Nov 12th 2015

DIY Cocktail Projects for the Cold Months

It’s a wonderful time when fall finally rolls around and begins to remind you that we’re on the long, slow descent into winter. I’m not referring to the beginning of fall in calendrical reckoning, but rather that time when the weather finally dips, the leaves are bright yellow, deep orange, and crimson, the light changes, and the sweaters come down from the attic. While fall is most certainly my favorite season for many reasons, one that’s close to the top of the list is that it’s the beginning of cocktail season! Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Jesse, every season is cocktail season for you.” And, it’s true: mea culpa! That said, you can’t deny that there’s something extra special about making a great batch of fall cocktails to share with a loved one. That perfect blend of ingredients can make you cozier than your favorite sweatpants, a nice throw, and the comfiest piece of furniture you own; although it doesn’t hurt to combine all of those with your cocktail to create ultimate coziness. So, with that rather lengthy preface to set the mood, here are some great DIY cocktail projects to take your fall cocktail game to the next level.

allspice dram

Homemade Allspice Dram

Baking spices are about as fall as it gets. The current pumpkin madness that our culture goes through every time September rolls around is a great exemplar, since most of the flavor you experience when consuming a “pumpkin” product comes from the baking spices that our culture typically associates with pumpkin pie and, to a lesser extent, other typically fall baked goods (apple pie, cinnamon bread, etc.). With that in mind, one great cocktail ingredient that’s relatively easy to make is homemade allspice dram.

While to my palate and brain, there’s nothing more fall than a great cocktail featuring this allspice flavored liqueur, its origins are actually tropical in nature. Allspice dram (or pimento dram, as it is sometimes known, due to allspice actually being the dried berry of the pimento tree), originates in the Caribbean. It hit its heights in American culture during the tiki drink craze of the 1970s and then receded greatly. In fact, while you can now purchase at least two types of allspice dram in America (although you may still need to special order them from most liquor stores), it’s only in the last five to ten years that this has been the case, and for years it was unavailable on the American market. Nonetheless, I would definitely suggest taking a stab at making a homemade batch as it’s relatively easy and truly delicious. Homemade allspice dram is a great addition to many classic cocktails – try throwing even ¼ of an ounce into a Manhattan or a Sidecar and you won’t be disappointed – and there are a wealth of great recipes that include it as a key ingredient.

The Recipe

  • 2.25 cups Dark Rum
  • .5 cup Dried Whole Allspice
  • 3 cups Water
  • 1.5 lb. Dark Sugar

1) Crush the allspice using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
2) Combine the rum and crushed allspice in a vessel with a tight seal (I use traditional mason jars) and store in a cool dark place for at least 10 days, remembering to shake the vessel about every day or so.
3) Whenever you wish to stop steeping, combine the dark sugar and water to create a syrup.
4) Pour out the allspice and rum mixture, first through a fine mesh strainer and then through a coffee filter.
5) Combine the syrup and the allspice-infused rum and let this mixture steep a minimum of two weeks and ideally a month or more.

• I specifically wrote dark rum and dark sugar to be vague. I’ve come across recipes that use many varieties of rum and many varieties of sugar. I’m confident the recipe will turn out well using any combination of dark rum and dark sugar (muscovado of any type, traditional light or dark brown, and demerara), but I will say that my personal favorites are 151-proof demerara rum and a blend of half dark brown sugar and half demerara sugar, respectively.

• Many recipes call for the addition of spices other than allspice, such as cinnamon. While this will still probably result in a delicious end product, as Seth Freidus, the bar manager at Alden and Harlow, told me when I asked him whether I should add cinnamon to my first attempt at allspice dram: “You can totally do that, but it won’t be allspice dram.”

Homemade Grenadine

Pomegranates are another thing that absolutely scream fall, as that’s when they’re in season. For me, pomegranates are one of the fruits that help bridge the gap between apple season and winter citrus season or, as I think of it, the fruit dark times. Many Americans know grenadine only as that almost neon colored stuff put out by Rose’s and have only tasted it in the context of a Shirley Temple so sweet you can feel your teeth rotting as you drink it. Fear not: homemade grenadine has little in common with this and is a deliciously sweet-tart concoction full of deep, rich pomegranate flavor. Grenadine is a key ingredient in one of my all-time favorite cocktails, one that’s absolutely bursting with fall flavor. Before we get to that, here’s my recipe for grenadine.

The Recipe

  • 2 cups Pomegranate Juice (if using fresh squeezed juice, this should require about two pomegranates)
  • .75 cups Sugar
  • Lemon Juice to Taste
  • Optional: ¼ tsp Orange Blossom Water

1) Bring the pomegranate juice to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer juice until reduced by half.
2) Remove reduced juice from heat and stir in sugar until no crystals remain.
3) Allow the mixture to cool slightly
4) If adding orange blossom water, do so now.
5) Add lemon juice, ½ teaspoon at a time, until desired tartness has been reached.

• Getting the juice out of the pomegranate arils can be challenging if you remove them all from the seed pod and then try to hand press the arils through a strainer. You’re much better off using an old-fashioned juicer or even a suitably large citrus squeezer

• You will find many recipes for grenadine with impassioned arguments for using a cold process to preserve the freshness of the pomegranate juice. All I can say is that, while the cold processed version is perfectly nice, I prefer richness over “freshness.” Additionally, not reducing the juice will leave you with a tasty, but thin grenadine that doesn’t combine as well for cocktail purposes due to its relative lack of flavor per unit of volume.

Jack Rose Cocktail Recipe

  • 2oz Applejack
  • .75oz Grenadine
  • .75oz Lemon juice
  • 1 dash of your favorite bitters

Combine all of the ingredients over ice and shake thoroughly. Strain the resulting cocktail into a chilled glass.

• I absolutely adore this cocktail all year round, but it’s particularly great now as it combines two of the most fall-associated flavors: apples and pomegranates.

Jesse Galdston wears many hats at Formaggio Kitchen. You can find him behind the cheese counter, coordinating deliveries, or concocting new drink recipes.