Before I was able to do pottery full time, in fact just as my ceramics practice was beginning to build some economic agency in my life, I was a bartender. I still work a couple days a week in a restaurant to supplement my income as a server ( I start my studio days too early to tend bar for those 3am nights anymore, waitressing hours are little bit more reasonable for me!). Many of my earliest supporters were (and still are) past co workers - who bought from me and encouraged my work as a potter- I love my restaurant family!
I don’t miss the late nights, but there are parts of cocktail culture that I do miss, like the camaraderie of working with a solid team, and the energy of pouring cocktails for a full house on a busy night. As a bartender, I was also drawn to learning the history of cocktails and classic recipes, which led to a fascination for creating new cocktails. It was inspiring having access to literally hundreds of liquors and cordials- flavors at your fingertips. I still have a lot of this information lodged in my head. For the perfect blended scotch that floats a drink with a hint of smoke: Monkey Shoulder. For a hint of spice in a margarita, I reach for the green bottle that is infused with the freshness of a just picked poblano pepper: Ancho Reyes Verde.
At home I prefer simple cocktails that don’t require a grocery list of ingredients. This mulled holiday spiced cherry wine fits the bill, and then some! I love this recipe because it tastes complex and delicious- as if it took hours of simmering spices on the stove- but truly the hardest part is making a sugar simple syrup. This recipe can go from zero to steaming mug of mulled wine in about 10 mins. The trick is three flavor bomb ingredients, which do all the work of creating an aromatic spiced wine that is a little too easy to drink! Cherry wine gives a nice balance of tart and fruitiness, and the bartender trick lies in the St Elizabeth Allspice Dram, also known as a Pimento Dram. This liquor has roots in Jamaica. Basically, it is a rum base with a concentrated infusion of spices- clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. The result is a tart, juicy cherry wine infused with holiday spice.
This has become a recipe I turn to around the holidays, because it’s festive and warm.
I hope you enjoy this recipe from my years as a Chicago bartender- now a holiday tradition, enjoyed with loved ones.
If you have a hot pot or induction burner, using it for this recipe can free up some space around the kitchen. Plus it’s easy to bring to a friend’s house!
** Note -I like to use my instant pot for this recipe BUT if using an instant pot DO NOT USE UNDER PRESSURE- alcohol and pressure DON’T MIX - it will explode- I leave the top off, and hit SAUTE function for 7 mins or until simmering.
1 Cup St Elizabeth Allspice Dram Liquor
2 Cherry Wine 750 ml bottle (I like Lynfred (IL) or Good Harbor (MI)- cherry wines are naturally a bit sweet, but try to choose a brand with some tart notes as well). If the Cherry wine is very sweet- you may not have to add any additional sugar.
1/2 Cup Simple Syrup (to make mix equal parts white sugar and boiling water, stir until dissolved). (or to taste).
2 -4 Allspice berries (or posterities sake!)
Organic Orange Peel
This recipe is flexible- If you are having trouble finding cherry wine, you may add a cherry kirsch liquor with a robust cabernet or a silky pinot noir base.
Recipe makes about 8 servings (8oz portions).
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan or hot pot (if using hot pot - use saute function ONLY- do not cover and do not EVER use pressure to cook alcohol). Add all-spice berries if using. Bring to simmer, and serve immediately (Twinette Poterie wine cups work exceptionally well!). May be garnished with orange peel or luxardo cherries. May be stored for a week in the fridge.
Enjoy & Best Holiday Wishes to you & yours!