This is the month when the foodie corners of the internet are flooded with vegetable side dishes. Sautéed, braised, and roasted, November is the month when we try to offset all the butter and carbs of Thanksgiving with root vegetables and brussels sprouts.
Given my wholehearted love of vegetable side dishes (and my constant attempt to make them into main dishes by tossing them with pasta and/or topping them with an egg), I have no complaints about this. I’m mean, I’ve done it too, and when I haven’t, it’s usually because I’m too swamped with work, travel, or my own holiday plans to write up a recipe.
This year, I’ve been writing more cocktail recipes than side dishes. But, I mean, this isn’t a bad thing. When the weather starts getting colder, so does my house, and a nice warming cocktail is just the thing in the evening. Decent cocktails are surprisingly easy to make at home, too, with a few staple ingredients (it helps if like me, you’re pretty boring and drink variations on the same 3 or 4 cocktails). Also, who doesn’t want (or need) a cocktail or two to get through Thanksgiving?
Since good things come in threes, I have a trio of whiskey cocktail recipes to share today. There are a lot of similarities between these cocktails: the interplay between smoky, bitter, and sweet; a judicious use of some sort of fruit; well, you know, whiskey. However, each one is entirely its own. Each one uses a different variety of whiskey, and they have totally different flavor profiles: there’s something for every taste here, and something for every stage of your Thanksgiving meal.
The Pre-Dinner Crowd Pleaser: Earl Grey Honey-Herb Punch
This was adapted quite a bit (and scaled down to a single drink) from Bon Appétit, but would also scale up to a punch quite easily. The honey mixture will give you leftovers, but not a huge amount. I don’t love honey, so I don’t tend to keep this syrup on hand, but if you do, it scales up well (and makes a great whiskey sour).
1 Earl Grey teabag (or 1 tablespoon loose tea)
¼ cup honey
3–4 leaves fresh sage
1 sprig fresh thyme
1½ ounces rye whiskey (I used Dickel)
½ ounce sweet vermouth
2–3 dashes citrus bitters (I used grapefruit)
lemon slice and/or fresh sage leaves for garnish
Make a concentrated tea with ¼ cup boiling water. Let steep 5 minutes, discard the tea leaves, and let cool.
Meanwhile, make the honey-herb syrup. Combine the honey and fresh herbs with ¼ cup water. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the honey is completely dissolved and just comes to a boil. Let the herbs steep in the syrup as it cools, then strain into a small jar.
To make the cocktail, combine 1 ounce of the tea mixture, ½ of the honey syrup, ¾ ounce lemon juice, and the rye, vermouth, and bitters. Shake well with ice and serve on the rocks, garnished with a lemon slice.
The Appetizer: Seaside Grapefruit Cocktail
I spent a few days totally entranced by a recipe from Lucky Peach, and when I realized that I lacked some of the necessary ingredients, I just created something totally new with what I did have.
5 drops smoked salt tincture (see below)
2 ounces freshly squeezed red or pink grapefruit juice
1½ ounces bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)
½ ounce sweet vermouth
2–3 dashes lime bitters
lime slice, for garnish
For the salt tincture: mix ½ teaspoon smoked salt with 1 ounce of water until dissolved (keep the leftovers in a dropper bottle with your bitters).
Stir everything but the lime slice briskly with ice until well chilled. Serve up or on the rocks with the lime slice for garnish.
The Digestif (aka the “I Don’t Have Room for Pie but I Want Dessert”): Apple Cider Old Fashioned
I have nothing to say about this except that it is phenomenally good. Drink one. Drink it all. Then use the leftover cider syrup to make this wonderful beet salad.
For the syrup: 1½ cups apple cider
2 ounces blended whiskey
3–4 dashes bitters (I used blackstrap bitters)
apple slice and/or cinnamon stick, for garnish
To make the syrup, bring the cider to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat, and simmer gently until the mixture is a thick syrup, 10–20 minutes. Let cool.
Mix ½ ounce apple cider syrup with the whiskey and bitters and stir briskly with ice until well chilled. Serve up in a cocktail glass with the apple as a garnish.
Each recipe serves 1