The Toddy

I’ve had my head buried in alcohol history and lore, lately, and in the most recent reading, the Toddy came up. With the beginnings of a nip in the air (okay, so it’s our annual Fall cool snap that will disappear soon, but let a girl dream) the Toddy sounded like an excellent subject to tackle instead of whatever else I’d been thinking of for ‘t’.

Toddies are an old, old, old drink and, in their original form, were nothing more than water and liquor, with maybe some sugar added. They’re not much different now, with the addition of some sort of spice and maybe a bit of lemon to round things out.

I read a lot as a child and when you tend to read old books, that take place centuries prior and maybe in other countries, it’s easy to develop some fanciful notions about toddies and, especially, their healing properties as they were often given to characters who’d come town with a cold or had gotten caught in a terrible storm while on their horse. So, several years ago, when coming down with yet another case of something or other, I decided to try a Toddy to see if it would help. Of course, I didn’t have brandy in the house, but I could have sworn I’d read about someone using Bourbon, and I had that, so I brewed some tea (tea used to be considered a spice, by the way), adding a cinnamon stick, a lemon slice, some honey and a shot of bourbon to it.

It wasn’t exactly what I’d thought it would be.

Whether it was the harshness of the Bourbon (which I generally keep around for cooking with, not drinking) or the bitterness of the tea–or both–the drink needed a lot of sweetening before it was palatable and it just wasn’t the pleasant, soothing experience I had hoped for.

This go round, wiser and with a better-stocked bar, I skipped the tea, used brandy (okay, I used a brandy-based liqueur–Tuaca–that I knew I liked) and used simple syrup for my sweet. I also just used a lemon twist instead of a lemon slice, and I think it makes a difference.

Tuaca Toddy

1.5 oz Tuaca liqueur (an Italian brandy-based liqueur with hints of vanilla and citrus)
.5 oz Simple syrup
1 Lemon peel, 2″ long
dash of Cloves
2.5 oz Hot water

In a mug or other handled glass (this is warm, remember?) combine the Tuaca (or the brandy of your choice)  and syrup. Twist the lemon peel (try not to get too much pith when you shave it away from the fruit) to release the oils and drop it in, followed by a sprinkling of ground cloves (you could use nutmeg, if you prefer, or even cinnamon but I’d stick to a little and not use the stick–it can be too strong). Top the drink off with the very hot (not quite boiling) water, stir it around a bit and drink when the temperature is level enough not to scald your tongue.

Even though this is a favorite home remedy for colds and chills in many areas, keep in mind that alcohol can dehydrate you so you should supplement it with plenty of plain water if you choose to try this at home.

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And speaking of health, a gentle reminder that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I’m still raising funds for my local Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign. “Support the tWINs” (the team I’m on) through my support link and get a special print. More details at the link, and thank you.

Pomegranate Snark

A while back–maybe a year or so, that’s pretty long in Internet-years–I was part of a conversation among friends which resulted in the following question: If you had a drink named after you, what would it be called?

Now, this was back when I was a bar novice. I stuck to rum & Cokes, Kahlua & cream (or the stand-by Amaretto Sour), avoided vodka at all costs and didn’t know there were more than 3 or 4 types of rum. And by types, I mean regular (white), dark, spiced and 151. Maybe I didn’t even qualify as a novice, yet, come to think of it. At any rate, I did at least come up with a name for my drink: the Snarky Little Tart.

I also knew enough, or thought I did, that the little should signify a shot or some other small portion and the tart naturally led me to think something from DeKuyper’s Pucker line-up. I was on a serious gin kick at the time, so that would be the base and since this was a drink about me, it should definitely be red, so I was leaning towards watermelon or, more appropriately, cherry pucker. That is until I found pomegranate liqueurs at the store and, thus, the Snarky Little Tart had it’s debut.

Snarky Little Tart

1 Ice cube
1 oz Gin
.5 oz Vanilla cordial
1 oz Pomegranate liqueur
splash of Club soda

Build the drink over the single ice cube in a double-shot or cordial glass. Swirl.

This isn’t a bad drink, especially for the first-time mixologist that I was. But, now, a year or two later (really, time flies, all spent online) and several more experiments under my bar towel, I think it’s time to give the ‘Tart a little more room and a polish.

