The Twelve Drinks of Christmas: Volume 2, Drink 2

You never know what you are going to get when it comes to the holidays in the South. Winter in Tennessee is a bit of a mixed bag. I’ve seen a few White Christmases and I have worn shorts and linen sweating through last minute shopping on Christmas Eve. Sometimes we even get both ends of the spectrum in one day. I woke this morning to frost on the ground and bundled up in a nice cardigan before heading off to work. By mid afternoon the high was in the 70’s and I had to shed that light sweater. A few hours in the breeze and that afternoon sun and I could feel my face burning ever so slightly. So, with a nod toward our ever changeable weather, won’t you join me now as we stand and make Color in Your Cheeks.

I was a bit hesitant about this one because it has a definite autumnal feel to it. That is not accidental, it’s creator, Hayley Wilson of Portland Hunt + Alpine Club in Portland, Maine, describes it as “a great fall cocktail that captures the flavors of the seasons changing in New England.” Even though we think of this time of year as winter, we aren’t quite there yet, technically. The Winter Solstice doesn’t occur until the 21st of December, so if we want to have autumnal holiday cocktails, who is going to judge us? Well, who beyond the council of gnomes who have clearly convened to pass judgement on something, perhaps this drink. Let’s make it and give them something to ponder.

Grab your tins and pop in 1 1/4 ounces of Fernet-Branca, 1/2 an ounce of Laird’s Applejack, 3/4 ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 3/4 ounce of Grade A Maple Syrup and 1 egg white. Even though it is still fall, crank up Johnny Cash singing “Christmas Time’s a’Comin’” to set the mood, or just play his 1977 Christmas Special in the background, like we did. Seal your tins and go for 30-45 seconds of dry shake to mix things up and emulsify that egg white. Some pressure may have built up, so open your tins carefully and add some artisanal ice and shake again. When well chilled strain into a coupe, grate a little fresh nutmeg on top and garnish with a fancy cherry capped apple fan.

This drink is nearly perfect to me. The gnomes approve. My wife does not. She doesn’t care for it for the same reason I love it, that herbal bitter kick from the Fernet. This is one of those fun “what’s going on here” drinks. I love the combination of fernet and citrus on this and you can really taste every element. The tart lemon, sweet maple, herbal amaro and a nice alcohol kick from the applejack; they all blend together for a charmingly smooth sour with an incredible depth of flavor.

Despite the unseasonably pleasant weather, the council of gnomes assembled, while I was mixing the drink, as they do. To be fair, this is their time of year. While the garden gnomes rule the spring and summer, the darker days belong to the Julenissen. Traditionally, they deliver presents in addition to their usual duties helping watch out for the farm and punishing lazy farmers. That was never a part of my family’s tradition, but I am learning to adapt, since my wife adores them. We always put fruits and cream out for the wee folk, so adding another group is no hardship. Honestly, I had no idea, how many of them had moved into our house till I suggested that they join us for this drink. Those are just the “holiday” gnomes, by the way, as their fairer cousins are in storage. Clearly, we are going to need larger bowls of porridge, but longer tables are what it is all about, right? Making room for more folks at the table makes me smile, with a little extra color in my cheeks today. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay festive, my friends.