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Mixing Islay: The Coal Fire Cocktail

The Coal Fire Cocktail - Wonderland Kitchen

At home, I’ve been on a bit of a single malt scotch kick recently. The smokier and peatier the better. Maybe it’s the time of year, but right now there is nothing more satisfying to me than 2 ounces of peaty, smoky, and briny Isaly scotch. It could also be that I’m just projecting our desire for a wood burning fireplace in our living room into my glass. But let’s not get too psychoanalytic.

Though single malts are best taken neat with just a few drops of water, I simply couldn’t resist trying to find a way to get those flavors into a cocktail. If you think you would like the taste of the last log in the fireplace, burned all the way down, embers ashy yet aglow, then this cocktail is definitely for you. That description pretty much sums it up. The recipe calls for Ardbeg 10, but any smoky and peaty Islay single malt—like a Lagavulin 16 or Laphroaig Quarter Cask—would certainly make an acceptable substitute. Sláinte!

Coal Fire

1 1/2 oz. Pikesville Rye
1/2 oz. Ardbeg 10 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch
1/2 oz. Taylor Madeira Wine
1/2 oz. Grade B Maple Syrup
1/4 tsp. Los Nahaules Mezcal Joven
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Flamed orange peel for garnish

Combine the rye, scotch, Madeira, maple syrup, mezcal, and bitters in a mixing glass. Stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Flame an orange peel and drop it in for garnish.

A Cocktail for the Rest of Us: St. Festivus Flip

Festivus Cocktail: St. Festivus Flip

Popularized in the late 1990s thanks to an episode of Seinfeld, the “holiday” known as Festivus is now celebrated in varying degrees of seriousness throughout the world. Conceived by writer Dan O’Keefe as an alternative to the over-commercialization of Christmas, it has somewhat ironically bred quite an industry of its own.

Festivus Cocktail: St. Festivus Flip

The symbol of Festivus is a bare aluminum pole, an icon chosen for its stark contrast to the traditional highly decorated Christmas tree. During the holiday, the pole is displayed unadorned and praised for its “high strength-to-weight ratio.” Among the holiday’s traditions is The Airing of Grievances—a ritual during which each member of the family tells the others all the ways in which they have disappointed them throughout the year—and The Feats of Strength. Traditionally, this is where the head of the household challenges another participant in the celebration to a wresting match. Festivus is said to reach its conclusion once the head of the household is pinned to the floor.

I created this drink to contribute to the surprisingly small number of Festivus-themed cocktails; to be able to offer up something egg nog-ish but a little more quirky to holiday guests this year; and, of course, to make use of one of The Brewer’s Art‘s finest seasonal brews. What does it taste like? A Festivus Miracle, of course!

St. Festivus Flip

3 oz. Brewer’s Art St. Festivus Ale
1 oz. Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1/2 oz. Grade B Maple Syrup
1 Whole Organic Egg
Cranberries and grated nutmeg for garnish

Combine the beer, rum, and maple syrup in a mixing glass. Swirl to decarbonate the beer. Add the whole egg and dry shake for 15 seconds to allow the egg to emulsify. Add ice, shake, and strain into a chilled fizz glass. Grate the nutmeg over the top of the drink and garnish with three cranberries.

Scotch Cocktail: The Lamplighter

Scotch Cocktail: The Lamplighter Cocktail

Back in the old days, when men were men and lights weren’t electric, it was someone’s job to make sure all a town’s street lights were lit before it got dark. That responsibility fell to the lamplighter. And depending on the village or town where the lamplighter was employed, he might be tasked with the additional duty of night watchman. Nowadays, the lamplighter is an anachronism; a relic of a simpler time with darker nights. Visitors to Brest, Belarus, however, can still glimpse a bona fide lamplighter, who has been employed since 2009 as a tourist attraction.

Scotch Cocktail: The Lamplighter CocktailWith The Lamplighter Cocktail, I was after two things: 1) to create a scotch cocktail, and 2) to use citrus in a drink that you’d see fit to place within the fall/winter spectrum. What I ended up with was an extremely well-balanced cocktail that elegantly combines smoky, sweet, and tart. A perfect way to light up a cold, dark winter night.

