Homemade cocktail ingredients and batched holiday drinks that make great gifts

Have a cocktail lover in your life and want to make them something unique? Or want a host gift for a holiday party that will stand out against the bottles of wine everyone else is bringing? Here are some cocktail ingredients you can make at home and some batched holiday drinks you can make.

  1. Homemade ingredients
    1. Ginger Liqueur
    2. Allspice Dram
    3. Pineapple Rum
    4. Orgeat
  2. Specific drinks you can batch
    1. Clyde Common’s Tequila Sherry Eggnog
    2. Irish cream
    3. Black Christmas

Homemade ingredients

Ginger Liqueur

I made some last week and it turned out great. Similar to a Domaine de Canton.

The recipe called for brandy as a base, but I used Mount Gay Eclipse rum, as I plan on using this primarily in rum-based tiki drinks anyway.

Get the source recipe at Serious Eats.

Allspice Dram

Sure, you could buy the St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, but making it is easy and you can customize it to your liking.

I used this Alton Brown recipe as the base, then modified it by making a brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla syrup to mix with it instead of the regular sugar. Cloves might be a good addition, too!

Pineapple Rum

Pineapple rum is used in a lot of tiki drinks, but the options that are easy to find at the store mostly suck.

I’m infusing some right now, but instead of white rum, I’m using Smith & Cross, a navy proof lightly aged Jamaican rum that has some nice funk.

You can also speed up the infusion using a sous vide.


Most of the commercial syrups are filled with preservatives and have mediocre flavor. I like the Smuggler’s Cove recipe, which includes a bit of rose water and orange blossom water. You can find it at Punch alongside their Mai Tai recipe, also recommended.

Specific drinks you can batch

Clyde Common’s Tequila Sherry Eggnog

Listen, I know it sounds weird. Tequila and sherry? With milk and eggs? But it is delicious. It has a delightful nutty flavor. It will replace that classic eggnog recipe you’ve been using.

Irish cream

Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen is the queen of delicious food blogging. If you prefer bourbon to Irish whisky, you can use bourbon in this. A vanilla-forward bourbon like Buffalo Trace might be nice.

Black Christmas

Use that allspice dram you made above and combine it with Averna, rye, and orange bitters to make this. Let it rest in the fridge for a while if you can.

Need some glassware to give these away in? The Bormioli Rocco glass flasks are great. They come in 8.5oz and 17oz versions.

Assorted Links, 16Aug2021

  1. Making a non-alcoholic margarita using earl grey tea. I’m always on the hunt for good mocktails.
  2. Nicole Rufus at The Kitchn says the cauliflower gnocchi at Trader Joe’s is pretty good. I got some of it and the kale gnocchi today to try. We have plenty of sage in the garden, so the brown butter sage gnocchi will be a quick dinner this week.
  3. We have lots of eggplant. I made eggplant parm last week, this week I’m making sabich bowls.
  4. Our tomatoes are ripe! We chose to freeze them this year instead of canning them like in previous years. More on freezing vs canning. We froze 8lbs so far after eating a lot of caprese and giving a bunch to the neighbors.
  5. Our dill was ready to pick, so we made dill pickle chips and then dehydrated the rest of the leaves.
  6. Amanda and I had a baby two weeks ago, so we’ve been doing a lot of meal prep.
    1. Our tomatillos are ripe, so I used a bunch of them to pre-bag and freeze ingredients for pork chile verde. We also made tomatillo hot sauce to eat with our eggs and on tacos.
    2. We had a bunch of unused vegetables in the fridge from the farm share while we were at the hospital, so I washed, cut, and bagged them into sheet pan meals like chicken, beans, and cherry tomatoes that we just need to thaw, bake, and eat over rice or quinoa.
    3. Sausage, egg, kale, and Swiss cheese breakfast sandwiches on English muffins, frozen in foil so we can pop them in the oven when needed. We more or less made a frittata, cut it into squares, topped with cheese, and put it on English muffins. Worked great!
    4. Omsom starters make quick meals easy, too. I used the Vietnamese Lemongrass with ground pork to make a tasty bowl yesterday with garden herbs and rice.

Wineberry Flaugnarde

Wineberries are ripe here in the Hudson Valley this week, so I picked about two cups of them and Amanda baked them into a flaugnarde. This might become a yearly tradition.

Wineberries are an invasive cousin to raspberries, brought to the US from Japan and other parts of Asia to cross-breed with the local raspberry stock. The plants are hearty, full of nasty thorns, and difficult to get rid of, but they produce pretty berries the color of red wine. They have fewer seeds than raspberries and the fruit falls apart easier.

