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In the Spirit

To Drink or Not to Drink

A recipe for both worlds

If you’re one of the few who have started January dry this year, my hat’s off to you. It’s very easy to start — you know, with all the gluttony that came and went with the holidays — but it’s not quite as easy to finish. After a couple of weeks without alcohol (especially if your diet is back on track), you start feeling much better after the punishment you put your liver through, and you might start thinking, “Gee, maybe it’s time I treat myself.” And off you go.

To cover all the bases, here is a low ABV cocktail for those who might slip up from time to time, and a non-alcoholic recipe for those who go all the way without a drop of spirit. Either way, both are delicious.

Strawberry-infused Campari and Soda

This is a very simple cocktail; the only catch is waiting a few days for your Campari to infuse. Campari is a bitter liqueur, an aperitif that is low in alcohol, and known by most for the part it plays in the Negroni, a cocktail classic.

To infuse your Campari, wash and slice 1 quart of strawberries and mix them in a container with 750 milliliters of Campari. Let sit for 3-4 days. Strain through a cheesecloth into a glass container when ready.

Put 2 ounces of your strawberry-infused Campari into a tall (highball) glass, add ice, and top with sparkling water. Stir slightly for a few seconds. Garnish with a lemon twist and strawberry.

Hay Is for Horses

This one, from The Aviary: Holiday Cocktails, is a bit elaborate, but you’re not drinking this month, so you’ll have plenty of free time to put it together.

Grapefruit ice

2 1/2 ounces juniper hay stock

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

3/4 ounce maple syrup

1 bar spoon rice wine vinegar

1 1/2 ounces grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (Fever Tree makes a great one)

1 grapefruit peel

Place 3 cubes of grapefruit ice into a medium serving glass. Combine all ingredients (except sparkling water and grapefruit peel) with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously until chilled and diluted, then strain through a fine mesh strainer into glass over ice. Gently add the sparkling water. Express the grapefruit peel over the glass. Discard the peel.


Grapefruit Ice

400 grams horseradish stock

200 grams fresh grapefruit juice

104 grams simple syrup

46 grams fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, whisking to mix thoroughly. Fill a 1 1/4 inch (3.2 centimeters) square ice mold with mixture. Freeze into cubes until completely solid. Reserve.


Simple Syrup

60 grams sugar

60 grams water

Combine sugar and water into a medium bowl. Stir with a spatula to completely dissolve the sugar. Transfer to a glass bottle or other airtight container and reserve in the refrigerator.

Horseradish Stock

400 grams hot water

100 grams prepared horseradish

Place the water and horseradish in a medium bowl, whisking to combine. Allow the mixture to steep for 1 hour. Strain through a mesh strainer, discarding solids and reserving the liquid.


Juniper Hay Stock

40 grams fresh hay*

5 grams cinnamon sticks, crushed/broken into small pieces

5 grams coriander seeds

4 green cardamom pods, crushed

15 grams juniper berries

650 grams water

Peel from 1/2 lime (about 5 grams)

Peel from 1/2 orange (about 13 grams)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the hay onto a cookie sheet or sheet tray. Toast the hay in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, toast the cinnamon, coriander, and cardamom over medium heat until fragrant. Let cool completely.

In a medium saucepan, combine the toasted hay, spices, and juniper with the water. Bring this to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add lime and orange peels, cover, and let steep for 1 1/2 hours. Strain this mixture through a mesh strainer, discarding solids. Transfer the liquid to a glass bottle or other non-reactive container and reserve.

*If you have trouble finding hay, you can substitute rolled oats, or omit it completely . . . the final drink will still be tasty.  PS

Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.