To ward off frosty winter nights, Alexander & James (A&J), the luxury online shopping platform for drinks connoisseurs and gift buyers brings you four classic winter cocktails to warm the heart and make the festive season merry.
A&J’s best mixologists recommend creating these fragrant winter warmers with the world’s finest spirits. The combination of luxury spirits, heavy creams and seasonal spices such as cinnamon, orange and nutmeg makes these four hearty beverages great companions for a cosy winter’s fire.
Eggnog is the ultimate festive cocktail. First invented in the 17th century this creamy ‘egg in a cup’ is today back in vogue and coming to a Christmas party near you.
12 eggs, separated
1.5 L milk
500 ml thickened cream
1.5 cups sugar
700 ml bottle Zacapa 23
2 tsp ground nutmeg
Hot Tanqueray Cider
An evolution of the original Hot Toddy, the Hot Tanqueray takes a traditional luxury gin and gives its distinctly seasonal twist.
35 ml Tanqueray London Dry
15 ml fresh lemon juice
15 ml simple syrup
3 dashes bitters
3 dashes hot apple cider
Grand Spice Coffee
This classic combination of strong coffee with orange notes of Grand Marnier is heightened by the sweet taste of cinnamon and topped off with a decadent layer of cream.
22.5 ml Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
Extravagant. Stylish. Chic. Words many would use to describe a bottle that sits upon many a back-bar – Grand Marnier. The orange liqueur from France is also steeped in history, dating back to 1827.
In this year, a gentleman named Jean-Baptiste Lapostolle founded a distillery in Neauphe-le-Château, France that produced fruit liqueurs. In 1876, his granddaughter married Louis-Alexandre Marnier, the son of a wine-making family from the Sancerre region, culminating in the Marnier Lapostolle family. The original name and product of ‘Curaçao Marnier’ came about in 1880, but when inventor Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle had his friend César Ritz (gentleman behind such hotels as Hôtel Ritz in Paris and The Ritz Hotel in London) taste his creation, he enjoyed it so much that he suggested the name we now all come to know so well – Grand Marnier.
Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle loved his fine cognac, and had the innovative idea of blending cognac with a rare variety of orange from the Caribbean. This ‘Citrus bigaradia’ was a luxurious item and combined the cognac with essence of distilled orange. The start of Grand Marnier, the year is 1880. Recognition followed and at the turn of the century, Grand Marnier had been awarded numerous medals in national and international competitions including Universal Expositions in Chicago in 1893 and in Paris in 1900. The fan-fare had many trying to purchase, including Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph who is said to have ordered 12 cases of Grand Marnier after tasting it at the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo. The Ritz hotel also had Grand Marnier offered to each client at the end of every meal – a testament to César Ritz and his belief that this was something unique.
Over the years, Grand Marnier has been the staple of many an event, milestone or drink, and now enjoys limited edition bottling’s to really pay homage to the French craft. I’m lucky enough to have one of the more recent stylings that gives a nod to Parisian chic. A bottle design of midnight blue overlaid with gilded gold frieze outline of the Parisian skyline. This is the eleventh specially designed bottle that first started back in 1927 and Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire.
But the liquid inside, how does it come about?
Each year the finest eaux-de-vie, made exclusively with Ugni Blanc grapes, go through two distinct distillations, using traditional copper pot stills. It is then stored in handcrafted oak casks, and aged in the cellars of the Marnier Lapostolle family’s Château de Bourg-Charente. The ‘Citrus bigaradia’ is handpicked at the Marnier-Lapostolle plantation in the Caribbean, where the oranges are then cut into quarters while still green at their aromatic peak. The pulp is removed and the peels are left to dry in the sun. Upon arrival at Château de Bourg-Charente, the dried orange peels are macerated in neutral alcohol and then carefully distilled to produce an aromatic concentrate – essence of ‘Citrus bigaradia’. The two main components are then carefully blended with other ingredients, according to a secret recipe transmitted from father to son for generations , and is then slowly aged in French oak casks.
So with such high prestige, how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge – 40%
A soft nose of orange with a sweet chocolate aroma slowly arriving. Rather strong on the palate though with a slight burn, however it soon becomes rather refreshing with a long, sweet offering.
Of course, over time, Grand Marnier has adapted itself behind bars to become a staple within the cocktail world. Famous for its B52 and Grand Cosmopolitan, its flavours can create some stunning offerings –
30 ml Grand Marnier
30 ml London dry gin
22.5 ml Orange juice
22.5 ml lemon juice
1 dash Grenadine
Shake with ice and strain.
Grand Marnier Sour
60 ml Grand Marnier
30 ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
15 ml Freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 fresh egg white
Shake with ice and strain. For guaranteed effect, place a maraschino cherry in the bottom of the glass. Serve the cocktail in a tumbler.
Grand Marnier doesn’t just stop at drinks though, food has long been associated with the liqueur. In 1905, the chef Escoffier, father of modern French cuisine, made the crêpe Suzette and the Grand Marnier soufflé famous throughout the world. Both desserts were enjoyed by the Prince of Wales, a great fan of the liqueur, and are still considered masterpieces of French cuisine. And now you can enjoy them too –
Classic Crêpes Suzette
(makes 15 crêpes 20 cm in diameter)
250 ml milk
50 ml lager
2 eggs (100 g)
110 g flour
25 g butter
15 g sugar
1 g salt
25 ml Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge liqueur
200 g butter
125 g sugar
Zest of ½ orange, finely grated
Zest of ½ lemon, finely grated
125 ml orange juice
50 ml lemon juice
35 ml Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge liqueur
Combine the salt and sugar with the flour. Add the eggs one at a time. Gradually stir in the beer followed by the milk. Pour in the melted butter followed by the liqueur. If possible, let stand overnight in the refrigerator. Allow the butter to soften. Warm together the sugar, lemon and orange juice as well as the zests which have macerated for 15 minutes in the liqueur. Gradually add this mixture to the butter then beat with a mixer for 3 minutes. Warm the crêpes then coat them with the Suzette butter using a pastry brush. Serve immediately.
See. Just like I said – Extravagant. Stylish. Chic.
Check out the rest of the photos, taken at The Circle 360, via my Facebook page.
Last night was the final installment of the year in The Liquorists busy calendar, the seasonal spirits trail! Following the same concept of their Vodka trail last month, we were to be enjoying 5 different spirits, 5 different cocktails in 5 different bars accompanied by 5 different light bite appetizers. Sound daunting? Challenge accepted!
Starting the night in the 5* Lowry Hotel and The River Bar & Restaurant in Manchester’s Chapel Wharf, we gathered in the bar’s Library, a quietly tucked away part of the bar which is perfect for events like this. Barry, of Epernay fame, would be our host for the evening, and after a brief introduction, explained to us why we had a shot of Bacardi in front of us. Whilst guiding us through the history of this well know rum, Pear and Cinnamon Martini’s were handed out along with soft vanilla cheesecake. No sooner had we finished the lychee in the bottom of the glass, we were hopping into a taxi to our next venue, Apotheca.
Southern Comfort was the choice of spirit and one of my personal favourites dating back to my teenage years! Making our way to their basement bar with some fantastic canvases of the Manchester skyline, we enjoyed a shot of Southern Comfort with pieces of 80% dark cocoa that blended well, but became truly amazing with the cocktail ‘Southern Jam’, made with apricot jam, lemon juice, Chinese five-spice, cranberry juice and a double helping of Southern Comfort.
24 Bar & Grill was the next port of call, with this stunning conversion of the previous namesake Obsidian, offering us the Dutch Ketel One Citron vodka to sip while their Christmas offering ‘Long Winters Night’ were being hand crafted for our pleasure. Lemon, cinnamon sugar syrup, cherry Cognac, Amaretto, sweet Vermouth and a dash of Bitters created a rather long and refreshing cocktail, all whilst munching on mince pies. From Barry’s homeland of Holland, to Cuba, Havana and their Barrell Proof was next to showcase themselves at Sandinista, with a Christmas classic Eggnog cocktail being served (mixed spice, cream, Havana Barrell Proof, sugar) while we munched on roasted chestnuts. All that was missing was a roaring fire!
Our last bar for the night was in one of Manchester’s pop-up bars and venue to the winter ice-rink, The Moose Bar. The French orange liqueur Grand Marnier was sipped, while Grand Tommy cocktails were brought over to us amid pea and ham soup, ham hock terrine, pheasant and beef stew and sausage, crouton and cheese fondue.
A great night was had, with a round of applause given to Barry by all in attendance. And it truly was. My friend came with me last night as a fan from the last trail, and he’s now raring to go back to all 5 bars again, with The Moose Bar and Sandinista his highlights. As for me, I’m already looking forward to January as The Liquorists announced their rum trails, with bars including Keko Moku, Hula, MOJO Rhum Room, The Liars Club and Sandinista on offer!
Check out The Liquorist’s website and Facebook page for more information and tickets.
Click on my Links page for links to all the bars and brands mentioned in this article