You can identify wineberries by the color of the berries (red wine), the leaves (a cluster of three whose pattern and shape is pretty distinct), and how fuzzy the protective wrapper is on unripe berries.

Some foraging etiquette:

  • Leave berries low to the ground for small creatures like turtles, chipmunks, and rabbits to eat.
  • If it is in public woods and you are able to go off the path and into the brambles to pick the berries, do so. Not everyone can, and you should leave some berries accessible for other people to enjoy. Never pick all the berries unless it is on your own property.

A flaugnarde is a fruit tart with a consistency halfway between flan and custard. A custardy cobbler, if you will. Up until about an hour ago I had been calling it clafoutis, since we made one of those with black cherries on Monday. When I mentioned yesterday that the wineberries were ripe, Amanda thought they would go great with the clafoutis batter, so we made one. Then I started doing some research for this post and found that the French, who are quite particular with naming, only consider the dish a clafoutis if it contains cherries. If it has some other fruit, it is a flaugnarde. C’est les Français. A flan by any other name…

It is good warm, but even better cold. Let it cool after you make it, eat a small slice, then stick it in the fridge overnight.

It isn’t overly sweet, so it goes great with coffee in the middle of the afternoon. This is the year of the snacking cake, after all. (See Yossy Arefi or Bill Clark.)

We like the Smitten Kitchen recipe for the base. We used vanilla instead of almond extract with the wineberries, which was a good choice. Almond complements cherries, but would be too much for the wineberries.

In case you were wondering:

  • Clafoutis is pronounced “clahhh-foo-tee”
  • Flaugnarde is pronounced “floon-yard”

…or so I think. I once got mocked in the Charles de Gaulle airport for my pronunciation, so I might not be the most reliable source here.

Pandemic Update #2

Well, it is still going on. Here’s how our cooking has changed during the pandemic. I haven’t really felt like blogging about food, instead blogging about woodworking over at my main blog. I apologize if you’ve missed it, but I don’t expect anyone has.

In the beginning of the pandemic, March to early May, we were using cooking as a way to distract ourselves from not being able to go out and do the things we had planned to do. Lots of baking, pasta making, and all-day cooking sessions to make some fun meals and stock our freezer with things like tamales, dumplings, and the like. Also things like buying a 5lb bag of ginger and prepping that for use through the rest of the year. Since Amanda started working from home, she started cooking more of our meals and upping her kitchen game.

Then by May it warmed up and we were able to spend more time outside, so we did more grilling and less baking. Doing things in the yard like building garden beds, planting, mowing, and restaining the deck replaced much of the weekend time that we previously filled with cooking. It stayed this way until Fall. Most of our meals were salads or grilled meat and vegetables, with some occasional grilled pizza when I planned far enough ahead to make the dough. BLTs with garden lettuce and tomatoes were a frequent occurrence. Lots of Zucchini Carpaccio, too.

Eating kale and tomatoes fresh from the garden in our breakfast omelets 2-3x a week was a definite highlight. We’re so glad to have a garden again.

The early fall found us spending a little more time inside as it cooled down, but low enough COVID numbers to go apple picking and hiking with friends. The baking picked back up and I got a cool cast iron waffle maker that has made weekend breakfasts fun. I had hoped to find one at a flea market or estate sale, but the pandemic put the kibosh on that, so I found this one on eBay. We did some more preserving and I got back in the rhythm of making chicken stock again. Soups, curries, and chilis started getting back into the rotation as the daylight dwindled along with the temperature. Sweet potato curry is a new favorite. Whole roasted chicken is a regular occurrence, too. We bought some saffron crocus bulbs and planted those this fall. We got a small saffron harvest out of it! Hoping for a larger one next year. We also dried and saved a lot of our garden herbs.

We were bummed to cancel Thanksgiving with friends, but we decorated and made a scaled-down dinner for ourselves anyway: Half a turkey, sausage sage dressing, Parker House rolls, green bean casserole, roasted butternut squash, and Nantucket cranberry pie. We ate it for the next week. I had a great idea to turn the stuffing into a hash and put a fried egg and hot sauce on it for breakfast. Delicious.

Now that we are back in the coldest part of winter and this pandemic keeps dragging on, we’re using cooking as a welcome distraction again. We are busier now than we were the first time around, so the overall level is definitely less than last year, but still present. That is mostly on weekends. During the week we’re turning more to simple, nutritious meals that we can knock out quickly and have for lunch the next day. Lots of bread baking, too. Mostly sourdough sandwich loaves. We use the Instant Pot a lot, especially for beans.

