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Jan 7, 2011 09:45 AM

Welcome Cocktail for Gourmet Group/Comfort food

Hello Spirit Masters,

We are starting a new dining group. Will be themed dinners and will serve wine with the meal. Want to always try out a new cocktail; however, not sure what to try for our first outing. Theme will be comfort foods- group is 24 people. Can you suggest a starter cocktail for the group that will appeal to men and women, who mostly drink wine but are open to something new?

Not looking for a "punch" recipe, but drink will probably be made in larger batches, rather than individually shaken with ice.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. It's hard to come up with one beverage that all 24 people will like. Rum is perhaps the most accessible flavorful spirit. You can't get much more comforting than a well-made Daiquiri.

    For fun, you could make several versions using different rums and use very small glasses so that they can sample them. Since wine folks are generally into tasting a variety of wines, this might appeal to them. With lime and sugar as the only other ingredients, the character of the rum would shine through, rather than tasting mostly like, say, a fruit modifier.

    If you want to get more adventurous, you might include something rum-like, such as cachaca. That would make the drink a Caipirinha. Or try Batavia Arrack Von Oosten, an almost-rum from Indonesia. Or a very dark aged rum, such as Ron Zacapa Centenario.

    Alternatively, if you want something very light, I've been enjoying 1 oz of Cocchi Americano + 1 oz Fino sherry + 1 dash aromatic bitters (Fee Whiskey Barrel Aged is very nice) + 2 oz seltzer. This would be a cocktail (of sorts) emphasizing the group's interest in wine. If there is going to be a lot of wine served later, it would have the advantage of being low in alcohol.

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    1 Reply
    1. In addition to Dan's suggestions I hereby submit the Pegu Club Cocktail. This is a great classic drink that I often use to introduce people to gin who say they hate gin. To date I've not encountered anyone who has not enjoyed it.

      2 parts gin
      1 part orange Curacao
      0.5 parts fresh lime juice
      1 dash each of orange and Angostura bitter, per ounce of gin

      If pre-mixing instead of shaking, mix very well and increase the volume by ~30% with ice water (to simulate dilution from shaking). Ladle into cocktail glasses and enjoy. Or if you have one or two people to help it might make a better presentation if you only increase the volume by maybe 20% or so, and do a very quick -- 5 to 10 second -- shake on each drink just before serving.

      12 Replies
      1. re: davis_sq_pro

        Great idea, DSP. I like it in a "pink" variation, with a bit of Campari. Normally, I make it with 3/4 oz Triple Sec, 1/4 Campari, and 3/4 oz Lime juice. For simplicity, you could just add a splash of Campari for those who are interested, or make two pitchers.

        My foodie group is open to lightly-bitter things, and a few are open to quite bitter things.

        1. re: EvergreenDan

          Campari is not that popular I would suggest a few pitchers of Planter's Punch or Hurricanes. Or Sazerac's if you are wealthy and want to show a rare and very old cocktail very New Orleans that drink and not sickening sweet.

          1. re: TheDewster

            I put a splash of either Campari or Aperol -- depending on mood and what I have on hand -- in my planter's punch. It adds a nice depth, a bit of bitterness, and highlights the red color, especially important when using homemade grenadine, which tends more toward brown than bright red.

            Campari is quite popular in Italy. Not so much here, probably due to a lack of much effort in marketing it. I think that a group of people who appreciate "gourmet" foods would definitely be open trying it.

            1. re: TheDewster

              Yes, I've had good success introducing small amounts of Campari. Aperol is even more accessible, although straight I find it tastes alarmingly like Orange Soda. Somehow when mixed (even with soda and lemon), that artificial flavor goes away.

              Planter's Punch with Campari, huh? And I thought I put the stuff in everything. :)

              Another suggestion from the cocktail nerds: Make Meletti ice cream. Simply blend your preferred high-quality vanilla or sweet cream ice cream with Amaro Meletti. Keep adding and tasting until you like it. Fabulous.

              Or Campari/Grapefruit Sorbet. Also fabulous.

              1. re: EvergreenDan

                Here's my punch, for the record. I would NOT serve this to a group of self-described "gourmands" or similar who are trying to be wine snobs :-)

                Planter's Paunch
                2oz spiced rum (Old New Orleans if possible)
                1 oz Trinidad rum (Scarlet Ibis, Plantation, or similar)
                1 oz grenadine (homemade)
                1 oz lime juice
                1/2 oz lemon juice
                1/4-1/2 oz Campari or Aperol (more Aperol)
                1d Angostura bitters
                1d Fee Whiskey Barrel bitters
                1d Cardamom bitters (Scrappy's) if available

                Shake w/ ice, dump into a glass. Grate a bit of nutmeg on the top, or not. Drink. Repeat (often).

