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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Superlative Slope-side Bloody Mary*:

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

Spring brings along with it the dubious refined culture of the mid-day cocktail.  Think mint juleps, Planter’s punch, mojitos, and of course the hangover brunch standards:  Mimosas and Bloody Marys.  In my Memphis-based undergraduate days, we trained during much of the year to get ready for  studied diligently, then barely survived enjoyed a series of late semester parties, culminating in a music festival called “Rites of Spring.”  Awfully pagan for a church affiliated private liberal arts school, hmmm?  Good times.

I’ve moderated my own daytime drinking propensity in the decades years since in response to semi-responsible adulthood: graduate school, keeping a job, parenthood, PTA meetings, those goddamn pesky “empty” alcohol calories that every fascist nutritional resource tells you will haunt you and your belly fat thighs ass liver and muffin top mid-section forever.  And they do, my friends, they do.

But there are certain events in one’s life that call out for the return of day drinking an occasional mid-afternoon cocktail in its inherent subversive naughty splendor:  Super Bowl Sunday.  Mardi Gras.  The Kentucky Derby.   Volunteering at your kids’ school for “Pioneer Week” field trips.  Independence Day.

And, here in my adopted mountain home:  Spring Skiing.

Thanks to Brighton Ski Team for this great photo of the racers!

Thanks to Brighton Ski Team for this great photo of the racers!

Case in point.  Our family unit ventured to Grand Targhee, WY last weekend for an extended ‘Spring Fling’ two-day ski race event in which our older son, Tim Collins, competed.  We met up with about 10 other families from our home mountain and awesome guests.  We arrived at the mountain at 8:30 am each day to get our kids outfitted with their race speed suits, their racing bibs, their surly attitudes, and their appropriately-waxed skis.  Then the parents took turns trudging up the slope to set up a ‘base camp’ at the race finish—a good 200 yards straight uphill.  My man The Macallan valiantly delivered tent poles, coolers, and backpacks.  I mercilessly nagged supervised, and tried to finish my coffee before it cooled.

Waiting at the tent each morning after a couple of runs by noon, were the combined efforts of a few but mighty genius minds:  Gallons (yes, gallons!!) a pitcher of super-peppery homemade Bloody Mary mix,  several quarts of hooch hidden in duffle bags a bottle of Five Wives Vodka (Utah’s own artisan spirit), and some jalapeño-stuffed green olives for garnish.   Served in red Solo cups  non-breakable slope-side beverage containers, this was, my friends, the nectar of the ski gods.  Ullr and Loki were undoubtedly looking after us in their own pagan fashion:  Rites of Spring, now all grown up.  Kinda.

Slope-side Bloody Mary (makes 1, multiply as needed for your crowd) 

When I’m at home, I add a bacon-salt rim to the glass, just ‘cause you can and it’s delicious (Hello?  Bacon + salt !?).  Also great with Old Bay Seasoning.

In a cocktail shaker with 3-4 cubes ice add:

2 oz. vodka

One 5.5 oz. can original V8 juice

½  tsp. fresh lemon juice

¼ tsp. prepared horseradish

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

2 dashes hot sauce (I like Crystal)

1 tsp. Okra pickle juice or green olive juice

A couple of generous cranks of fresh-ground coarse black peppercorns

A generous shake of bacon salt or Old Bay Seasoning

Shake until combined.  Pour the whole shaker into a heavy glass or red Solo cup.  Garnish with pickled okra and/or several skewered green olives.

Until next ski season, SKOL and Slainté, my friends! 

*Please imbibe responsibly, and for cripes sake watch your sodium levels.  We’re not getting any younger, you know.  Geez.