“Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble. Fillet of a fenny snake, in the caldron boil and bake. Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog…”
Those famous lines of incantation are spoken by the witches in William Shakespeare’s haunting – some say cursed – tragic play, “Macbeth.” Whether you’ve ever seen the play on stage or not, the words evoke a spine-chilling, visceral image of three hideous hags poised over a huge, gurgling cast iron pot as they meticulously introduce a list of ghastly ingredients to their vile potion.
It’s dark, with only the glow of the cookfire along with a full moon to light the scene. It’s damp, with the moldy smell of forest-floor decay mixing with the noxious odor of their boiling elixir. It’s a sight too frightening to look upon, yet, at the same time, too fascinating to turn away from. It’s very close to the creepy, crawly, cringing feeling we imagine is the real spirit of Halloween. But one question about the witches remains: Just exactly what are they brewing in that cauldron?
In this issue, The Good Life celebrates fall and Halloween by cooking up some fun, delicious concoctions of our own — with the help of some local mixologists and friends.
Autumn is a transitional time of year, as days turn cooler, school starts up again, food is harvested, and we prepare for the shorter daylight hours of winter. Halloween is one of the most festive celebrations of fall and always a good excuse for a party. This year, we especially find ourselves eager for any opportunity to connect socially – even with masks. So here are a few ideas to help add something special to your fall party spirits.
There’s something about brown liquor that speaks to the fall ethos. Those golden, rust, and auburn hues not only visually match the natural colors of autumn, but the tastes of most whiskeys and bourbons elicit rich fall flavors associated with fall foods: nutty, vanilla, caramel, and baking spices along with earthy elements like oak, woodfire, berries, and grains. So, it’s only right that a couple of our featured fall cocktails are whiskey-based.
Fig Get About It
The first comes from BarVino proprietor Matt Green. Matt says this cocktail was inspired by the flavors and aromas of fall, and the ingredients work precisely toward that profile. With bourbon, cranberry, and Nux Alpine Walnut, this drink will certainly warm your bones. But when paired with its garnishes of orange peel and fig, this specialty cocktail really comes full circle with fall flavor.
2 ounces bourbon
½ ounce cranberry simple syrup*
½ ounce Nux Alpine Walnut (available at BarVino)
Stir or strain ingredients over one large ice cube. Garnish with piece of fig.
* To make cranberry simple syrup: Take premium cranberry juice reduced by half, and then add sugar equal to half of that reduced juice volume. For example, a half-gallon of reduced cranberry would need 1 quart of sugar.
Candy Corn Martini
The Grand Café manager and mixologist Kevin Thompson’s favorite holiday is Halloween, and the way he decorates the restaurant for the event leaves little doubt of that. “I like it because it’s fun to dress up and be a little scary and gross,” he explains. Well, there’s nothing scary or gross about the mixture Kevin offers up for his Halloween potent potable – the candy corn martini.
4 ounces candy corn-infused vodka*
2 ounces pineapple juice
Mix the infused vodka and pineapple juice in a strainer with ice to chill. Pour contents into a martini glass. Add a few drops of cherry juice that will sink to the bottom, making it look like candy corn.
* Infuse one 750-milliliter bottle of Vodka with 1 cup candy corn in an airtight container.
Shake and let sit for 3-4 hours.
OD’s Fall Orange & Maple Syrup Manhattan
Our next fall libation comes from Robert Craig, who captains the ship as co-owner and manager at O’Donoghue’s Steak & Seafood. Robert tells the story of cooking breakfast for his family as the impetus for his “OD’s Fall Orange & Maple Syrup Manhattan.” After tasting the orange zest syrup Robert had created to go over the pancakes, his brother commented, “This would make a good drink,” and the rest is history. Robert played with the recipe and came up with the idea for the maple syrup ice cube. It’s a fun take on some familiar cocktail ingredients.
4 ounces maple syrup *
4 ounces warm water*
Zest of half of an orange*
2 to 3 ounces of rye or bourbon whiskey
In a rocks glass, place one two-ounce ice cube from the prep, add a few shots of orange bitters, and pour 2 to 3 ounces of rye or bourbon whiskey over the ice cube. Garnish with cherry and let stand for 5 minutes and then enjoy the flavors as they release from the ice.
* Mix syrup, water, and zest. Pour into 2-ounce cups and freeze.
Witches’ Brew Punch
Let’s not forget all those little ghosts and goblins. This recipe comes from my sister, Carol Craighead, who’s an unbelievable witch. Wait, I didn’t mean it that way. Carol has perfected playing a witch character — complete with green makeup, black cape, and pointed hat — in her presentation of brewing this punch for children’s parties. Each ingredient has a special ghoulish description to enhance the experience. Adjust recipe quantities for the number of little devils you’re trying to bewitch. When the dry ice hits the liquid, it makes a spectacular special effect that is sure to be a thriller.
(Note: dry ice is available upon request from most grocery stores, but always follow proper precautions when handling.)
1 gallon swamp water (very warm water, colored green)
2 cups crushed bat wings (sugar)
1 pound skeleton bones (dry ice chunks)
2 ounces magic potion (root beer extract)
While wearing a witch’s costume, use a large kettle. Add swamp water and crushed bat wings and stir. Then add magic potion and stir. Finish by adding skeleton bones. When dry ice hits the liquid, the punch will begin to boil and bubble. (Be sure to have a towel under the kettle!) Wait 10 to 15 minutes before serving to be sure all dry ice has evaporated. Have fun!
So, this autumn, it doesn’t matter whether you’re entertaining a group of screaming banshees or just a few of your closest kindred spirits. Whether you’re hosting a masked revelry or you’re a lonesome soul looking to relax with the waft of burning leaves on the crisp fall air, there are a few unique beverages to mark the occasion. And, remember, there’s lots more where these came from at your local restaurants and bars. Visit one soon. I know they appreciate your patronage.