In the Spirit
Punch and Bottles
Sipping solutions for the holidays
By Tony Cross
The year is winding down, but not before you’re inundated with commercials, songs, television shows, parades, parties and all things holiday. Overwhelmed much? Hopefully I can take a little pressure off by suggesting that just-right bottle of booze for someone you deem worthy or, if you happen to be playing host, some advice on how to make a killer punch. While most of these spirits and liqueurs might be unfamiliar to you (and the recipient), all of them are damn tasty — and under $30. I’ve sampled them more often than I care to admit, but all in the spirit of looking out for you, dear reader.
Elijah Craig Single Barrel Bourbon, $29
I prefer rye over bourbon whiskey, but there are always exceptions. This is one of them. I like this bourbon neat, but there’s nothing wrong with whipping up an old fashioned with it either. Most of the spirits I order online are from Astor Wines and Spirits at astorwines.com. One great thing about this website is they go in depth on their “staff picks” and give you a rundown on why they think a spirit is worthy of your dollar. Here’s what they had to say about this delicious bourbon: “Sipping it neat allows the beautiful bouquet to release notes of bananas Foster, coconut, vanilla, and brown sugar. The palate reveals sweet grains, caramel, vanilla, baking spices, and a hint of citrus to keep it fresh. It’s just as delicious on the rocks. And because the price won’t break the bank, it’s a guilt-free whiskey for cocktails. This is my go-to bourbon for everything! Give it a try, it will quickly become yours, too.”
Giffard Caribbean Pineapple Liqueur, $29
I first fell in love with Giffard’s pineapple liqueur a few years back, but now I have a slight obsession with it. Try it on its own before mixing it — you’ll taste what I mean. Stupid good. Add this to margaritas, or any sour. Have it with sparkling water for a nice low ABV treat (the Caribbean Pineapple has a low 20 percent alcohol by volume). Or, put a dash in your next stir-fry dish. OK, I got that idea from Astor. Order it online because our ABC stores consider it a special order and you’d be required to buy more than one.
Plantation 5 Yr. Barbados Rum, $29
Rum, in my humble opinion, is underrated. The Plantation 5 Yr. is a great entry-level rum for someone who isn’t familiar with good rum. It’s excellent neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail. I think some fans of bourbon would get a kick out of going half-and-half with the 5 Yr. in their next old fashioned. Plantation has lots of great rums — some much higher in price — which is why this makes a fun gift for the uninitiated.
Fulton Club Punch
This punch is out of The Aviary: Holiday Cocktails. I’m a sucker for punch, especially around the holidays. A little elbow grease before your guests arrive, then coast into being the host. You can find these spirits at, you guessed it, Astor Wines and Spirits. This recipe serves 8-10 people, so double the specs if necessary.
3 medium-sized navel oranges
240 grams sugar
1 large, ripe pineapple
1 bottle chardonnay
45 grams Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac
44 grams Rhine Hall Cherry Brandy
26 grams Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
22 grams Smith & Cross Rum
Peel the oranges using a vegetable peeler, taking care to remove as little of the white pith as possible. Reserve the peeled fruit for juicing. In a small bowl, combine the orange peels and sugar. Muddle the mixture with a cocktail muddler or the end of a rolling pin. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, muddling and stirring periodically. Meanwhile, peel the pineapple, remove the core, and chop into small chunks. Add the pineapple chunks to the orange peel mixture, muddling and mixing to thoroughly incorporate. Allow to sit for at least another 30 minutes, muddling and stirring periodically.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining liquid ingredients, stirring to mix thoroughly. Pour this mixture over the pineapple mixture, stirring to dissolve sugar completely. Allow this to marinate for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a mesh strainer, pushing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Transfer to a glass bottle or other non-reactive airtight container and transfer to the refrigerator to chill thoroughly.
Raspberry Cardamom Ice Block
5 whole cardamom pods
500 grams water
350 grams fresh raspberries
158 grams sugar
Reserved peeled oranges (3 medium-sized navel oranges)
Place the cardamom pods onto a cutting board or countertop. Using a small saucepan, crush the pods lightly, then place them into the saucepan. Toast the cracked cardamom over medium heat until fragrant. Add the water, raspberries, and sugar and increase the heat to high. Bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice and set a smaller bowl inside it. Juice the oranges. Remove the raspberry mixture from the heat and add the orange juice, stirring to combine. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl set over ice, discarding solids. Allow the mixture to chill completely, then transfer it to a cake pan, baking dish, large mixing bowl, or other large vessel that will fit in your freezer. Freeze until completely solid. Reserve.
To Assemble and Serve:
Chill 2 bottles of sparkling white wine. Place the block of raspberry cardamom ice into a punch bowl or other large serving vessel. Pour the punch base down the side of the bowl. Aadd the bottles of sparkling wine, taking care to pour slowly. Gently stir the mixture to incorporate thoroughly. Ladle into individual glasses and serve immediately. PS
Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.