Drinks by the Gallon: Manhattans and Prairie Punch

As part of my Cocktails 101 series over at the cityhomeCOLLECTIVE blog, I recently wrote a history/rant on that gorgeous hit of rye, The Manhattan. For this very tough and hard-hitting bit of research, I spent an afternoon chatting and drinking with bartender extraordinaire Amy Eldridge at the classic Salt Lake watering hole, Bar X. Somebody’s gotta do it. Quite a few folks have been asking me lately about drinks by the pitcher or punch bowl for a crowd over the holidays, so here are a couple of my standards: one is for Manhattans pre-made in the freezer, the other for a citrusyManhattans at Bar X punch that you need to plan about a day of lead time for to make the classic oleo saccharum (“oil sugar”). Both with whiskey, of course!

Manhattans by the Gallon This edition of “How to get your family shitfaced in large batches” courtesy of Amy Eldridge. Perfect for the holidays!

1) Take a very large freezer-safe pitcher or hefty gallon jug, and fill it with:

one bottle sweet vermouth

two bottles rye whiskey

and the equivalent of one bottle filtered water

2) Put upright in the freezer for at least a couple of hours or overnight [it won’t freeze because of all of the alcohol, but may get a little slushy].

3) Portion out cocktails directly into chilled glasses as needed, with a couple of dashes of bitters dropped into each glass first, and a cherry garnish to finish. Or, fill a pretty glass pitcher with the booze and one of those wicked cool ice insert thingies so your Manhattans stay icy cold without getting diluted. Let your guests serve themselves until you call them a cab and boot their ass to the curb. Cheers!

High West Prairie Punch

Prairie Punch: perfect with cheese and savory snacksFinca’s bar man Scott Gardner resurrects the concept of an artisanal punch in this recipe, harkening back to the time when every bar or local watering hole worth its salt had a proprietary and exclusive house punch.   The traditional oleo saccharum (“oil sugar”) preparation takes some lead-time to assemble, but is worth the effort to create a well-blended traditional punch. Here’s his recipe, which makes A LOT (good for a party of 20 or more guests):

1) At least two hours, or up to one day ahead, prepare oleo saccarum by gently muddling 8 oz. granulated sugar and the peels of 6 lemons.

2) After the sugar has turned to a syrup/paste consistency, add 6 oz. lemon juice, stir to combine, and let sit for an additional 30 minutes.

3) Strain out the lemon peels from the mixture and discard

4) In a large punch bowl (or two pitchers), combine:

  • lemon sugar
  • 1 bottle (apprx 25 oz.) High West American Prairie Reserve bourbon
  • 40 oz. cold water
  • ½ oz. angostura bitters
  • Just before serving, add ice to chill your punch
  • Float 8 oz. brut cava on top of the punch
  • Garnish with lemon wheels and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg
  • Note from A Bourbon Gal: Lovely served in shallow ‘coupe’ stemmed glasses

For more punch recipes made the old, old fashioned way [um, not with 7up and floating sherbet], check out David Wondrich’s history of the flowing bowl, Punch [Penguin 2010].

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Date Night: Gorgonzola stuffed dates with Whiskey Salami

My challenge, should I choose to accept it: 

My gal Saketini and her husband Smoked Porter have invited us over for dinner tonight with another couple, our friends IPA and Lemon Drop.    Saketini’s not given us much direction on what she’s making, but has asked Lemon Drop and me to bring appetizers.

What would A Bourbon Gal do?  Damn, I love a good food challenge.

Here are some other considerations before I put the knife to the board:gorgonzola and salami stuffed dates

1)      I didn’t see this text until half of the group conversation had gone by, so I’ve only got 2 hours left to prepare something.  Plus I still need to take a shower and get myself prettified.  Saketini and Lemon Drop always look gorgeous, so this is no small undertaking on my part (No baking or searing, check).

2)      We’re walking through our lovely neighborhood to their house, so my apps need to be backpack portable.  (Nothing fragile, check)

3)      My gal Lemon Drop will probably bring artichoke dip, so my contribution needs to pair well but not appear to be competitively spreadable or dippable.  (Stick to finger food or something skewered, check)

4)      It should go with the undoubtedly fabulous beer selection that Smoked Porter and our buddy IPA—who writes the fantastic beer blog Hoss on Hops—will assemble.  (Strong flavors, check)

Luckily, I sent my budding 11- year old gourmand, Tim Collins, to our neighborhood Emigration Market for some cheese and charcuterie the other day.  He’s a huge Creminelli Salami fan, and brought back one of their delicious uncured salamis and a nice chunk of imported Gorgonzola.  We have a few ounces of salami left and a nub of cheese.  I could totally do a quick nibbles board accompanied by some fruit and crackers, and that would be perfectly lovely if predictable and, quite frankly, sparse.   I’ve also got jars of my own go-to preserves and chutneys, but they’ve all had those a million times, and I’m down to only 3 ounces of gloppy-looking cream cheese to pour them over.  Plus, I’m out of crackers.  And good-looking fresh fruit.  And now, time!

What I need are some perfect little bites to share.  Something sweet and savory to balance Lemon Drop’s dip and crackers, but salty will go great with the beer.  And a bit hearty, too.  We’re feeding a firefighter and a beer blogger here; they need some sustenance!  Damn, this challenge is getting better every minute.  It’s like a real-life version of Chopped!  But without the ugly chef’s coats, sympathetic Ted Allen, lots of yelling “behind,” snarky eye rolling and side-commentary, and the dishy Marcus Samuelsson (sigh).  And I don’t have a blast chiller in sight.

The result?  Here, my friends, is your perfect 4-ingredient, pantry & fridge-scrounged, no baking required, highly durable, and very tasty bite (and I had time to make my hair look fabulous):

 Gorgonzola-stuffed dates with Whiskey salami

 1)      Slice 10-12 extra large dried dates in half length-wise; remove pits.  Place pitted side up on a platter.

2)      In a small bowl, mash together with a fork 3 oz. softened cream cheese and 4 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (also terrific with Maytag Blue)

3)      Remove casing from 3-4 oz. of Creminelli Whiskey salami (or other hard dry uncured Italian salami, any will do) and slice on the bias into very thin ovals. Slice ovals in half again to make half-oval strips.

4)      To assemble: scoop up about 1 teaspoon (this is very approximate folks, I don’t know how big your dates are!) of cheese mixture and gently scrape it with the back of a spoon into the center of your date half for the filling.  Top with a salami strip or two.  If you are packing these to travel, place a crumpled sheet of parchment paper between layers and pack gently in glass or plastic lidded containers.