March is National Peanut Month: Celebrate with peanut-ty drinks


Americans eat an average of six pounds of peanuts per person, per year, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most of our peanuts come from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina. Almost half of the U.S. peanut crop is used to make peanut butter. Even the shells are useful; they can be found in such products as kitty litter, wallboard, and artificial fireplace logs. Because they are such an American staple, the idea of honoring the lowly peanut began as a special week in 1941 and has been a month-long observance since 1974.  

May we suggest celebrating Peanut Month with a peanutty cocktail?

Castries Peanut Rum Crème Liqueur is a rum-based liqueur (named after the port city capital of the island of St. Lucia) where the main ingredient is roasted peanuts.

St. Lucia is located in the eastern Caribbean south of Martinique and northwest of Barbados — smack in the middle of the rum belt in the tropics with unspoiled beaches, soaring mountains, dense rainforests, and turquoise-blue waters.

Since the 1920s, Castries Peanut Rum Crème has been produced by St. Lucia Distillers. This luscious liquid pours from the bottle in a beautiful creamy nut brown hue. The peanut aromas are unmistakable and amazingly complex; roasted peanuts, peanut brittle, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, notes of vanilla, cinnamon, caramelized brown sugar and freshly grated nutmeg.

At mid-palate, there is the full-bodied expression of sweet dairy cream followed by a simultaneous fade-out of the peanut and fade-in of fine aged rum on the finish. The overall sensation is of richness, smoothness and exquisite balance.

Here are two nostalgic cocktail suggestions to celebrate National Peanut Month: the first being the Castries Peanut Butter Cup, which just so happens to taste amazingly like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and the Fluffy Nutty Martini which  is a peanut and marshmallow combination that reminds one of the icky, sticky joy of that childhood favorite, the Fuffernutter® sandwich only not as messy and with a little higher octane.

Castries Peanut Butter Cup

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Castries Crème
  • 1 oz. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
  • 1 oz. Three Olives Vanilla vodka
  • Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup

Preparation: Drizzle Hershey’s chocolate syrup in a cocktail glass. Combine the above ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously to both chill and mix thoroughly. Strain gently into the glass.

 

Fluffy Nutty Martini:

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Castries Peanut Rum Crème Liqueur®
  • 2 oz. Smirnoff Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka®
  • 1/2 cup crushed peanuts
  • 1/3 cup melted marshmallow crème
  • 1 cup ice

Preparation: Place crushed peanuts in a small plate. Place the marshmallow crème on a small plate  and melt in microwave.
Dip glass rim first in melted fluff, then in the crushed peanuts. Chill in the freezer.
Pour the Castries Peanut Rum Crème and the  Smirnoff Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka into a cocktail shaker with the cup of ice and shake until chilled pour into you cold glass and serve.
Garnish with mini marshmallows and crushed peppermint for a seasonal twist.

Castries Peanut Rum Crème can be found in many local liquor stores.

A SIMPLE WHISKEY COCKTAIL WILL HELP YOU BATTLE FLU SEASON


Chances are, you or someone you know will get the flu and you will be looking for relief anywhere you can find it. I’ve been told that “science” says drinking in moderation—as in two cocktails a day—can boost the body’s immune system.

If you catch the dreaded influenza virus this flu season (January and February are peak months), instead of wasting your money wandering the aisles of your local pharmacy, trying every over the counter remedy you can get your hands on, head to your liquor store, grab a nice bottle of whiskey and make a hot toddy instead.

For decades people have used the hot toddy as a natural remedy for easing all those aches and pains associated with the common cold. It was assumed that it was one of those natural remedies, like chicken soup, that works because your brain thinks it works, not because there is actual science behind it. But as it turns out, a hot toddy is actually pretty great, from a scientific perspective, at soothing your cold.

Whiskey is a great decongestant — the alcohol dilates the blood vessels, making it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection — and, combined with the herbal tea, a squeeze of honey, lemon, and the warm steam emanating from the drink, you have the perfect concoction for helping to clear up your cold symptoms. By the time you finish the drink, you won’t only be breathing a bit easier, but the alcohol will also start working its magic in the sleep department, making you just groggy enough so you can get some much needed shuteye.

This “Bourbon Cough Syrup for Grownups is a tasty whiskey cocktail can make being sick it a little more tolerable. It contains vitamin C-rich lemon juice, honey—a natural cough suppressant and decongestant—and, two shots of bourbon. The honey does most of the heavy lifting, but the pain-relieving properties of whiskey certainly won’t make you feel any worse.

BOURBON COUGH SYRUP FOR GROWNUPS

  • 2 ounces bourbon whiskey
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced (about 2 ounces)
  • 2 – 4 ounces water (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Mix the bourbon, lemon juice, and water (if using) in a tumbler or mug and heat in the microwave for about 45 seconds. (You can also do this on the stovetop in a little saucepan.) Take out and add the honey. Whisk to combine, then microwave for another 45 seconds.

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Just be sure to stick to one of these cocktails per day and drink plenty of other fluids, as too much alcohol will dehydrate the body and lengthen the flu’s duration.

The reason most people rely on cold and flu drugs like Nyquil is because they not only ease our congestion, they help us fall asleep. The ingredients in a hot toddy do the exact same thing. Sleep is the primary way your body is able to fight off a cold so that you’re well rested. You could use Nyquil, but a hot toddy works just as well at relieving your symptoms, and it works a bit more naturally, so you can sleep. One benefit of a hot toddy over Nyquil is the lack of that hazy Nyquil hangover many people often develop in the morning. Another benefit of whiskey is  the alcohol helps fight off infection and the growth of microorganisms.

Here’s a favorite easy, go-to hot toddy recipe.

  • 8 oz Hot Water
  • 1 Bag Herbal Tea
  • 1oz Bourbon
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey
  • 1 Lemon Wedge

Pour hot water into mug and steep tea for 2-3 minutes. Remove tea bag and add honey, stirring to dissolve. Pour in whiskey, add squeeze of lemon, stir and find relief.

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As with any remedy that incorporates booze as a main ingredient, there is such a thing as too many hot toddies if your goal is to actually feel better. While the alcohol in one drink is great for falling asleep and feeling refreshed, one too many and the sleep you receive won’t be that refreshing at all, and could cause you to wake up the next morning feeling worse.

 

Is it true Gin & Tonic Can Prevent Wintertime Colds?


This awful winter rainy cold weather brings with it all of the symptoms of the common cold, including a runny nose, coughing, sore throat, and drowsiness. It is not something that we enjoy, but  something to endure.

Many tend to reach for an antioxidant or superfood to cure a cold because of the high levels of vitamin C. Vitamin C and antioxidant foods can certainly help to keep the cold away.

But wait! There may be a solution hiding in plain sight that will allow us to enjoy feeling healthy and avoid colds.
Some people may drink alcohol to help themselves sleep when they are sick, but gin may actually be the alcoholic beverage of choice for those cold sufferers. A study was recently released and it touts  Gin & Tonic for wintertime colds prevention. We know the Brits used Gin & Tonic to help prevent malaria in the tropics, due to quinine’s anti-bacterial qualities, so preventing colds may be the next logical step for Gin & Tonic.

Juniper berries are the main ingredient in Gin and are are considered a superfood, in that they come laden with fortifying antioxidants and plenty of Vitamin C, which could help to stave off colds, coughs, flu and lung congestion. Thanks to its natural base ingredients – juniper, sage, coriander, nutmeg, rosemary,  gin comes packed with fruity antioxidants and herbal benefits that could power each glass with some rather healthy rewards.

Gin also has lower levels of histamine and that means fewer allergy triggers when compared to red wine, whiskey, and other alcoholic beverages. The low level of histamine is all due to the distillation process, which also provides a lower levels of sulfites, which can help to keep your cold in check. If you plan on having a drink this winter,  the British Asthma Association recommends trying gin.

But if you don’t care for a gin & tonic, a Prohibition-era Bee’s Knees cocktail could actually be very beneficial to your old, because it can quell aching throats with a heaping helping of honey syrup mixed with fresh lemon juice (get that vitamin C!) and gin. It might not cure your cold, but it will certainly make getting through it a lot more fun.

Bee’s Knees Ingredients

  • 2 oz. Gin
  • .75 oz. Honey or Honey Syrup (equal parts of honey and water in a small saucepan. Boil, then turn down to a simmer and stir until the honey is completely dissolved)
  • .75 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

Combine the ingredients in a shaker and shake then strain into a chilled coupe glass. This drink can be served with a lemon twist, but it is not necessary.

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Although I haven’t found any true medical evidence to corroborate this one study, I can recommend the old tried and true Hot Toddy. A Hot Toddy may sound like an folksy hoax, but the effects of the warm, soothing classic is actually substantiated by decent medical evidence showing it does wonders for a cold or the flu. From herbal tea to vitamin-packed citrus to throat-soothing honey, this is the ultimate sick day cocktail remedy for the common cold.

Experts say this mixture of whiskey, water, lemon, tea and honey won’t ACTUALLY treat your cold but the hot liquid combination can feel soothing and can lead to better sinus drainage. It also happens to be a delicious and endlessly adaptable warming cocktail.

There are almost as many versions of the Hot Toddy as there are spirits being distilled. You can make a delicious Toddy with anything from rum to brandy to genever. This version uses whiskey.

Hot Toddy Ingredients

  • 4 oz. Hot water, to top
  • 2 oz. Whiskey
  • .5 oz. Lemon Juice
  • 1 TBSP Honey
  • Cinnamon Stick, for garnish (optional)
  • Ground Nutmeg, for garnish (optional)
  • Ground Cloves, for garnish (optional)
  • Star Anise, for garnish (optional)
  • Lemon Peel, for garnish (optional)

To make this drink add whiskey, honey and lemon juice to a mug and stir to combine. Top with hot water, and garnish however you see fit.

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While I can’t speak to the cocktail’s medical merit, I can speak to its sweet, cozy flavors and its soul-soothing super powers.

Stay healthy!

 

Stocking up for the Holidays


The holiday season is rushing toward us faster than Santa’s sleigh and before you can say “Ho Ho Ho” it will be that time of year – the time for giving, the time for family, and of course, the time for parties! If you are one who spends most of the holiday season careening between family get-togethers, friends’ parties and other festivities, chances are you know it’s the time of year  to make sure you have a fully stocked bar and wine cellar.

If you’re hosting a holiday dinner party you will likely be having wine with dinner choosing something low in alcohol to start is a good idea. Sparkling Moscato with a slice of orange, or fresh Bellinis (typically peach juice or peach puree with Prosecco) will “set the mood just right for a special occasion, but not overpower the palate with alcohol before a lovely meal.

Cocktail parties call for a bit more in your bar and you’ll need to stock up. There are no rules when it comes to stocking a bar, and stocking up doesn’t have to break the bank.  Follow your preferences and those of your most frequent guests, then stock your bar with the basics, and you should be able to handle any occasion.

What to stock

Vodka
When it comes to Vodka, you can afford to go by price. Lower-priced vodkas don’t impart bad harsh flavors the way other cheaper liquors might.  Good bets for 750 milliliter bottles are Absolut ($25) and Sobieski ($14) if you prefer a 1.75 bottle try Svedka ($20) It’s a great deal.

Gin
There’s no need to spend a lot on tasty gin, since this liquor is usually combined with other ingredients, like tonic. Just don’t go so cheap that you wind up sipping one with an artificial-juniper flavor. Here, go for Gordon’s ($10), Hendricks ($36) or Bulldog ($24.)

Bourbon
When it comes to bourbon it’s better to spend a little more. Less expensive bourbons tend to give you the burn without the flavor. Two good choices are Woodford Reserve and Knob Creek, both $35 for 750 milliliters. Willett in the pot still bottle sells for around $43 and is really fantastic. If you have a real bourbon afficianado, try Booker’s Bourbon; $60 for 750 milliliters.

Rum
Rum is another spirit where you shouldn’t pinch pennies. Rum should bring a rich sugarcane flavor to drinks, however, a low-end rum can totally miss on those rich sugar and molasses flavors leaving you to wonder what happened. Good choices include Mount Gay Eclipse ($38), Kirk & Sweeney 12-year ($30) for 750 milliliters, or Brugal Extra Viejo ($29).

