Make this year’s Christmas festivities special and make a batch of eggnog now and age it in your fridge for the next 73 days.
This stuff is so much better than the cartons you see in stores around the holidays. I talked my parents into making some around the beginning of December last year and it turned out great. It was even better around the beginning of January. The age improves it pretty quickly, rounding out the bite of the alcohol and blending the flavors together.
It probably isn’t worth the time and fridge space tradeoff aging it longer than 2-3 months. There is some disagreement on exactly when the aging peaks. I suggest a test in the spirit of science and fun: Make it now and split it into two containers. Drink one at Thanksgiving and the other at Christmas!
You need to get some decent alcohol, but there are so many flavors in eggnog that you don’t need to go top shelf. The subtleties that sets top-shelf liquor apart won’t shine in this drink. For bourbon, look for Old Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond, Old Fitzgerald, Four Roses Yellow Label, or Old Grand-Dad. For brandy, I usually grab E&J VSOP (the blue label) for mixing. To be honest, I’m not that knowledgeable about rum so I’m not going to make a recommendation. My parents prefer white rum, I prefer dark rum. Choose your favorite.
Don’t worry, there is enough alcohol in there to keep the bad bacteria away as long as you age it in the fridge. Use a gallon jug, two growlers, or a few large jars. Stir the mixture once every two weeks until Christmas.
To serve, make sure you pick up some whole nutmeg and use your micrograter to top each drink.
Here are some photos my parents sent me last month of mixing together this year’s batch. I think it is going to become a yearly tradition. There is nothing better than sipping a cup of this in front of the fireplace on a cold night. I’m excited to go home for Christmas!
Most maraschino cherries are bright red, sickly sweet, and drowning in red dye and corn syrup. Not something you want to put in your cocktails. Luxardo cherries are another story, but they are pretty expensive as far as garnishes go. Since cherries are in season right now, I thought I’d pick some up and make enough maraschino cherries to last until this time next year (or to give out as host gifts with a bottle of rye around the holidays…)
Homemade Maraschino Cherries
3/4 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 stick cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1.5 lbs pitted cherries
1 cup amaretto, Luxardo, brandy, or dark rum. See note below in #3.
Pit the cherries.
You can pit cherries with a straw, cherry pitter, icing tip, or a funnel. I opted for using a funnel and pitting them from the side, as I wanted to keep the stem. You can remove the stem if you want, but I think they look a lot better in a cocktail with the stem. This takes about 20 minutes, so put on an episode of 99% Invisible and get pitting. You could leave them whole, but they wouldn’t soak up as much alcohol and syrup.
Cook down 1/2 lb of the cherries with the raw sugar, water, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg over medium heat until the cherries are mushy. Let cool slightly and strain the juice/syrup into a separate container. Discard the cherry mush and cinnamon stick.
Mix this syrup with the cup of liqueur you chose to use. I used amaretto and I’m pleased with the flavor it gave the final product. Traditionally, maraschino cherries are made with Luxardo maraschino liqueur, but amaretto, brandy, and dark rum are good substitutes.
Fill the four 16oz jars with pitted cherries, then pour the hot syrup/alcohol mixture over the cherries up to the fill line.
Wipe off the rims of the jars, screw on the lids, and process them in a water bath for 10 minutes for long-term storage, or keep them in the refrigerator if you plan on using them within a month.
The cherries turned out wonderfully for me. They are great in an Old Fashioned or a French 75. I had a couple Old Fashioneds this week with mine:
I recommend letting these cherries sit in the jar for at least a week before you crack it open and start using them. Enjoy!
UPDATE – June 9, 2016
These cherries age very well. They firm up, darken, and retain their flavor. Here they are a year later:
It is hot here in NY, and by looking at the map, it is pretty hot in most of the US. I can’t think of a better time to sip our favorite simple, refreshing summer cocktail, the Mount Gay & Tonic. You can make it in under a minute and it is so good that you’ll keep the ingredients around precisely for hot days like this when you don’t have the energy to make anything else.
Before we get to the recipe, here is a fun fact:
Mount Gay is the oldest known existing brand of rum in the world, as they have a surviving company deed from 1703.
Mount Gay & Tonic
2 oz Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
4 oz tonic water
1/4 of a fresh lime
Fill up your glass halfway with ice. Pour in the rum. Squeeze in the juice from the 1/4 of a lime and drop the remaining shell into the glass. Top off with the tonic water.
We were introduced to this drink by our friend Thomas a few years ago. We will forever be inebriated in his debt.
If you don’t have Mount Gay Eclipse, suitable substitutes are Angostura 1919 or Cruzan Estate Diamond.
If you use the Highball app from Studio Neat (and I suggest that you do), you can import this card directly into the app for the fully editable recipe: