In the early decades of the twentieth century, a consortium of writers and wits gathered at New York’s Algonquin Hotel, ostensibly for lunch, but also for lively conversation and creative collaboration. They came to be known as the Algonquin Round Table. From ancient times to the present, from classical philosophy to modern art, there have been famous schools and schools of thought, gatherings of the mind–think Plato’s Academy or Andy Warhol’s Factory. What would it be like, I wondered, if Austin’s colorful cast of food and beverage professionals formed a Round Table? Or, at the very least, a tipsy holiday cocktail party?
As Austin’s food and beverage scene goes through a renaissance of its own, I decided to catch up with some local per- sonalities–bartenders, bar owners, and brand managers–to see what their choices are for cold-weather entertaining. The recipes sounded so good, we decided to make this cocktail party a reality. While it may not be Aristotle’s Lyceum, it was a great way to kick off the holiday tippling season.
Mike and Jessica Sanders: Owners, Drink.Well.
(Opening spring 2012)
The Sanderses are Texans who have recently moved back home after a stint working in New York’s advertising industry. They’ve always had a hospitality streak in them and have made Austin their new Texas home. Next spring they will open Drink.Well., an American tavern, on North Loop across from Foreign & Domestic.
2 oz Flor de Cana 7 yr. rum or other aged rum
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 barspoon of date-infused simple syrup
2 dashes Bitter Truth Mole Bitters
Directions: Stir ingredients in a mixing glass to chill. Strain into a chilled cock- tail glass. Garnish with an orange zest.
Adam Harris: Distillery Diplomat, Maker’s Mark
Harris is the gregarious local ambassador for Kentucky’s Maker’s Mark distillery. A legendary entertainer, he came through with a great cold-weather recipe. “During the holidays I know I’m going to be entertaining folks on a regular basis. Family, friends and neigh- bors come around almost every weekend, and I like to serve them my Hospitality Punch. I’ve been making this for three years now, and it’s always a hit. It’s because folks like the fresh flavors amidst the standard rich or heavy food and drink the season typically offers. I usually have these ingredients on hand from November until Janu- ary 2. My friends and family like it, and I hope you will too. Once you get going, this takes no time at all.”
1 750 ml bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon
1 bottle of mint-infused, fresh-pressed pineapple juice, such as Lakewood Farms or Knudsen’s
.75 cup (6 oz) of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
.25 cup (2 oz) simple syrup
St Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram, to taste
Soda, 1 bottle or siphon
Lemon wheels and mint leaves for garnish
Two hours before the event, clean one bunch of mint and steep in pineapple juice, refrigerated. Save some mint tops for garnish. Once the pineapple juice is minty, strain the leaves. In a pitcher or punch bowl, combine bour- bon, mint-infused pineapple juice, lemon juice and simple syrup. Let this sit in a punch bowl in the fridge. When folks walk in the door, add ice*, a spritz of soda, a dash of Allspice Dram and garnish.
*An easy way to make professional-looking ice blocks is to fill a plastic sher- bet or sorbet container with water and freeze. The resulting block will fit perfectly in a punch bowl, and will chill your punch without overly diluting it.
Bill Norris: Beverage Director, Alamo Draft house/ Highball/400 Rabbits
“Irish Coffee is one of the most delicious and misunderstood cocktails of all time. Whenever I am in San Francisco, I always stop by the Buena Vista for an Irish Coffee… or three.” Glassware is important here, as the traditional tulip-shaped Irish Coffee glass will encourage proper preparation; a small white wine glass will suffice. The cream should be unsweetened and shaken just enough to thicken it. The cream should be thickened, but still pourable, so that it will sit nicely on top of the hot coffee, allowing the drinker to sip the sweetened, hot mixture through the cold rich cream.
1.5 oz Irish whisky
1 oz raw sugar syrup 4 oz hot black coffee Cream
Place the sugar syrup and whiskey into the glass and slowly pour in hot coffee. (If the glass is not tempered, pour the coffee over a bar spoon placed against the glass, which will keep it from breaking from the heat.) Pour the heavy cream over the back of a spoon to float. The finished drink should look like a glass of Guinness, with the cream serving as the “head.”
Ben Edgerton: Owner, Contigo
Ben is also an Irish Coffee aficionado. “My go-to last season was classic Irish Coffee. I make the coffee in a traditional metal stovetop percolator, and I like to infuse the sweetened cream with a little vanilla if I have it. I had a couple of these in New York last year and then replicated it the entire winter. Most people say it is the best Irish Coffee they’ve ever had!”
When I told him that Bill Norris was already bringing Irish Coffee to the party, he said, “Well, there’s always scotch!”
“How do you take it?” I asked.
“Neat (without ice). Last winter it was Laphroaig. I totally bought into their ‘Friends of Laphroaig’ program in which they give you ownership of a plot of land–it’s like one foot by one foot–at the distillery. I will go visit my plot of land some day.”
Lara Nixon: Owner, Bad Dog Bar Craft
Lara’s go-to crowd pleaser is eggnog made with True Blue, a potent cask-strength corn whiskey from Balcones Distilling in Waco (Nixon is also a brand spokesperson for Balcones).
True Blue Eggnog
I 750 ml bottle Balcones True Blue
6 oz maple syrup
6 oz Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur
32 oz eggnog (more eggnog can be added to taste–housemade eggnog is the best, but a quality store-bought brand will suffice)
Directions: Mix ingredients together in a pitcher or punch bowl and allow to marry, re- frigerated, for at least two hours. Top each serving with grated nutmeg and/ or cinnamon.
Adam Bryan: Manager, Bar Congress
“I always like rum Alexanders during the holi-daze. I also like to make them with dark beer.” Alexanders are a category of drink that popped up during Prohibition. The sweetness and cream acted to mask the poor quality of that era’s spirits. The drinks have grown to be a favor- ite treat during the colder months, and now we can make them with artisanal products such as the Jamaican pot-stilled rum that Bryan suggests here.
1.5 oz Smith + Cross rum (or other full-flavored aged rum) 1.5 oz Nut Brown ale or other porter-style beer
1 oz heavy cream
.5 oz simple syrup
Directions: Shake ingredients vigorously with ice to chill. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg.