Tis the season to be busy, and we're in holiday crunch time! So when it comes time to gift-giving, take it easy on yourself and give a simple gift that will delight any cocktail lover (or anyone, really!).
The following gifts are easy to create and customise:
1. Rosemary-Honey Simple Syrup. A staple in cocktails, but also great in tea, drizzled over ice cream, or added into club soda for a naturally sweet and herbal taste, this syrup is luxe without putting a dent in your wallet.
What you'll need:
- 8 oz. Ball Jar
- 1/2 cup raw honey (raw and local are ideal - check out Chicago Honey Co-Op)
- just over 1/2 cup water
- 1 large sprig of rosemary (dried or fresh)
How to make it: Combine the raw honey and water into a pan. Heat slowly, allowing honey and water to combine, and then increase to a boil.
Once boiling add rosemary and reduce to a low simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool for 2-3 minutes, transfer into Ball Jar.
Make it pretty: Suspend a sprig of rosemary inside the Ball Jar (just be aware that the rosemary will infuse more, intensifying the taste). Use twine to wrap around where the bottom of the metal lid and the top of the glass bottle meet. Tie simple short bows (I tied two on top of each other), and call it a day.
You can make the top pretty by following the below pics:
2. Quick Cherry Bitters. It’s no secret that bitters add complexity and flavour that is unrivaled. The biggest problem is that in a time crunch, they’re hard to create. Some bitters take up to three weeks to cure! Since we’re already elbow deep in the holidays, here’s a quick way to get great bitters into the hands of friends and family (and let’s face it: your own).
This is a HOLLOW LEG original quick bitters recipe for ya bad self:
What you'll need:
- 1 oz bitter bottle with dropper (can be found at The Container Store or in bulk online)
For the cherry base:
- 1/2 cup packed dried cherries - I use Montmorency cherries from Michigan
- just over 1 cup water
For the bitters base:
- 2 oz above 50% ABV liquor (i.e. vodka or Everclear or whiskey that is ABOVE 100 proof!)
- 2 oz water
- A combination of bittering agents (see below).
Now, here's the thing. You can use any of the combination above to create some amazing bitters. For this particular recipe, which strives to be as local as possible, I used a few teaspoons of black fennel, a heaping teaspoon of coriander, a big chunk of ginger, and a teaspoon of chicory root. I like the earthiness/smokiness of the chicory, the pungency of the ginger, the licorice flavour of the fennel, and the bright, floral notes of the coriander.
How to make the cherry base: Combine the cherries and water into a pan. Heat slowly, stirring several times, and then increase to a boil.
Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer for 10-12 minutes.
Using a sieve, strain off the cherry juice and let cool while making the bitters.
How to make the bitters base: Combine the alcohol, water, and bittering agents into the same pan you cooked the cherries in. Toss in cooked cherries you just separated from the juice. Again, bring the pot to a boil while stirring often.
Cut the heat, place a cover on top and let the spices steep in the liquid. for 20 minutes, or for several hours, just depending on how much time you have.
Strain the liquid into a separate bowl.
How to create the final product: It's simple. How do you like your bitters? I like to add 3/4 oz of cherry juice in with 1/4 oz of bitters, but it's up to you! Play around by doing a 1:1 ratio, then taste a little. Too bitter? Add more cherry juice. Not bitter enough? Add more bittering solution. Once you've got it the way you like it, use a funnel to put it in the amber bottle.
I made it pretty by writing with permanent marker on a mini ornament!
3. Local Booze. It's as simple as simple can be, Local distillers work hard to create craft spirits that are different from the mass-produced stuff on the market.
Surprise and delight your alcohol-loving friends and family by presenting them with craft beer and spirits. You can discover all of the local Midwest Micro Breweries here! The two spirits below are new releases from Rhine Hall Distillery and KOVAL Distillery.
4. Customised Cocktails. It's not as hard as it sounds. Creating a cocktail that speaks to the unique taste buds of someone on your list is fun and easy. All you need is to know their favourite poison, and then play around with flavour combos.
I suggest that you present this gift in person, and pair it with homemade dinner. It's great to work together to create something delicious, and laugh if you create something horrible. Whether it's a smashing success the very first time or not, you're sure to impress someone with your Julia Child-like conviction!
5. Teach them how to drink for life. Buy your friends a gift that will keep on giving and send them to a cocktail class! Keep checking out HOLLOW LEG's Upcoming Events page for classes, or secure one through KOVAL or Rhine Hall!
See?! Gift giving for the cocktail lovers in your life can be as easy as 1...2...drink! (I had to do it.)
Happy Holidays, y'all!