                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                  Hi, thanks for reply. Just to clarify- no wine snobs; just enthusiastic drinkers looking to broaden our horizons!

                2. re: EvergreenDan

                  Planter's Paunch sounds fattening. ;-) Your recipe sounds great. I added it, but you'll have to search for it since linking is no longer allowed -- "Planter's Punch (Spiced Rum)".

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                3. re: TheDewster

                  I find Campari to be very popular in my neck of the woods (Boston area). I love it with Pellegrino's Limonata a/o Aranciata. Yes, I'm rushing summer.

              2. re: davis_sq_pro

                The Pegu is kinda my thing, so I can't recommend it enough. I will say that the version you post here, essentially the Savoy Cocktail Book one, is a little sweet for my tastes.
                My usual ratios are:
                3 gin
                1 Cointreau
                1 lime

                Three other thoughts:
                1) If you don't have access to orange bitters, don't worry. Just use 2 dashes of Angostrua per 1.5 oz. of gin.

                2) I use Cointreau (or Clement Orange Shrubb for the occasional change). Please don't cheap out with Triple Sec. The quality of orange liqueur you use will be VERY apparent in this cocktail.

                3) A nice variation I learned at the actual American Bar at the Savoy in London is to add a teaspoon or two of egg white, and shake very well. It lightens the color, adds a little froth, and further softens the flavors in this aggressive but accessible drink.


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                1. re: DWinship

                  I read your blog some time ago, made your version of the Pegu, and found it to be way too tart. The version I posted above actually has more lime than the Savoy version (which calls for 1tsp of lime / 2oz of gin, IIRC), and to my taste is a fairly well-balanced version of the drink.

                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                    That's why I said "essentially". The beauty of the the Pegu, as with any sour, is you can turn the dials to your own taste. Ratios rule.

                    Just be careful on the older recipes for the Pegu. One of the first places it appeared in print calls for Rose's Lime Juice.... Shudder.

                  2. re: DWinship

                    I prefer 2 : 0.75 : 0.75, but I like 0.25 of Campari in it, which ads a very small touch of sweetness. This is very similar to DWinship's ratio.

                    Interestingly, Ted Haigh (Vintage Spirits ...) gives 1.5 : 0.5 : 0.75 lime -- more lime than Cointreau. This would be quite tart.

                    It could be that the sourness of the limes (and perhaps the time of year) is responsible for some of the difference. I do prefer a bit sour over a bit sweet, though.

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                2. Tommy's Margarita, so easy to make. 2:1:1 Reposado tequila: lime juice: agave nectar.

                  Mai tai is a little bit of work... 8: 4: 2: 2: 1 Rum (I use Appleton V/X): lime juice: simple syrup: Grand Marnier/Gran Gala: almond milk or orgeat syrup.

                  Rocky Mountain Punch: 5 bottles Champagne (or whatever), 1 quart/liter Jamaican rum, 1 pt maraschino liqueur, 6 thinly sliced lemons (steeped in the rum for a few hours to overnight), and simple syrup to taste.

                  I think a Scofflaw variant would be nice, too. It calls for rye, but I think bourbon, rum, brandy, or gin would work fine. 2: 2: 1: 1 base spirit: white vermouth: lemon juice: grenadine, and dash of orange bitters per drink. For my homemade grenadine, I make a pomegranate juice "simple syrup" with a small amount of orange flower water that you can taste in the grenadine, but it doesn't come out that much in the final drink.

                  Always add water and adjust to taste. Since the theme is comfort food, I think the goal would be to taste the base spirit, but not be able to taste any alcohol.

                  1. One that I've enjoyed that I think is accessible and light on the alcohol is the Gin Tonic Cocktail from Robert Hess' Essential Cocktail Guide. The idea is that it recreates some of the tonic flavor notes in an up drink.

                    3/4 oz dry gin
                    3/4 oz Lillet Blanc (Cocchi Americano would probably be even better)
                    3/4 oz fresh lime juice
                    1/4 oz simple syrup
                    2 sprigs cilantro
                    2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

                    Shake with ice. Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.