Did I ever tell you about the time I accidentally invented a cocktail? Oh, wait, that’s another post!
But we are talking cocktails on the blog today!
You see, my friends, some of the upsides of running a reasonably appreciated food blog on the interwebs are the nice letters, messages and emails you get from friendly people all around the globe who wants you to either check something out, participate in something or be featured in something. Some of the not so nice ones would be the number of bogus and spam comments and emails you have to deal with, but I digress. One of the most recent emails I got was from a lovely lady named Carolyn, a community manager over at lover.ly (a popular wedding planning site, I hear!) who requested my participation in a cocktail challenge they were hosting to find fitting warm cocktails for fall and winter.
“What the what?” I initially thought, “this is odd!” – Who wants the help of a notorious bachelor for their wedding planning affairs? Let alone one whose only claim to fame in the world of mixology is creating a drink based on a rum lewdly named after a (in)famous porn star? If you ask me, that all sounds much more like a recipe for disaster than a recipe for a romantic, warming cocktail.
The dear lady was persistent in her requests, though, and as I do have a soft spot for women who make use of the word pleeeeease, I eventually caved in. The only trouble was I’ve never really done warm cocktails, I don’t know the first thing about weddings or romance and, well, what’s a typical fall drink anyway? In short, I had no idea where to start let alone how to finish. Luckily, I have all sorts of friends who, knowingly or not, inspire and help me out a lot in situations of culinary need. So to my friends I turned.
Of beautiful muses and the mind of the Johan
“You should teach them to make glögg,” my buddy Anders chimed in, when I first turned to Facebook and told the world about the project and my lack of inspiration, “that would be hilarious!”. And while I agree that the mental image of a bunch of Americans with puzzled looks on their faces spitting raisins and almond slivers back into a cup of heated, cheap red wine is indeed pretty hilarious, I quickly deducted that maybe this was the sort of project where I’d best turn to my female friends for input and inspiration.
It was my friend Ana who first got me on the right track, and she doesn’t even know it yet. While pondering that age old question of “what do girls like to drink?” I suddenly recalled seeing a picture of her on Facebook drinking a can of sweetened, industrial cider to which I commented something along the lines of “you look gorgeous, but we really need to teach you to drink better things.” – “I agree,” she quirkily shot back, “and I hope it involves Zacapa! That’s my drink of choice!” … Zacapa, eh? I thought to myself upon recalling the exchange. That might well work for an exclusive and romantic cocktail… But what else?
It was gonna be a while before I got an answer to that question. A week or so, actually. And I remember it well. It was my friend Malene’s 30th birthday and we were celebrating the occasion in style, popping a bottle of 2002 Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs and sharing it over some gourmet pizzas and dessert, of course. What kind of birthday would be complete without dessert? My friend Emelie had put herself in charge of “dessert” which, in her book, consisted of a hot drink of sweetened non-alcoholic apple cider infused with various warming spices and topped with whipped cream. I, being the ladies’ man that I am, had taken it upon myself to properly spike the concoction with several selections from my hall of fine spirits… Cause, you know, what kind of birthday would be complete without spiked punch? And it was then, while pouring copious amounts of alcohol into my friend’s warm drink, that the pieces started to come together for me:
“Wait, about that drink I was trying to come up with,” I thought to myself, “didn’t I just think of cider not too long ago? And wasn’t there some mention of glögg? What am, I doing just now? Maybe if I used warm cider in place of red wine and added a different array of spices… And… What was all this about rum…? Oi!” – Putting two and two together, my mission suddenly became very, very clear: to mix cider and Ron Zacapa along with a bit of flash and spice into a sweet and spicy infusion sure to please men and women alike while getting everyone happy-faced in the process… In other words: To create the perfect mulled cider using the best of ingredients! By golly, I’d done it! In the most unlikely of ways!
And that, my friends, owing to some friendly nudging, a cocky remark, random input from two beautiful muses and the exceedingly complicated way in which my brain works, was how I eventually came up with my second ever original cocktail, my take on a warming winter cocktail: Creamy caramel Zacapa-spiked Mulled Cider!
- One pint of good-quality dry apple cider
- 8 cl of Ron Zacapa Centerinaro Rum
- One inch-long stick of cinnamon
- 10 grams of ginger root, cut into chunks
- One star anise
- Two cloves
- One small vanilla pod, cut in half length-wise
- Zest of one lemon
- 2-4 tablespoons of sugar
- Freshly whipped cream, not the canned junk!
- Quality caramel sauce, home-made or store bought
- In a small pot add cinnamon, ginger, star anise, cloves, the halved vanilla pod and two tablespoons of sugar.
- Pour in cider and rum and place over low heat.
- Slowly heat up the mixture over the course of maybe 15-20 minutes till smoking but nowhere near simmering, stirring every now and then.
- Taste your concoction. By now it should be infused with notes of cinnamon and vanilla as well as a bit of spiciness from the clove, ginger and star anise. If it seems too tart and sour, add another tablespoon or two of sugar.
- Finally, grate in the zest of one lemon using a microplane grater or similar. Stir and serve.
- Carefully strain into a couple of heatproof glasses, leaving about a centimeter of room at the top.
- Top each glass carefully with a generous amount of freshly whipped cream, then carefully drizzle a bit (or a lot) of caramel sauce over the top.
- Serve immediately.
But wait… There’s method behind the madness!
While seemingly simple, some amount of thought and process actually went into this concoction. First and foremost, I wanted to create a cocktail that was large enough for sharing. And on account of this entire project being inspired by a wedding planner and the fact that it usually (in most cultures) takes two to have a wedding, I wanted it to be just large enough to be shareable by two people, and two people only.
Since weddings in this day and age are still primarily between two people of opposite sex, I wanted my concoction to be one that could, by and large, be enjoyed by both males and females. Since women (generally) prefer sweeter drinks and men (generally) prefer spicier drinks, I wanted to hit a balance between spicy and sweet that would soothe both camps. This was achieved by pairing a bone dry cider with a sweet rum, some extra sugar and a few spices to keep things in check.
The spirit base of the cocktail is Ron Zacapa Centerinario – one of the most famous and highly regarded premium rums in the world, made from a blend of rums aged six to 23 years by way of the Solera method high in the mountains of Guatemala. It’s a decidedly smooth and incredibly sweet rum that while parting the waters amongst rum lovers certainly makes for a decadent and classy mixer fit for a wedding cocktail.
As for the other ingredients…? Well, there was some thought here, too, and quite luckily the experimental batch worked out perfectly in these original proportions: The drink contains one bottle of cider, large enough for two to share. Two shots of rum, two cloves, one whole pod of vanilla made up of two halves… Get the picture? As for the grated lemon zest and the chopped up ginger? Well, I don’t have a ready explanation for that just yet.
But the cream and caramel, then? Well, uhh… Aside from the fact that apples, caramel and cream go really well together, I probably could make up some sort of symbolism for the whipped cream and the caramel… But, ahem, I digress. It’s probably bad enough that I swear like a sailor in some posts, I don’t think I need to draw any associations to what a couple of grown-ups in love could do with whipped cream and caramel for this site to be offensive to some… So yeah, caramel, apples and cream is a good combination let’s keep it at that!
Symbolism and jokes aside, though, I hope you’ll give this warm cocktail a whirl. Whether you’re crazy in love, just crazy, planning a wedding or just plain need to get warmed through. There’s something about the mix of spicy and sweet, hot and cold, fruity and boozy that just plain works in these increasingly chilly days. The deep cooked apple flavors coupled with the cinnamon and spice will remind the nostalgic Danes amongst you of old-fashioned apple cake (or its equally famous no-bake counterpart), while the international audience will probably think mulled cider with a delicious creamy and boozy twist. Regardless, though, of whichever part of the world you’re from, there’s a pretty big chance this stuff will make you warm, fat, tipsy and happy. Which is what winter tipples are all about, right?
Try a couple of these babies on for show nestled inside on a chilly Saturday evening while the wind and rain rages outside. They’ll warm you right through and have you forgetting about the cold in no time… Oh and do let me know what you think!
There, I think I’ve fulfilled my obligation. I’ve shown you mine, Now you show me yours. What’s YOUR favorite warm cocktail?