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REAL HOT CHOCOLATE

We seem to have quite a few chocolate bars. Not the crappy American ones, but decent ones we bought in Amsterdam at the grocery store for cheap- Swiss, Dutch, Belgian. Minimum 55% cacao. The good stuff.

Except even when you get to the better stuff, you get picky. The 70% cacao dark chocolate rules.

hot chocolate

I opened a bar of Frey from Switzerland and had a bite, then a bite of a Dutch chocolate bar from Ikea. The Frey – meh. What to do? Hot chocolate.  This really isn’t even a recipe. It’s just what I did. Kicks the ass of Swiss Miss.

REAL HOT CHOCOLATE

  • 2 cups whole milk, more or less
  • 2 ounces really good chocolate (about half of one of those good-sized bars, more or less)

Break up the chocolate. Mix with milk and heat in a pan over medium heat, stirring frequently.

Serves 2 or 3.

Try adding a little bit of espresso powder for a mocha chocolate, or a tot of whatever your particular poison is.

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ADVOCAAT: DUTCH EGGNOG

“So it doesn’t have any dairy in it?” a friend asked.

“No, just eggs.”

“Then…. it’s not eggnog. There’s no nog.” I agreed, though I wasn’t actually sure about the etymology of the term and wasn’t in a position to look it up at that moment.

Since then, I looked it up. It appears that nog may come from noggin (a wooden cup) which comes from nog, ale from Norfolk, England. Hence: eggnog = eggs + booze = delicious.

I didn’t like eggnog for most of my life. Every year or two I’d buy a carton at Christmas and round it out with some brandy or rum or both, and be unable to finish it. It was just… gummy, weird-tasting, and nasty. I decided I was an eggnog Philistine and that I would probably get along just fine the rest of my life without it.  I now know that I was buying cheap-ass eggnog that wasn’t worthy of the name.  I don’t remember just how we discovered Clover-Stornetta brand eggnog – dear knows at the price it wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment extravagance – but it’s become our Christmas heroin. Eggnog is one of those things that you get what you pay for. It’s a good thing it’s only available about seven weeks a year because it would kill us to drink this stuff year-round.

In the Netherlands they make this thing called advocaat, which is sort of a Dutch eggnog.  The name may or may not have come from a drink of Suriname made with avocados (the Dutch ruled Suriname for 300 years and there are quite a few Surinamese in the Netherlands). Personally, I can’t get too enthused about the idea of an avocado-based drink, but maybe you had to take what you could get in Suriname.

You can buy advocaat in liquor stores here in the liqueur section and apparently it’s pretty good, but I decided to make it. I found a number of recipes online and they all followed pretty much the same format, varying only by a few ingredients.  This is what I came up with. This cannot be considered healthy, but it is delicious.

ADVOCAAT

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brandy (use good-but-not-great stuff)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract

Break all the eggs into a sturdy pan. You can use only the egg yolks if you want, but then you’re stuck with a dozen egg whites. Unless you have plans to make angel food cake and divinity, it might take a while to use all of them.

001

Add the sugar, brandy, and salt. Place pan over medium heat, whisk to combine, and keep stirring constantly.

002

If you run into problems with the eggs cooking too fast – i.e. you see bits of scrambled egg – remove pan from heat and employ the stick blender, or pour the mixture into a blender and blitz it.

004

The mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but don’t sweat it if it isn’t quite that thick.

Add the vanilla and store in covered jars in the refrigerator.

005To serve, shake or stir, then pour into liqueur glasses or small cocktail glasses. Top with whipped cream if you like. If your advocaat turns out very thick, eat it with a spoon (as is done in the Netherlands).

You can substitute rum for the brandy. I suppose other liquors like bourbon or  Amaretto would be quite tasty also.

This will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks.

THE PERFECT GIN AND TONIC

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Until I met my husband, the only gin and tonic I had was at the bar of a casino in Reno. I was with a co-worker, who seemed to know a thing or two about drinks. She took a sip and smiled. “Ahhh, now that’s a good gin and tonic,” she smiled. I took a sip. “Oook,” I said, “uh-huh.”

About 15 years later, my now-husband announced he was making me a gin and tonic. I smiled and nodded happily, privately vowing to drink it and not grimace.

It was perfect.

Since then he has made me many a G&T, always perfect. Even on hard-hitting evenings when we drink four each, neither of us has a hangover the next day, or any ill effects at all. A good G&T goes well with spicy food like Indian or Mexican. It’s an adult limeade on hot summer nights. And it’s just a damn fine drink.

But as my husband says, you have to use good ingredients. When there are only three ingredients, it’s important to use the best available. Don’t even think of using cheap gin and bottled lime juice.  And keep in mind a gin and tonic ain’t called The Panty Remover for nothing.

First, fill a bucket glass with as much ice as possible.

Then add one jigger high-quality gin. We use Bombay Gin (not Sapphire) or aged Dutch genever. Whatever you choose, get the good stuff. This is a case where you need to spend a little more. If it’s in a plastic bottle, don’t even think about it.

Squeeze half a fresh lime into the glass. If you’re unlucky and the lime is a bit dry, use all the juice of a whole lime.

Then squeeze in another half a lime and add that wrung-out peel to the glass.

Fill glass with Schwepps Tonic Water. If you don’t like Schwepps, get a decent tonic water, but NOT generic, and make sure the bottle fizzes when you open it. If it’s flat, it’s no good.

Stir with a swizzle stick and serve.

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