the dairy dip actually supplies a tasty topping through which to sip the hot rum. Jerry Thomas, the 19th-century patriarch of modern bartenders, suggested that the piece of sweet butter added to the top should be "as large as half a chestnut"-a poetic way to describe a generous teaspoon. Since this drink enjoyed popularity a century before the availability of white, Puerto Rican-style rum, it demands a hearty, aged Jamaican variety such as Appleton Estate Reserve (or a dark, spiced rum like Four Square from Barbados or even an artisanal American version such as Dogfish Head's Wit Spiced Rhum, which is made with coriander and orange peel in Delaware). Note: This vintage recipe, which comes from a 1969 issue of Gourmet, is particularly delicious thanks to the inclusion of lemon zest and the holy trinity of wintry spices: cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
Go ahead and dip them into the drink before taking a bite. These slightly spicy cheese straws are perfect instruments for stirring your buttery rum.
Rum-Scented Marble Cake
The dark rum of this drink is echoed in the rich, buttery cake, and the two make sophisticated-looking companions.
If you take your favorite whiskey sour and add boiling water rather than club soda, you have the basis for a hot toddy. As with any classic sour, the key to this drink is the way it balances sweet and sour elements while adding the complexities of spice and alcohol. The original 19th-century toddies were far simpler than this contemporary drink: merely sugar with hot water and choice of spirit. (Today, most of us forgo the gin and brandy varieties.) Made with good whiskey, such as bourbon or blended Scotch, and with honey instead of the standard sugar, this salubrious toddy is especially soothing when you've picked up a cold. Tastes pretty good when you're feeling fine, too.
Savory Pairing:Smoked Trout, Watercress, and Apple Salad
Smoky blended Scotches pair well with smoked fish; the sweet-sour flavors of the drink go nicely with the spicy vinaigrette.
Blue Cheese with Rosemary Honey on Crackers
The sweetness of honey, in both drink and hors d'oeuvres, is a natural complement for pungent blue cheese; rosemary adds depth.
Irish Coffee II
Irish coffee was reportedly created in the 1940s by chef Joe Sheridan when he combined sweetened coffee, Irish whiskey, and fresh cream to warm a group of American travelers stranded at an Irish airport. While the original drink called for a float of fresh cream, most modern versions suggest whipping the cream-more adventurous mixers can flavor it with liqueurs or spice, too. The traditional ingredients alone yield an excellent drink when made with quality goods: Use real Irish whiskey, preferably a classic Irish blend such as Jameson 12-Year-Old Special Reserve or Bushmills Black Bush, strong coffee, and freshly whipped real cream (none of that imitation stuff sold in a plastic tub), and you'll understand why this drink remains a ray of hope for cold and weary travelers.
Cheddar and Pepper Scones
The sweet coffee balances the black peppery spice, and Irish Cheddar keeps things culturally consistent.
Chocolate Rice Krispies
Chocolate and coffee are a perfect pairing, and these treats have enough bitter cocoa to balance the sweetness of the coffee.
"In Charles Dickens's The Seven Poor Travelers, a guest describes a hot beverage as having "the odours as of ripe vineyards, spice forests, and orange groves...," which eloquently conjures the clove-studded roasted oranges and warm ruby port of the traditional English Bishop. Even old Scrooge decided to mix a batch of the stuff after waking from his life-altering sleep. The Bishop deserves our praise for taking already fortified (and fortifying) ruby port and turning it into a hot drink that is both aromatically intoxicating and beautiful to behold.
Pork Roast with Winter Fruits and Port Sauce
With the same ruby port and roasted fruit flavors that are found in Bishop, this dish marries perfectly with the robust hot drink.
Long before the cantankerous cat and mouse cartoon, Tom and Jerry was a hot drink, made by combining fluffy egg batter with spirits and boiling water. Back in the 1800s, Jerry Thomas mixed it with no less than a dozen eggs and doled out the batter to thirsty bar-goers from a punch bowl. You'll still find mugs and bowls labeled with the name of this drink in antique shops, although the Tom and Jerry's last stronghold seems to be the hinterlands of Wisconsin, where it remains a winter specialty. This recipe is portioned for one, and although it calls for milk instead of boiling water, it stays true to the creator's use of both rum and brandy for the alcoholic portion of the drink.
Three-Cheese Triangles with Onions and Yogurt
By using milk in place of the traditional water, this Tom and Jerry is a nice sweet dairy match for savory Greek meze.
The spicy cayenne in this snack counters the sweet, rich consistency of the drink; the almonds accentuate the nuttiness of aged brandy and rum.
Photos courtesy of Heaven Hill Distilleries, Betty Crocker, Romulo Yanes, Elissa Wiehn, and Gourmet magazine.
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