From the Cellar: A bright fireplace calls for hot toddies - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

From the Cellar: A bright fireplace calls for hot toddies

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Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 5:48 pm | Updated: 8:48 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Last week, my son asked why we never use our fireplace. Good question. Six years in the same house, not so much as kindling has passed the river rock facade. The cats occasionally inspect the space, especially when birds rest and chirp atop the chimney, but no glowing embers or crackling happens here.

"We can roast marshmallows, tell stories and sip hot chocolate," he says with 7-year-old enthusiasm. Sounds good to me, especially the stories and hot chocolate part. There's just something magical about his enthusiasm and innocence - and the cooler months around the holidays. Pollution advisory aside, I say, let's fire up the fireplace.

During our next dinner party, I may just do that, and perhaps whip together some hot toddies or coffee drinks to go with the theme. Hot apple cider and brandy is a classic, as is whiskey and coffee. But knowing me, I'll need to stretch the idea and go for something more innovative. How about a variation on a Rusty Nail (scotch and Drambuie liqueur), with brewed hot tea, scotch, Drambuie, freshly grated nutmeg and a lemon twist? Yum.

One of the keys to good hot cocktails is to use fresh herbs and spices and high-end spirits. The flavor and care comes through in the mug. Fresh-ground coffee beans also are a must, but you can still retain flavor if you want to substitute fat-free half and half or reduced fat whipped cream to cut down on calories.

Take care and have fun with your fire and hot toddies, but, as my son says, "make sure all the flames are out on Christmas Eve, so Santa can come down the chimney." So innocent. And drinks that are so delicious. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

CAFÉ BRULOT

32 ounces fresh brewed French roast coffee

8 ounces brandy or cognac

4 ounces orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau

1/4 cup sugar

Zest of one orange, one long string if possible

4 cinnamon sticks

Whipping cream for garnish

Preparation: Combine brandy, orange liqueur, sugar, orange zest and cinnamon into medium saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Do not boil. Add coffee and stir. Ladle into mugs and garnish with whipped cream.

MARNIER CHOCOLATE BONBON

1 ounce Grand Marnier orange liqueur

1/2 ounce Anejo (aged) tequila, such as Don Julio

3 ounces hot chocolate (dried, packaged variety is fine)

Fresh whipped cream for garnish

Preparation: Prepare hot chocolate. Add Grand Marnier and tequila and stir. Top with dollop of whipped cream.

KENTUCKY CAPPUCCINO

24 ounces fresh brewed coffee

8 ounces bourbon

4 ounce white crème de menthe liqueur

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Fresh whipped cream for garnish

Green crème de menthe for garnish

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Preparation: Combine coffee, bourbon, brown sugar and white crème de menthe in a heat-resistant glass pitcher and stir. Pour into mugs and top with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh mint sprig. Drizzle green crème de menthe over whipped cream.

GREEN TEA TODDY

24 ounces boiling water

4 green tea bags

8 ounces white rum

2 tablespoons sugar

Zest of one orange, one long string if possible

1 lime sliced into rounds

3-inch-long piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced

Preparation: Pour boiling water into heat-resistant glass pitcher and steep tea bags for four minutes. Remove tea bags and add sugar and rum. In four mugs, add a lime round, piece of orange zest, two cubes of ginger and top with tea-rum mixture.

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