Thursday, January 28, 2016

Three's Company (in the Liquor Cabinet)

Last week I wrote up a blog about cocktails that only required two ingredients. But as I was compiling them, I came across quite a few favorites that I had to eliminate because they require three ingredients. So…ladies and gentlemen, may I present my favorite 3-ingredient cocktails! Once again, I have included only cocktails requiring relatively common ingredients (with one possible exception), rather than exotic flavored vodkas or mixers. Here is the list of everything you need to make all the cocktails on this list:

Brandy or cognac
Domaine de Canton (this is my one exception to the “common ingredient” promise – but this is one unusual liquor that I think belongs in every liquor cabinet!)
Crème de cacao
Sweet vermouth
Triple sec or Grand Marnier

Light cream or half and half
Lemon juice
Simple syrup (dissolve equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until completely dissolved; cool and refrigerate) or superfine sugar
Angostura bitters

Nutmeg or cinnamon
Shaved chocolate or chocolate jimmies
Whipped cream (optional)
Lemon twist or wedge
Orange twist or wedge
Maraschino cherries
Sugar (optional; you can use regular granulated sugar or larger-grained sugar, which may be called decorator’s sugar or sparkling sugar, and which is available in a rainbow of colors)
Fresh herbs (rosemary, basil - optional)
Fresh mint leaves

Brandy Alexander

This is one of my favorite winter drinks. The cognac warms, the crème de cacao sweetens, the cream softens. Technically, this cocktail should be garnished with nutmeg, but I prefer cinnamon, either sprinkled with ground cinnamon or, if you want to get really fancy, use a cinnamon stick. 

Cognac: Crème de cacao: cream = 2:1:4

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass; garnish with nutmeg or cinnamon.

Almond Joy
Amaretto is one of my favorite mixers; its sweet, nutty, buttery flavor is complimentary with chocolate, caramel, raspberry, and orange. Named after the candy bar, this sweet, creamy cocktail makes a lovely after-dinner or dessert drink as well as a pre-dinner cocktail. For a sweet dessert, garnish the glass with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and top with whipped cream; for a pre-dinner drink, leave plain or sprinkle a bit of shaved cocktail or chocolate jimmies on top.

Amaretto: Crème de cacao: cream = 2:1:1 (adjust cream to taste)

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass drizzled with chocolate, and/or garnish with whipped cream and/or shaved chocolate or jimmies, or leave plain. Can also be built over ice in a bucket glass.

Lemon Drop Martini
Although I think of this as a summer drink, it can be a nice, light cocktail any time of year. There are literally hundreds of variations of the lemon drop martini, but this one is simple and quick. If you want to fancy it up, add a splash of triple sec or Grand Marnier, or try garnishing with a sprig of fresh rosemary or basil or a slice of ginger, or add a sugared rim, but it is lovely and refreshing just as is. 

Vodka: Lemon juice: Simple syrup = 6:3:1

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled martini glass (with or without a sugared rim); garnish with a lemon twist or sprig of fresh herb.

This old-fashioned cocktail has made a comeback, thanks in part to its popularity at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, which is where I first encountered it. Like the lemon drop martini above, there are many fancy ways to make it, but my favorite is a very simple, three-ingredient recipe. But it’s just not a side car without the sugared rim, preferably in a festive color. I also prefer an artistic twist of lemon over a wedge. 

Cognac or brandy: triple sec or Grand Marnier: lemon juice = 2:2:1

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass with a sugar rim; garnish with a lemon or orange twist.

White Russian
Another wonderful wintry cocktail, the White Russian blends the bitter edge of Kahlua with the smoothness of cream and the warm-to-your-toes effect of vodka to create a delicious treat that will make even northern Siberia tolerable. Stir well to blend all the flavors together, or leave a bit of a layered effect for a variety of sweetness and a bitter kick at the finish. 

Vodka: Kahlua: cream = 4:2:1

Pour all ingredients over ice in an old-fashioned glass and stir.

Old Fashioned
The name speaks for itself: this cocktail is old fashioned, but also a classic. Its base can be either bourbon or whiskey, and superfine sugar, a sugar cube, or a splash of simple syrup can be used for sweetness. The traditional garnish is an orange slice and a maraschino cherry, but the cherry is often omitted, and the orange slice can be replaced with orange or lemon peel. 

Bourbon or whiskey (2 oz.), superfine sugar (1 tsp.), Angostura bitters (2-3 dashes)

Place the sugar in an old-fashioned glass and splash in the bitters; add a few drops of water and stir until dissolved. Add the whiskey, stir, and add a few large ice cubes. Garnish with orange and cherry or a lemon wedge, or leave as is.

The trick to making a great Manhattan is chilling it well. Some purists claim that it should be stirred rather than shaken, but I (and James Bond, I suspect) would disagree. Unlike a martini, however, which should be shaken hard until ice chips float in the glass, a Manhattan should sit for a few moments to chill before being shaken. The maraschino cherry is imperative. You will occasionally see a bartender garnish a Manhattan with orange peel. This is simply wrong. 

Whiskey: Sweet vermouth: bitters = 2:1: a few dashes

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker full of ice; allow to sit for a few minutes. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Gold Rush
There are several variations of a Gold Rush; my favorite, by far, uses a French ginger liqueur called Domaine de Canton. It’s probably not in everyone’s liquor cabinet, but it should be. The ginger creates a wonderful warmth in winter drinks, especially if you’re fighting a cold or a sore throat. The combination of bourbon and ginger is a perfect toddy to warm you to your toes. Garnish with a slice of fresh ginger if you can or a lemon twist if you can’t. 

Domaine de Canton: Bourbon: Lemon juice = 3:2:1

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a ginger slice or a lemon twist or wedge, or leave ungarnished.

French Ginger Martini
Since I’ve already thrown Domaine de Canton into the mix, let me add in another elegant ginger cocktail. Since ginger and citrus are such a complementary combination, this cocktail combines the brightness of Grand Marnier with the heat of Domaine de Canton. Although it does not call for a garnish, I love using a slice of ginger to bring out the heat in any cocktail made with Domaine. 

Domaine de Canton: Vodka: Grand Marnier = 2:2:<1 o:p="">

Shake over ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of ginger or a lemon twist, if desired.

Mint Julep
I discovered this lovely summer cocktail at a Kentucky Derby party a few years ago – it is the official drink of the Derby, after all. Since I have a large (and rather exuberant) crop of fresh mint in my yard, mint cocktails are a natural. And since I am rather partial to bourbon, this cocktail brings out my inner Southern belle. If you’re making it for a crowd, allow the mint leaves to steep in the bourbon after muddling lightly, or steep them in the simple syrup. If you’re making a single serving at a time, muddle well and shake hard to bring out that fresh mint flavor! And be sure to use crushed ice rather than full-sized ice cubes. 

Bourbon: simple syrup: mint leaves = 2-3:1: handful

Place the mint and simple syrup in a Collins glass and muddle well with a spoon. Add the bourbon, then top with crushed ice and stir well to chill. Garnish with a mint sprig.


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