MXMO: The Black Krampus

December 15, 2012

mxmologo-2The holiday season is upon us, so I’m going to bring you a nice hot drink, courtesy of that traditional Yule figure from the north. The one who keeps a list of which children have been naughty and nice, and visits them at Christmas time to give them what they deserve.

No, I’m not talking about the fat man, but this guy:

220px-Krampus-Postkarte_um_1900Meet Krampus.

Yeah. He looks like a cross between Beelzebub and the Pedo Bear, right?

KrampusCard3(2)According to some Germanic traditions Krampus accompanies St Nick (or sometimes works of his own accord) and punishes the naughty children at Christmas. If you’ve only been a little bit naughty, he’ll just swat you with his birch branches, but if you’ve been bad, he’ll carry you off to eat or to throw you into the fires of hell (at least that’s what he tells us – I wouldn’t trust my kids alone with him).

m157137641So why a Krampus cocktail?

Well it’s time again for Mixology Monday, the monthly gathering of cocktail bloggers.

Edit: You can now see all the great contributions to the theme here. Go on, check them out!

This time the theme is Humbug: Something that turns traditional Christmas drinks on their heads, or goes against the spirit of Christmas, or celebrates a Christmas villain, or … well let me quote this month’s host JFL from Rated R Cocktails:

Lets face it the holidays suck, yeah I said it. You put yourself in debt buying crap people will have forgotten about in a month. You drive around like a jackass to see people you don’t even like, or worse they freeload in your house. Your subjected to annoying music, and utterly fake, forced kindness and joy. Plus if you work retail your pretty much in hell, so don’t we all deserve a good stiff drink? So for this Mixology Monday unleash your inner Grinch. Mix drinks in the spirit of Anti-Christmas. They can be really bitter and amaro filled. They filled with enough booze to make you pass out in a tinsel covered Scrooge heap. They could be a traditional holiday drink turned on it’s ear. Or they could be a tribute to your favorite holiday villain. If you celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa then you still suffer through the holidays, so feel free to join in with your Anti-Holiday drink as well. Whatever it is add a hearty “Humbug!” and make your drink personify everything annoying or fake about the holidays.

Bugger that!

I love Christmas, and those anti-holiday wankers who profess to hate it can sod right off.

Krampus5-1That said, the aforementioned Krampus, who I just found out about last year, fits the bill. He must be the original Christmas villain, right?

So this idea is a Krampus toddy. Taking the nice soothing hot toddy and turning it into something bitter and vicious that all but hardened boozers would turn their noses up at. A Toddy not for Santa, but for Krampus.

krampus_1So it’s black and mean. I took a Scotch Toddy I made a couple of weeks ago and amped up the nastiness.

The first little helper – Fernet Branca. This is a very bitter (and black) amaro (bitter liqueur) from Italy. Unfortunately it’s not available in Taiwan, and I only have my bottle thanks to my network of booze mules (well it’s really a triangle, rather than a network, and each of my three mules has only made an annual average of one trip over the last year, so I’m always looking for volunteers – apply within). If you are in Taiwan, you can get Luxardo Fernet from Sundy, which is apparently very similar.

krampus_lrgThe second little helper is Blackstrap Molasses, doing duty as the sweetening component of the toddy. I knew I was on the right track when someone online called it ‘nasty stuff’ when I put out a help call while trying to find it in Taiwan. Blackstrap is thick and strong. Its most common cocktail application is the Black Strap (aka Black Stripe) cocktail. You can read more about it here.

DSC_0923The Black Krampus

2 oz Islay Scotch

1/2 oz Fernet Branca

1/2 oz blackstrap molasses

Warm a glass with hot water for a few minutes before discarding. Dissolve molasses in 3 oz of near-boiling water. Add the booze and stir. Serve hot.

Optional additions: grated nutmeg or a twist of lemon might make nice garnishes, but I didn’t have any on hand to try. Fees Brothers Black Walnut Bitters are good, and help with the ‘black’ theme, but you need a good 4 or 5 dashes to stand up to the other strong ingredients. Edit: and I just discovered that a few dashes of orange bitters (Angostura) – instead or as well as the Black Walnut – cuts through the nastiness very well.

Verdict: It looks like motor oil in colour and consistency. It tastes like Chinese medicine. That said, the three powerhouse ingredients do balance each other out quite well, and if you like strong bitter flavours, you might like it. Also, I swear it’s doing wonders for my sore throat.

l_krampus_b_300x257(2)Certainly a toddy for Krampus, or perhaps one to leave out for Santa (if you don’t want him to come back next year).

x-jones-krampus(2)

Merry Christmas!!! (and don’t be too good)

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Hot Toddy – A Template

December 8, 2012

The last week or so, I’ve been messing around with a template recipe for some hot toddy variations. It’s a little rough, but I got a few nice results.