Trying out the different combinations is almost more fun than sipping the triumphant final drink, so I thought I’d go into what changes I made and why. First was the Vanilla cordial, originally made for me by a friend it’s not something that everyone is going to have on hand and not something I’ve ever made myself. The bottle of vanilla vodka never seems to leave the top of the bar these days, so it was a natural first choice when updating the drink. Second choice was to add some pomegranate juice since I wanted a bit of mixer to cut the straight alcohol and I really wanted to get away from the club soda, even if it was only a splash.

Unfortunately, the vanilla vodka didn’t play as nicely with the rest of the ingredients, it was a bit harsh in some ratios and just too bright in others. Then it dawned on me that the Cordial was a brandy base, and I had a wonderful brandy-vanilla flavor tucked away under the bar in the form of a bottle of Tuaca . This turned out to be the magic bullet that pulled together the different flavors (excepting the vanilla vodka, of course, it was just too pointy, even for Snark). So after about 4 different goes, we finally agreed on a winner:

CHF Snarky Tart

1 oz Gin
1 oz Tuaca
1 oz Pomegranate liqueur
2 oz Pomegranate juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker half-full of ice and shake with a touch of bitter wit. Quoting some Dorothy Parker wouldn’t go amiss, either.

This slightly more mature version of it’s younger shot sibling retains the tartness, the color and the touch of gin but goes down much smoother and is meant for sipping.

PS-Pomegranate Snark (along with a long derivation that led to Snarky Cheerleader) was another potential name for the spruced-up cocktail.

Random Appetites: Tuaca

Not only is it a fun word to say, it’s pretty tasty as well! (though the urge to go “tu-a-ca-ca-ca” a la Disturbed’s Down With the Sickness is nearly overwhelming)

Now, even though I’m no longer IN the hospitality industry I still figure I’ve been around enough (and watch enough Food Network) to have at least heard most things on the market. Imagine my curiosity when, while perusing the dessert options the other night at The Melting Pot, Todd and I came upon this flavor option that we’d never heard of! Since it was listed along with liqueurs like Chambord and Grand Marnier (among others) we figured that it was another liqueur, we just couldn’t figure out what flavor.

Internet to the rescue! Once home we did a little digging (very little, actually) and were able to find out exactly what Tuaca is (from their website):

Tuaca: a premium Italian liqueur with a hint of citrus and vanilla.

Later that weekend we were out shopping (well, I was shopping, Todd was being a very good sport and keeping me company for the most part–have I mentioned how good a sport he is about things like this?) and passed a liquor store on the way home so we decided to see if they had it. Surprisingly enough (because you never know how knowledgeable the random counter help will be) not only did they have it but the guy I asked knew exactly where it was in the store and had even tried it before so was able to give us some tips. Despite the citrus/vanilla press his opinion was that it had more of a caramel flavor, not very citrusy at all, and that just sipping it cold was a good way to go.

Now, I don’t really drink liquor straight so while on the website we’d seen some recipes and one (from the Tuaca Tenders section) seemed especially yummy to me: The Snowball which is made up of Tuaca, Coconut Rum and Pineapple Juice. After another stop (for juice and nibbles) we were on our way home to experiment.

Unfortunately that particular recipe was incomplete: there were no measurements, hence the experimentation. First I tried a 1:1 between the Tuaca and Coconut Rum and topping it off with the pineapple juice (over ice in a double old fashioned glass). This tasted more like a pina colada (which isn’t a bad thing, but I already know how those taste!) than anything else so the next night I gave it another shot (see, I’m not a total lush). This time you could taste something different. But that’s not quite right: when mixed, the Tuaca has less of an actual taste and more of a feeling–you could FEEL something else in the drink, that warmth that comes from it’s brandy base and a slight hint of something you can quite put your finger on, that’s the Tuaca!

Random’s Snow Ball

1.5 to 2 oz Tuaca
1 oz Coconut Rum
6 to 8 oz Pineapple Juice

Pour over a handful of ice in a lowball or double old fashioned and swirl gently.

And remember when I said I don’t drink liquor straight? Well, Tuaca is something I can actually sip on it’s own. It’s very nice and smooth and not bracing at all, thought I still do prefer it with mixers.

Enjoy!