Here at Villa Verde, every holiday get-together starts with a cocktail or two. So there are a few things I share with my friends and family in the real world, and have decided this year to share with my friends and family in the virtual world at PJ Media.
On Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve Day mornings, it’s Bloody Marys or bust. It doesn’t matter whether I’m the host or the guest, everybody expects me to make…
Steve’s Stripped-Down Bloodys
Each Bloody Mary requires:
• 1.5 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka
• 3 oz Low Sodium V-8. (V-8 has more flavor going on than mere tomato juice does, and the low-sodium variety really lets the veggie flavors shine through)
• 1/2 oz lime juice
• 1/2 oz lemon juice
• 2 dashes Worcestershire (Lea & Perrins only, please)
• 2 dashes Tabasco (add or subtract to taste)
• 1 tsp freshly grated horseradish
I make ’em by the pitcher, stirring gently, then pour over ice, and garnish. You should garnish with whatever suits your fancy, but I’m partial to bacon. Sometimes, as in this example, I’m too busy in the kitchen to bother with anything other than ice.
I’d spent years up-armoring my Bloodys with more and more ingredients until they’d become a bloody mess. The year I tried adding muddled cucumber on top of everything else, my wife took a sip, made a face, and said, “This is gazpacho with vodka in it.” Since then, I’ve pared it down to its Bloody essence, and haven’t had a complaint.
Shake, Shake, Shake
The perfect cocktail often starts with a cocktail shaker. This sleek stainless-steel number from Oxo is my go-to, and unlike many steel models, it features double-wall construction for excellent insulation. The pop-top pouring mechanism is nifty, too, and makes a satisfying little click when you open it.
For the Scotch-Lover in Your Life (Especially If It’s You)
Smooth as a Highland, much meatier than a Speyside, and without punching you in the mouth with a fist made of peat like so many other Islay scotches do, the Bowmore 15 is Islay single malt scotch done right. This is my go-to when I want a treat for myself on a winter evening, or want to treat my friends who just came in from the cold.
Serve neat, or with a single cube of ice if you must.
Scott’s Patented Ancho Chili Manhattan
Aside from my lovely niece, the Ancho Chili Manhattan might be my brother-in-law Scott’s finest creation.
• 2 oz Rye (Basil Hayden preferred)
• 1 oz Ancho Reyes (not Verde)
• 5-6 dashes chocolate mole bitters
Shake lovingly over whole ice, strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a thin slice of deseeded Serrano pepper. These aren’t easy to drink slowly, but if you manage to do so, then the pepper is very nicely marinated at the end.
The Perfect Wine Tool
Forget the fancy cork-pullers with the rabbit ears or the air injection or any of that. All you need is a waiter’s corkscrew, and — if you don’t already know how — exactly one lesson on how to use the two-step process to safely pull the cork without breakage. A nice wood-handle model like this one isn’t cheap, but it’ll last a lifetime and makes a lovely gift.
The night I first visited the home of the man who would become my father-in-law, we hit it off so well that he asked me to stick around for an after-dinner brandy. He told me he had something special — his favorite brandy ever — from Spain, where he’d served two Air Force tours.
Out loud I said, “Please, that sounds great.” On the inside I was thinking, “What are you talking about? The French make the best brandy.” Then Dick poured me a generous snifter of Gran Duque d’Alba, I took a sip, and thought (not for the first time), “Screw the French!” True story.
Eighteen years later, it’s hardly a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner if we don’t pop open the Duque afterward. Traditions can be important, especially the ones you invent yourself with friends and family. And this one is vital.
That’s it for this year’s little cocktail guide. It isn’t supposed to be all-encompassing, because there’s always more to learn and share. So if there’s anything you’d like to share, please add it in the comments. Maybe it’ll even make next year’s edition.
Happy Thanksgiving, and a very merry Christmas or happy Chanuka to you.