The Lamplighter Cocktail

1 1/2 oz. Dewar’s White Label Blended Scotch
1/2 oz. Laird’s Applejack
1/2 oz. Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur
1/2 oz. Galliano
1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
Lemon twist for garnish

Combine the scotch, applejack, maple liqueur, Galliano, and lemon juice in a mixing glass. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Rye and Maple Thanksgiving Cocktail: Poor Sap

Rye and Maple Thanksgiving Cocktail: Poor Sap

My job takes me all over the country. I travel about 100 days a year and make a complete circuit of the lower 48 every two and a half years. As you might imagine, I go to some pretty neat places as well as some not so neat, but who really wants to hear about that? One of the perks, as you might also imagine, is that I sometimes stumble upon some unique spirits that I wouldn’t normally see on the shelves of my local shop. I’m learning, albeit gradually, that although some of these intriguing bottles don’t always deliver, the disappointment of letting one slip away far outweighs the disappointment of a less than thrilling taste. Case in point: I’m still kicking myself for not picking up a bottle of Montana Rye just last month. Live and learn.

One of the bottles I am glad I didn’t pass up was Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur, which I happened upon a year ago while staying in Burlington, Vermont. Though it languished unopened on my shelf for nearly a year, I finally decided to try it out in an autumn-inspired cocktail. What I ended up with is a bit of a riff on the Manhattan, with the maple liqueur taking the place of the sweet vermouth. Contrary to what you might think, Sapling doesn’t have a completely overwhelming sweetness, especially when set against the rye, but I found that a touch of Fernet Branca balanced the drink out quite nicely. A bit of house made grenadine fills out the profile of this mildly boozy drink that’s perfect served as a crisp autumn evening warm-up or a post-Thanksgiving cocktail.

Poor Sap

2 oz. Pikesville Rye
1 oz. Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur
1/4 oz. Fernet Branca
1/4 oz. House made grenadine
House made cocktail cherry for garnish

Combine the rye, maple liqueur, fernet, and grenadine in a mixing glass. Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

Falling Into the Season: Maple Apple Bars


I didn’t post about the fact that my pal Marie and I cooked a bushel and peck worth of apples last weekend, ran them through (a freakin’ hand-crank) food mill, and put them into jars. But we did. We even added caramel to some, and calvados and cardamom to others for an adult-rated version. It was quite a delicious project, not terribly backbreaking when all was said and done, and should keep us in applesauce and apple jam for the foreseeable future. But more than that, it was an afternoon of fun in that way good work with close friends can turn out to be. Company in the kitchen is an important ingredient that shouldn’t be overlooked.

As it turns out, however, this applesauce also now connects me to a new acquaintance far beyond my kitchen walls. Thanks to the RSS/Twitter feeds streaming through Wonderland, I feel as if I have “met” a small army of amazing cooks who have so generously invited me into their homes and thoughts through their online writing. Amie Watson reached out to me after connecting with Wonderland Kitchen though a friend and suggested a recipe trade. I thought this was a most excellent idea.

Apples for Maple Apple Bars

Once she told me she was going to make my cereal bars gluten free (an adaptation I’m excited to share), I thought–since I’m so into coconut oil these days–that perhaps I could completely anti-dairy and non-glutenate her Honey Almond Squares. But on reflection (and the realization that my chickpea flour cupboard was empty), I decided that was the opposite direction to take things. Considering the above-mentioned applesauce, plus the crisp weekend weather, I would add the wheat back in, swap in some deeper and darker sweet notes, and see what I got. I perhaps got completely carried away, but Amie’s recipe seemed welcoming to adaptation. Use an apple! Or use a pear! I like this approach; it’s much more in line with how I like to cook, and also where I tend to fail when baking. When the recipe offers guidelines as to where variation is possible, that’s my best chance for success right out of the gate.

And I don’t think I’ve ruined Amie’s recipe in the process! I like to think of this version as just the opposite side of the same dessert coin. Where her bars, with their higher honey, mango, and almond notes, would make a perfect welcome to the warming temperatures of spring, here we say hello to the brisk snap in the fall air. It’s a rich, moist, spicy cake, and it practically begs you for a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you’re feeling super decadent (and not lactose intolerant–sorry Amie!).

Maple Apple Bars: Baked

Maple Apple Bars
adapted from “Honey Almond Squares” as seen on Amie Watson’s Multiculturiosity

For the cake batter

1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup applesauce
1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 apple, cubed
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

For the streusel topping

1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp rolled oats, coarsely ground
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup butter, cubed

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter an 11″x7″ glass baking dish and set aside.

2. Measure dry ingredients for streusel topping into a bowl. Using your fingers, work in butter until the mixture is roughly incorporated and crumbly.

3. Using a stand mixer or in a large bowl, cream butter and maple syrup. Beat in the egg. Next, stir in the vanilla extract and apple sauce.

4. Measure dry ingredients into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add to the liquids and stir just until all ingredients are incorporated. Fold in walnuts and apples, then spoon batter into prepared baking dish, smoothing it out evenly with a spatula or the back of a spoon.

5. Sprinkle streusel topping over the top and bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving.