11 Dec 2009

Winter Libations

Originally Uploaded to flickr by Julie H. Ferguson (Photos by Pharos)

Originally Uploaded to flickr by Julie H. Ferguson (Photos by Pharos)

Well, it’s that time of year.  Holiday parties, drinks with old friends, drinks with new friends.  Drinks to celebrate and drinks to cope.  When temperatures dip, I shelve my desires for a margarita on the patio and instead start looking for drinks to warm me up by the fire.  I start swapping out Ketel and soda for Red Breast neat (or, Midleton if it’s a special occasion or you’re buying)  and Oberon for Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout.

Of course the drinking establishments around the Hill have you covered for this seasonal change in tastes.  Pop into the Argonaut for the aforementioned Black Chocolate Stout (be warned though, it packs a punch at 10.6% ABV) and while you’re there, stay for dinner, where the specials have been veering more toward hearty comfort foods like fried flounder with mac n’ cheese and greens, chili and chicken soup.  They’ve also got North Coast Brewing’s Red Seal Ale on tap while it lasts!

SOVA also has your winter drink needs covered, whether they’re the boozy kind or the caffeinated kind.  Downstairs they’ll have hot apple cider as well as a few seasonal coffee drinks.  Upstairs, they’re going to have a Swedish Gloog, which is a mulled wine with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and orange peel, an eggnog with brandy and fresh nutmeg, and if you’re looking to multitask and caffeinate while you drink, an Irish coffee with whipped cream. Keep drinking after the jump…

I’ve seen a variety of seasonal beers from Red Hook, Sam Adams and Starr Hill across the Hill at places like Lola’s, Molly Malone’s and Tunnicliff’s.  (Lola’s and Molly’s only have the Sam; Tunni’s is pouring all three.)

And if you’re staying home?  Here are some of my favorites for sitting in front of my fireplace in my flannel pjs.

Let’s start with bubbles.  I still remember the first time I had a glass of sparkling from Kluge Estate in Charlottesville, VA.  I was sitting at the bar at Restaurant Eve in Old Town and I asked Tami (a truly excellent bartender, who sadly has since left Eve) to pour me something with bubbles.  She told me she thought I’d like this sparkling from a winery in Virginia.  This was right when Virginia wineries were just starting to come into their own, so I screwed up my face and said, “Really?” But, I trusted her to know what I would like, and as soon as the first bubble tickled my nose, I knew I was in love.  You can give Kluge’s sparklings a try over at Schneider’s, where the 2006 Blanc de Blancs is on sale now for $24.99. (I haven’t had the ’06, but if their other vintages are any indication, you won’t be sorry.)

On a budget?  Oh, Cristalino Brut Rose Cava, how I love you so.  You’re so pretty and pink and at around $7 a bottle, you’re a cheap (but tasty) date. Cristalino can often be found at Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s (sometimes not the Rose though.  The Brut is also quite good).  I’ve also seen it at Schneider’s and Chat’s, but not regularly.

Want to impress your guests with a traditional holiday drink?  Egg nog, cider and mulled wine are all good, if obvious choices.  But for me, Christmas has always been a good time to break out the Milk Punch.  To be honest, I have no idea how or why this drink worked itself into my repertoire, since the farthest south I’ve ever lived is, well, here.  But this is a traditional New Orleans brunch drink, and just tastes like Christmas.  This is a great drink to sip all day – it’s perfect for everything from accompanying Christmas morning present opening to sitting by the fire after the kids are in bed and all your guests have gone.

Try this recipe from the Bourbon House in New Orleans.  (You can substitute brandy for bourbon, or skip the ice cream and add a dash of bitters for a delicious breakfast drink.)

Frozen Bourbon Milk Punch
Yields 1½ Quarts

4C Milk
1C Bourbon
¼C Vanilla Extract
¼C Simple Syrup
1pt Vanilla Ice Cream
Dash of Nutmeg

Combine all ingredients & blend for 8 seconds. Garnish with nutmeg

Happy Tippling, Capitol Hill!

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2 responses to “Winter Libations”

  1. I LOVE milk punch. I’ve only made it once, and my guests didn’t seem to get it, much to my own benefit and pleasure.

  2. Hmmm, well maybe we’ll have to have a THIH holiday party and whip up a batch – I love it too!

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