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Entries in Cinnamon (2)


Kicking off the Holiday Season Right

Thanksgiving sits smack in the middle of the cocktail desert.  I mean, let's face it - by this time I have packed away the Mai Tais and Margaritas for the Winter.  There won't be a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables here in California for several months (er, kale-infused daiquiri, anyone?).  And at this point I am sick and tired of flopping the past several years at Holiday Parties with old-school holiday go-tos like Hot Buttered Rum, Tom & Jerry and mulled wines.  

Disclaimer - these are actually really good drinks.  But every year my Holiday partygoers try them, make those "Oh, that's good," faces and inquire as to the location of the nearest bottle of wine.  Then it's just me at the bar drinking my own kool-aid, so to speak.  sigh...

Apple, cinnamon, butter, whiskey... What's not to like?So this year I tried something completely different.  I went mainstream.  I went to the bookstore and picked up the December issue of Imbibe magazine.  They asked around to a series of barkeeps around the country and came up with a number of Holiday cocktail recipes inspired by Winter flavors.  I went straight off the page and mixed in three or four of the cocktails from Imbibe alongside a few of my go-to whiskey drinks, and you guessed it, found myself busy making cocktails at this year's Holiday Party instead of drinking them.  

A special shout to Robert Ortenzio of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami, who is credited with this crowd favorite.  Next time you are in Miami, look him up and thank him for me!

The Spiced Apple
December 2012 Issue of Imbibe Magazine 
Thanks to Robert Ortenzio, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Miami, FL

1 1/4 oz. spiced apple bourbon (see below)
3/4 oz. chardonnay
1/2 oz. unfiltered apple juice (cider can work in a pinch)
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup (see below)
3 dashes orange bitters

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled - 15-30 seconds. Place a large-format cube of ice in a rocks glass.  Strain drink into the glass and garnish with a very thin slice of apple.    

This drink was advertised as apple pie in a glass - and I have to admit that this description hits pretty close to home.  The spiced bourbon recipe is fragrant and delicious, and the chardonnay delivers an amazing buttery quality to round out the drink.  A really amazing cocktail here.

Spiced Apple Bourbon

1 liter bourbon 
4 Gala apples (go with what you can find locally, but Gala really did the trick for me)
2 whole star anise
4 whole cloves
6 cinnamon sticks

Core and cut each apple into 8 pieces.  Combine all ingredients in any sealable container, cover and let rest at room remperature for 24 hours.  

Don't go crazy or anything on the bourbon.  I used Old Fitzgerald with outstanding results.  Go with whatever apples you can find locally, but I used Gala apples in this instance and they imparted an amazing apple finish to the bourbon.  I used pair of large mason jars to age the bourbon infusion, placing half of the recipe in each jar.  

Cinnamon Syrup 

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 cinnamon sticks, broken into large pieces

Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and allow cool & steep.  Discard cinnamon sticks and strain into a glass jar or squeeze bottles for use.  Store refrigerated for ~2 weeks.  


A Tiki Drink for the Ages

As those that have read this rag for any period of time already know, The Ace is a lover of the Tiki cocktail.  And as a resident of Oakland, that means that The Ace loves to hang out at Forbidden Island in Alameda.  Oh sure, The Ace will occasionally darken Trader Vic's door in Emeryville (just for nostalgia's sake) or that of Kona Club on Piedmont Ave. (in theory at least I could crawl home from the joint).  But there's no beating Forbidden Island for legit Tiki drinks made the way they were intended to be - served in an awesome retro oasis complete with wall-to-wall Tiki kitsch.  

Years ago The Ace was perched at the bar on the Island when I found myself face to face with a drink that had been a winner in a customer recipe contest.  Rich with the warm spice of grapefruit and cinnamon, this cocktail still retained a strong, reassuring kick in the butt from its rhum spirit. This was one amazing drink.  

As luck would have it, the creator of this fine drink was a fellow cocktail blogger, so I was able to add this fine cocktail to The Ace Saloon's stable of Tiki drinks.  A special thanks to Craig Hermann of for creating his Gantt's Caipirissima cocktail and for graciously sharing the recipe on his fine site.  You can click here to see Craig's original post about this cocktail.  

It is really fascinating how well cinnamon and grapefruit work together in this and in many other cocktails. This combination is a remnant of one of the true legends of the Tiki genre - Donn Beach.  Donn (born Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt) is most famous for his showmanship and his chain of Don the Beachcomber bars/restaurants - but he was a genuine cocktail innovator as well.  He created countless code-named mixes which were used in many of his bar's cocktail recipes.  These pre-made mixes doubled as mixology time-savers and also as a way of masking the cocktail ingredients from patrons as well as bartenders (which were prone to be hired away by competitors) in the cutthroat world of Tiki in the 1950s.   

One of the most famous of these mixes was simply named "Don's Mix."  It was comprised of 2 parts grapefruit juice to 1 part cinnamon-infused sugar syrup.  This simple, unlikely combination of flavors make give this drink its outstanding qualities and make it a true crowd-pleaser for any setting.   

Gantt's Caipirissima

2 oz. Rhum Agricole* 
1 oz. cinnamon simple syrup (see below)
1/4 white grapefruit** - cut into 3 to 4 pieces

Muddle the grapefruit and the cinnamon simple syrup in the bottom of a double old-fashioned glass.  Add crushed ice up to 3/4 of the height of the glass, then pour the rhum over the ice.  Stir to mix the drink and serve with a cinnamon stick garnish.  

* Clement VSOP is optimal, but I have used La Favorite Rhum Vieux with success.  In a pinch (and when hosting larger parties) I have even substituted Rhum Barbancourt 8 in the place of the Agricole Rhum.  This is clearly more than a little sacreligious, but this makes for a great "well" version of this cocktail when you are serving 50-75 of these drinks per night, and it is still a huge crowd pleaser even in its well variety.

** White grapefruit is clearly preferred over the ruby red variety in this drink.  Here in California that limits this drink to a wintertime cocktail - when the famed Oro Blanco becomes seasonally available.  Trust me - it's worth the wait... 

Cinnamon Simple Syrup

2 parts granulated cane juice (sugar)
1 part water
3 cinnamon sticks, crushed

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the sugar and stir to combine.  Add the crushed cinnamon sticks to the syrup and lower heat, allowing the syrup to simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool for around 2 hours.  Once cool, strain to remove the cinnamon and pour into a squeeze bottle for storage.  Syrup will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.