Reading a few blogs, I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one drinking hot drinks these days, as the weather turns cold in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s not freezing in Taiwan yet, but it has been cold, grey, wet and miserable. Perfect Hot Toddy weather.

DSC_0892Most modern recipes for Hot Toddies are whiskey (or other spirit), honey and lemon juice, with some cinnamon and cloves, but this not what the original hot toddy was. David Wondrich explains (and the old recipe books back him up) that the Toddy (hot or cold) was a descendent of the punch, with the fruit taken out. The recipe goes something like this:

Old School Hot Toddy

2 oz spirits

1 tsp sugar

3 oz hot water

That’s it. You should warm the glass with a soak in hot water first. You can grate a little fresh nutmeg on top, too (I haven’t got any, so haven’t tried it). Brown, raw or Demerara sugar is recommended, but white or simple syrup work fine.

Dark spirits tend to work best, with Scotch, Rum, Brandy and Bourbon being favourites. I’ve tried them all before and last week (the first day it got cold) had one with Woodford Reserve that was delicious.

After that experience I wondered about varying the recipe with liqueurs for sweetener. This is something which the writer’s don’t really suggest, but I thought worth a try. Then I got fancy (my first attempt lacked something) and tried adding some extra strong flavour in small quantities. That gave me this template:

Fancy Toddy Template

2 oz spirits

1/2 oz sweet liqueur

1 tsp strong modifying agent

It could probably do with improvement, and might not be to the taste of purists, but it’s certainly fun playing around with on cold winter nights.

The drink that led me to experiment with this template was made with (sadly the last of) my bottle of Bowmore 12-Year Islay Scotch. Toddies usually call for smooth single malts, but I’d decided they’d be much nicer with a bit of a kick, and I think a smokey Islay really works. I think I had a drink called ‘Under the Tartan Sun’ (from Boozehound) in mind when I thought of Tuaca as a sweetener. Tuaca is an Italian vanilla liqueur, so you could also use Licor 43, or maybe even Galliano. I thought it still wanted a little something and I felt that was Fernet Branca, the beautiful bitter minty ameri.

Scotch Toddy

2 oz Islay Scotch

1/2 oz Tuaca

1 tsp Fernet Branca

3 oz hot water

It was great. 5/5

DSC_0875Next day (or possibly the same night) I went for brandy, and did it B & B style.

Brandy Toddy

2 oz Cognac

1/2 oz Benedictine

1/2 tsp absinthe

Also very good. 4/5

Next I tried gin, and think I have to agree that aged spirits work better in Hot Toddies. The first attempt (with Botanist, Yellow Chartreuse and Maraschino – I don’t know why I thought it might work) was just awful. The second matched some floral flavours, was alright and could be worked on.

Hendrick’s Toddy

2 oz Hendrick’s Gin

1/2 oz St Germain Elderflower Liqueur

2 drops rose water

It was alright. The flavours matched nicely, but it was rather thin. 3/5

Next was rum. I started with the high-proof Bundaberg OP and realised that you can’t use high-proof spirits (or too much spirits) in Hot Toddies. The evaporating fumes make it impossible to drink for a couple of minutes. I had to use my only other aged rum at the moment, Havana Club Especial. It was still a great drink, but I think a more full-bodied sweeter rum would have been better. Having never made Tiki drinks I was also not sure about the (Fees) Falernum. Really, I just threw it in for the hell of it. I was, perhaps, forcing things to fit the template. But it ended up really improving the drink, so why not?

Rum Toddy

2 oz dark rum

1/2 oz Chambord Raspberry Liqueur

1-2 tsp Falernum

Great. It only misses out on 5 stars because I think a more suited rum would have been better 4.5/5

Next I tried Calvados, which is true apple brandy (that is not a liqueur called brandy, but a distillate made from apples). I think I was reaching for things to match it with, but the Chartreuse more or less worked, and I think Angostura suits Calvados. I really wanted to try it with Peach Liqueur, but didn’t have any. The result was fairly nice, but nothing special.

Calvados Toddy

2 oz apple brandy

1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse

3 dashes Angostura Bitters

O.K. 3/5

Finally I tried a toddy with Genever – the Dutch ancestor of gin, and a bit of a favourite of mine, although I never really know what to mix it with. The ingredients I ended up with – Cynar artichoke liqueur and rhubarb bitters – were a weird match, and though I really liked it, I’m not sure that many other people would.

Genever Toddy

2 oz Genever

1/2 oz Cynar

1 dash rhubarb bitters (Fees)

I liked it, but doubt it would have broad appeal, so 3.5/5.

And that’s it. I can’t really say that any of these are better than plain Woodford Reserve Bourbon with sugar, but it’s good to have a variety. Do you have any favourite toddy recipes?

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