The main thing food-wise we’re looking forward to is getting our garden going again. Our seed order just came in from Baker Creek and we are counting down the day until we can start some of them. I just drew up plans to build greenhouse-style tops for our garden beds to start things outside a bit earlier. We’re looking forward to the garlic we planted in October to really take off this spring.

I may start writing here again, but I don’t know when. I don’t think anything I’m cooking is that exciting and I don’t like blogging for the sake of blogging. I prefer having something to say, which I don’t right now. Much of what I cook these days is thrown together from what we happen to have on-hand. Cast iron pizza instead of Neapolitan pizza because it is less involved. We aren’t drinking much, so Tipple Tuesday hasn’t been appealing either. If you are looking for awesome home cocktail content, go subscribe to Al Culliton’s Cocktail Club.

Perhaps I’ll reboot the Cooking the Books project that I abandoned?

If there is anything you’d like to read more about, let me know. It might spark my return to blogging here. Until then, follow me over at cagrimmett.com for woodworking, tech, and book-related content.

Zucchini Carpaccio

I came across this tweet from Julia Bainbridge just as the zucchini from the CSA and our own garden were starting to pile up. They are good grilled, but I’m always on the lookout for something different because they are so plentiful this time of year.

As Julia notes, she isn’t the first to come up with this, and neither am I. Just sharing the good news in this time of beaucoup squash.

You can make a full plate with one medium zucchini or squash, which makes an excellent side dish for two people.

For background, carpaccio is usually a thin-sliced meat dish dressed with an oil, an acid, and seasonings. You can apply that same framework to other foods, basically anything that you can slice thin and eat raw. It is almost like a quick pickle, but without the sugar.

It is definitely possible to slice the zucchini or squash with a sharp knife, but using a mandoline definitely helps. Here is the one I use, but it is by no means the best or even cheapest on out there.

Here are three recent variations I’ve made:

Zucchini sliced thin with dill, parmesan, tomatoes, borage flowers, lemon juice, and olive oil.

This one is zucchini sliced longways with dill, parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, Penzeys Tuscan Sunset, black pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, and borage flowers.

yellow squash sliced thin with cilantro, cotija, tomatoes, lime juice, and tajin.

This one is yellow squash sliced shortways like discs, which I find easier to eat, even though it doesn’t look as pretty as if it were sliced longways. It was meant to similar to the top one with parsley added, but when I realized after I chopped it that I had grabbed the cilantro instead of the parsley, I rolled with it and made a Mexican flavored one instead: Lime juice, olive oil, cotija cheese, cherry tomatoes, Tajin seasoning and cilantro.

This third carpaccio is roughly Middle East inspired: Sumac (since I didn’t have any za’atar on hand… this pandemic has kept me from Kalustyan’s!), feta, shaved carrots, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Some tips:

  • Use whatever you have in the fridge, pantry, or garden. Don’t make a special trip to the store for this.
  • Cheese is essential, no matter what kind it is. Every single zucchini carpaccio we’ve eaten this summer has been better with cheese.
  • Make it beautiful. Take a few extra minutes to make it look nice on the plate. Food that looks pretty tastes better.
  • This is best eaten outside. On a porch or in a yard if you have one, on the roof, stoop, or local park if you don’t. This is more about getting outside and tasting summer, especially during these pandemic times.
  • Your favorite spices will mostly likely work on this! Don’t worry, just try it.
  • Leverage fresh herbs from your garden, window box, or kitchen terra cotta pot that you sometimes forget to water. Knowing that you grew an ingredient makes it taste better and makes it more yours.

What We’ve Been Cooking During the Quarantine

We’re cooking a lot more during the quarantine since we can’t go out, and we’ve been cooking with a limited set of ingredients since popping out to the store for a missing ingredient is not something you want to do. It has made us more creative, and I think some of the list below will makes its way into our regular repertoire once this is all over.

We pretty much never followed any of these linked recipes 100%. I followed the spirit of the recipes, making substitutions where needed.

We also made a lot of these multiple times.

A few general tips:

  1. Sauces are important and make bland things better. I currently have a yogurt sauce, a chipotle sauce, a stir fry sauce, and aioli in the fridge. We pull them out and put them on everything.
  2. Marinades make old meat from the back of the freezer taste better.
  3. Save lots of vegetable and meat scraps and make stock with them for other meals.
  4. Kefir substitutes pretty well for buttermilk in baking recipes.
  5. Juice that is about to expire can be frozen into ice cube trays for use in cooking or blender cocktails later.
  6. Commercial yeast can be kept going just like you do a sourdough. Don’t fret if you are on your last packet!
  7. Check with local food distribution companies, whose main clients (restaurants) aren’t ordering as much. Many in the NY area have started delivering to homes, which is awesome. My parents found one in Ohio that is doing pick ups.
  8. You can regrow scallions in a glass of water.