Tequila
Many cocktail lovers steer clear of this spirit in winter. But true tequila lovers know you need 100 percent blue agave tequila, nothing else will do, because many cheap tequilas contain corn syrup, coloring and grain alcohol, which are code words for “hangover.”  Here, look for Patrón Silver ($35), Karma Añejo ($36) or  Cazadores Reposado ($46.)

Whiskey and Scotch
This is one area you definitely cannot afford to scrimp. Since most party-goers seem to prefer to drink whiskey on the rocks, straight or with a “wee drop of water”, it’s worth the expense. A favorite is Glenmorangie Single Malt ($40), Bunnahabhain ($50), Pig’s Nose (a blended Scotch at $29) and—for Irish Whiskey lovers—Concannon Irish Whiskey $22  for 750 milliliters.

Don’t forget the Mixers like Club Soda and Tonic! Going budget on these only offers minimal savings as many store brands tend to go flat more quickly, and cheaper tonics can have an overpowering artificial taste. so opt for your favorite here.

When it comes to fruit juices, home-squeezed juices make all the difference. (Buy 25 lemons, 25 limes, and 15 oranges for every 50 guests.) If that’s not possible go with your favorite brand that you like to drink.

Because it is the holiday season, splurge and dress up your basic cocktail with plenty of fun, festive garnishes. Some of the more popular ones are olives, cocktail onions, lemons, limes, and Maraschino cherries, so try to keep them handy. You may want to add a few new and different bright, thin-skinned fruits like kumquats, key limes, Meyer lemons, tangerines, blood oranges, star fruit, pineapple and apple. For more savory flavorings, stock up on mint, basil, celery, cucumber and jalapeño. Seasonal berries, like raspberries and cranberries or currants, are perfect for floating in a glass of champagne or another bubbly cocktail. Pomegranate seeds and fresh mint make for pretty, aromatic garnishes, while edible gold and silver are perfect for adding a holiday sparkle,

Party Drinks
If you’re hosting a holiday open house or any other large gathering, think about serving a seasonal drink in a large format. Not only does serving a punch, mulled wine, or a batch of eggnog make getting a drink easy for any guest, it also enables you to make something more elaborate ahead of time (instead of mixing and re-mixing the same cocktail all evening). Here’s a helpful hint: freeze a large block of ice (using filtered water in a Tupperware container), to put in your punch so that it doesn’t get watered down too fast. Our personal favorites are Planters Punch and Homemade Eggnog, but you may want to try a tradional Mulled Wine or a warm Cider libation. Other drinks that are often in high demand are winter wines (Think Cabernet, Petite Sirah, Merlot and Shiraz).

For Mulled Wine, start with a rich red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot work best and it doesn’t neet to be expensive (just good) Here, we recommend Crosby Cabernet Sauvignon (California at $8.99) and add orange, brandy—or try Gran Gala Orange Liqueuer ($22) instead of orange and brandy— with cloves, honey, cinnamon & ginger and you have one delicious drink to warm everyone.

Of course, traditional home made Eggnog calls for Eggs, milk, cream, bourbon, sugar, brandy, fresh nutmeg and cinnamon. In our world, grating fresh whole nutmeg and Four Roses Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($21) are de rigueur, making this one special.

With Cider, opt for local favorites like Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy ($25) and Delicious Orchards Apple Cider blended with honey, cinnamon, orange juice, spices and lemon. You’ll feel so “revolutionary”.

For New Year’s Eve, it’s easy. Just add a touch of sparkle to everything with Champagne, even your favorite cocktails. Use edible gold and silver flakes for a sparkly finish to any drink. You can never have too much fun — or be too creative — when creating festive cocktails during the holidays.

All of the prices quoted are from Circus Wines,  Route 35 North,  Middletown, NJ  and Spirits Unlimited, Newman Springs Road, Red Bank, NJ.

Gin goes to the dogs—Bulldog Gin, that is.


Once the weather warms up you start seeing white everywhere and as the patios at eating and drinking establishments fill with thirsty customers, the drinks run clear.

Gin tends to be the one spirit that spikes during hot weather. It’s no wonder – the light- bodied spirit flavored with juniper berries and other botanicals pairs amazingly well with citrus and plays the starring role in many a crisp and refreshing cocktail: The Martini, the Tom Collins and the Negroni, plus countless others.

The common ingredient, gin, comes in a variety of styles – from London Dry Gin to Old Tom Gin, which is lightly sweetened and rarely available since its popularity tanked in the 19th century. Gin s a spirit that has been around for a long time, in the 11th century, monks were using juniper berries to flavor distilled spirits. But gin in the recognizable form of today wasn’t produced until the 17th century in England and was named for either the French or Dutch words for juniper (it depends on who you ask).

However, gin didn’t really come into its own until some mad, thirsty British soldier stationed in the tropics paired it with tonic in the 1700s to mask the bitter flavor of the tonic water they drank to ward off malaria. The bitter quinine in tonic water and the herbal, almost green notes of the gin are the perfect blend of flavors.

Brightened by a little lime, gin can be the start of a perfect drink to sip in the sun, waiting for your burger at a barbecue or picnic, sitting on that beach chair or enjoying happy hour. It’s been said that this drink does its part to  ward off scurvy and deadly mosquito-borne illnesses while tasting   like liquid summer in a tall glass.

While the juniper spirit has always been a bestseller—even through prohibition, when it was produced in bathtubs across the country—the rebirth of the cocktail has spawned literally hundreds of different gins on the market, running the gamut fromclaiming deep cultural heritage and tradition to the irreverent. Some gins are distilled in the traditional manner – starting as grain alcohol and going through a second distillation with the juniper berries and botanicals used as flavoring. Cheaper “compound gins” don’t go through this second distillation and are just flavored with botanical essences.

Basically there are three types: Traditional, Old World and Modern—each refers to a different style of Gin.

Traditional Gins include Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray and Plymouth. These spirits are infused with a range of botanicals, and usually include: orris root, citrus peels, angelica and, of course, juniper berries, which provide the primary flavor.

Old-World Gins are based on the centuries-old malty Dutch genever. Genever on its own is hard to find these days but it is the base of many of the recipes now associated with dry British gin.

Modern Gins must, by law,  incorporate juniper, but many distillers today are using a host of exotic ingredients to accent the juniper berry. The Scottish Hendrick’s is perhaps the most famous, with its blend of cucumber and rose, while the French Citadelle uses 19 different botanicals, including nutmeg, cumin and cardamom. Beefeater 24’s recipe features both Chinese and Japanese green teas. But one of the most intriguing gins on the market today, is Bulldog.

Bulldog Gin
Gin is a perennial summer favorite and Bulldog gin is more exotic and smoother than many currently on the market.

Bulldog Gin is quadruple distilled in London and flavored with the usual juniper berries and traditional botanicals, but the list continues with: Dragon eye, lotus, poppy, coriander, almond, licorice, cassia, lemon, angelica, and a slew of herbs and spices. It is amazingly smooth and balanced, and the assorted flavors work in combination to deliver an herbal tone that shines through tonic and lime for beauteous a drink.

Anshuman Vohra, CEO and founder of Bulldog,  says the attention of mixologists is key to any gin’s success: “The creative cocktail movement allows people to be introduced to gin’s versatility and experience it as an alternative to other spirits. In fact, our suggested spring/summer cocktails feature a bevy of ways to spice up the gin & tonic using ingredients such as lemon curd, licorice or lavender—each represents a different botanical infused in Bulldog Gin—which helps expand the consumer’s palate for drinking gin.”

John Castiglione who represents Bulldog in New Jersey says that “Bulldog is a classier, smoother gin that mixes into more than martinis.”

He recommends a perrennial summer favorite: London Lemonade. An incredibly simple and delicious drink to make for summer lounging. Simply take 2 oz. Bulldog Gin and  4 oz. Fresh Lemonade and combine the two ingredients in a cocktail glass with ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge and sit back to sip and enjoy.

If you are in the mood for something a little more classic, he says you can’t go more classic than a Bulldog Gimlet. For this drink you will need to blend 1-1/2 oz. Bulldog Gin with 1 oz. Lime Juice and a  1/2 oz. Simple Syrup. Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass filled with ice and enjoy.

Bulldog gin also knows how to turn a phrase, with delicious drinks sporting names like Plumdog Millionaire, Kir Monarcy or Rhubarb Tuesday, to name a few, you’re certain to enjoy a evening party or picnic with Bulldog and friends.