Baked Goods

A few things that missed the mark

  • Some hand-made pasta that was okay, but we are searching for better recipes.
  • Gnocchi with bacon, broccoli and a quasai cream sauce based on sourcream. Not bad, but wouldn’t make it again
  • My early breads didn’t rise. Turns out I forgot to flatten them down and get the air out before the second rise
  • We tried to use mini cast iron skillets and make individual serve mac and cheese from some boxed stuff we had that we put more cheese and bread crumbs over then baked. Make it special, you know? It was terrible, though. Dry, overcooked, and crunchy. Not having milk didn’t help the situation…


Here is a random mishmash gallery of photos from my photo roll. No real order, and not everything listed above is represented here.

What are your go-tos right now? Any recommendations? Drop them in the comments!

Quarantine Cocktails, Chartreuse Edition

In these times of quarantine, we are passing the time with cocktails, board games, books, and baking. But we don’t want to drink up all of the whiskey right away, so we are turning to less-used bottles and getting creative.

This week? Chartreuse!

Yellow or Green? Whichever you have. Yellow is a little sweeter, lower proof, and less bitter than Green, but both are delicious.

The most well known Chartreuse cocktail is the Last Word. The bad thing is that I don’t have any citrus, and I bet few of you do, either. So I got to work digging through books and asking bartenders I respect on Twitter what their favorite Chartreuse drinks are. Here are three that don’t need citrus, plus notes on variations.


Widow’s Kiss

I know, not a great name for the current time. But that is what it is called.

This is a classic cocktail from the 1895 Modern American Drinks by George J. Kappeler. It is considered a digestif, so drink it after dinner.


  • No Benedictine? Double the Yellow Chatreuse.
  • No Calvados? Apple Jack will work, too.

Here is one I made last night:





The Bijou is another classic!



Oh My Word


This is essentially a Last Word without lime juice. Introduced to me by Sother Teague.


  • I don’t have lime bitters, so I’m using rhubarb bitters
  • No Amaro Montenegro? Try Amaro Nonino
  • No Old Tom gin? Or any gin will work. (But if you want to make your own Old Tom, add some simple syrup to regular dry gin and age it in a barrel for a week.)



Have a bottle of liquor that you don’t know how to use? Email me at chuck@grimmett.co with what you have on-hand and I’ll brainstorm some ideas with you!

Simple breads to make at home

Want to get into bread baking during this quarantine but don’t know where to start? Here are two ideas:

  1. Navajo Flatbread: Simple and fast, minimum ingredients, no yeast needed. Most cultures have something like this. Think naan, pita, frybread, etc. H/t to Ilya Radchenko for sharing this link!
  2. No-knead bread – Simplest regular loaf-style bread I know about. From Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street Bakery. Needs yeast and a dutch oven to bake. I use this same recipe but sub in sourdough starter for the yeast and give it a long fermentation in the fridge before baking. H/t to Tyler Machovina for sharing this recipe with me 4 years ago, and for sharing the sourdough starter with me!

Erin Carlson’s Simple Seed Starting Tips for Beginners

My friend Erin Carlson put together a great seed starting guide for beginners. Now is a great time to get your hands dirty and grow some stuff, whether in pots or in a garden!

Erin has been very helpful with advice for getting our garden going at our new house and we’ve shared seeds for the past couple years. And she makes very cool fiber art! If you don’t follow her, you should.

Check out Erin’s guide here in her Instagram stories.

What can I substitute in marinades?

A friend asked me this on Friday:

The marinade I want to make calls for soy sauce, which I’m out of. What can I use instead?

Marinades are essentially mixes of three components:

  1. Acid
  2. Umami/flavoring
  3. Salt

Soy sauce fills both the Umami and Salt components. In its place, you can try:

  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar with a less of the other acid component you are using


Making your own Marinades

Want to experiment with making your own marinades? Try one from each category, then add olive oil and your favorite spices, and give it a shot:


  • Lemon juice
  • Lime juice
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • White vinegar
  • Italian salad dressing


  • Soy sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Coconut aminos
  • BBQ sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Liquid smoke
  • Balsamic vinegar


  • Well…salt. There are different kinds, so you get the idea. Smoked salt is pretty great!

Note: None of these combinations will taste the same. You’ll like some more than others. Some components are stronger than others. I like to taste each component and be mindful of how the flavors will come out in the finished dish. Keep in mind other ingredients and the cooking method.