MOTAC Hosts All-Star Holiday Cocktail Seminar

On December 18 the Museum of the American Cocktail held its 4th annual holiday cocktail seminar in Washington, DC at PS7s Restaurant. A record number of over 50 guests were treated to an ensemble of some of DC’s finest bartenders which included JP Caceres of Bourbon Steak, Gina Chersevani of PS7s, Jon Harris of The Gibson, Katie Nelson of the Columbia Room,  and Dan Searing of Room 11. The seminar was led by MOTAC Founding Member Phil Greene.

From Left: Gina Chersevani, JP Caceres, Phil Greene, Jon Harris, Katie Nelson and Dan Searing

To start things off, Katie Nelson introduced her “Sweet Potato-Ginger Sparkler” (recipe below) which was a delicious spin on holiday flavors using a homemade sweet potato shrub, Wild Turkey Rye, sherry, Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Bitters and ginger ale, garnished with a roasted marshmallow. The sweet potato shrub acted as a wonderful base with its infusion of ginger and sherry vinegar while the rye and sherry cut through to add a balanced depth of flavor. The acidic base of the cocktail was a good match with the creamy marshmallow.

Katie Nelson's "Sweet Potato Ginger Sparkler"

Jon Harris presented a classic Tom and Jerry using “Professor” Jerry Thomas’ original recipe from the 1850s featured in Esquire Magazine. He informed guests that the drink was created as a variation on the traditional eggnog. The Tom and Jerry Harris presented had a light texture with a clean finish along with a warming, seasonal appeal with its ingredients of Remy Martin Cognac, Appleton’s Reserve Extra 12 Year Old Rum, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, milk, nutmeg, all wrapped in a velvety texture of whipped egg whites.

Jon Harris' classic Tom and Jerry.

JP Caceres showed guests how to make his original “Fall in a Cup” (recipe below) with a unique blend of butter-infused St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Wild Turkey Bourbon infused with fall spices, Dolin Rouge vermouth, sparkling wine and Fee Brothers Orange Bitters. With the infused bourbon’s flavors of cinnamon, anise stars and cloves, the cocktail had a well-rounded spicy bite with sweet, floral and buttery overtones of the infused St. Germain.

JP Caceres' "Fall in a Cup"

Dan Searing gave the audience a glimpse into his book “The Punch Bowl – 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry” where he presented one of his original punches titled “Conquistador Punch.” Not originally intended as a holiday cocktail, Searing’s punch incorporates clementines, which have become a traditional holiday offering, often called the “Christmas Orange.” Sliced clementines, clementine juice and clementine zest syrup intermingle with Corzo Reposado tequila, sherry and lime juice, for a tart yet balanced flavor appropriate for the holidays or whenever.

Dan Searing's "Conquistador Punch"

As the cocktails were being presented, Gina Chersevani treated guests to her culinary skills, preparing savory flat breads and tuna tartar sliders to accompany the drinks. At the end, Gina emerged from the kitchen to surprise guests with an original warm punch incorporating Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac, Benedictine, homemade apple-spiced shrub and cinnamon-apricot tea from Teaism. To accompany the punch, she also prepared a batch of her famous “Cuptails,” cupcakes infused with Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac and Benedictine.

Gina Chersevani's "Cuptails."

Katie Nelson’s “Sweet Potato Ginger Sparkler”

To make one:

1 ½ oz. bourbon or rye (in this case, Wild Turkey Rye)

3/4 oz. dry oloroso sherry (Lustau or Alfonso is fine)

3/4 oz. sweet potato-ginger shrub (*)

Dash Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Bitters

2 oz. Blenheim’s ginger ale

Add all ingredients to an iced highball glass, stir gently to mix, garnish with toasted oolong marshmallow.

(*) To make the sweet potato shrub, first make a ginger vinegar infusion. Soak 1/2 cup (or so) finely chopped fresh ginger root in 1 cup fine sherry vinegar overnight. After straining out the ginger, about 2/3 cup liquid should be left over. If not, add more of the same vinegar to get the 2/3 cup mark, then add a 1/2 cup raw cane sugar to the ginger-infused vinegar over low heat, stirring just to dissolve.  Remove from heat, let cool.

Then make a sweet potato puree. Take about 3 large sweet potatoes, peel, cut into chunks, and bring to a boil in water.  Let cook until fork-tender, and then blend with a small amount of the cooking liquid until smooth. Strain if necessary for a smoother puree.

Add the sweet potato puree to the sweetened ginger vinegar (should be in the quantity ratio of 3 parts puree to 1 part ginger vinegar) in a saucepan over medium heat.  Let cook together for about 10 minutes or so, taste and add more cane sugar to taste if necessary. Remove from heat, let cool completely.

JP Caceres’ “Fall in a Cup”

1½ cups Wild Turkey Bourbon infused Fall Spices (*)

¾ cups Butter-Scotched St. Germain (**)

¾ cups Dolin Rouge Vermouth

2 cups Sparkling wine

12 dashes Fee Brothers Orange Bitters

Mix all ingredients above in a punch bowl and garnish with orange slices and an ice block to keep the punch cold. Yields 10 servings, served in an old fashioned glass over ice.

(*) (Infused style)- In a zip lock bag add 3 cinnamon sticks, 3 anise stars, 5 cloves and bottle of Bourbon. Seal and place in a dark room for 7 days. After the 7 days process open the bag and strain through a cheese cloth or a coffee filter and pour back in  to the bottle.

(**) (Fat Wash style)- In a saucepan, brown a half-pound of organic butter, then let it cool down. In a Mason jar combine 2 cups elderflower liquor and the melted brown butter, seal it and let it sit in a dark room for 7 days. After the 7 day process the butter fat will have risen to the top. Put the Mason jar in the freezer for 15 minutes in order for the butter fat to solidify on top, allowing the fat to be spooned out and discarded. Then strain the liquid through a cheese cloth or a coffee filter in order to strain out any small bits of browned butter.

Dan Searing’s “Conquistador Punch”

1 750-ml bottle of Corzo Reposado Tequila

1 375-ml bottle of Pedro Ximénez Sherry

1 ½ cups lime juice (about 12 limes)

1 ½ cups clementine juice (about 12 clementines)

1 cup clementine zest syrup (*)

1 ice block

2 clementines, peeled, cut into small, coin shapes

Combine all liquid ingredients in a large pitcher, adding the clementine syrup last and to taste. Chill thoroughly. When ready to serve, place the ice block in a punch bowl and pour the punch over it.

(*) Clementine Zest Syrup:

Zest from two clementines

1 cup cold simple syrup (1 part water, 1 part sugar – heat until dissolved, chill)

Use a microplane grater to remove the zest from the two clementines. Add the zest to the cold simple syrup. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to 24 hours. Strain out the zest. Refrigerate any unused syrup.

As always, the Museum of the American Cocktail would like to offer thanks to the generous support of our sponsors for this event, namely:  Wild Turkey 101 Proof  Rye and Bourbon; Appleton Estate Rums; Pierre Ferrand 1er Cru de Cognac; Fee Brothers Orange and Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters; Rémy Martin Cognac; Corzo Tequila, and Benedictine.

By Matt Keller

Matt lives in Washington, DC. When he’s not contributing to his blog District Cocktail – A Drinker’s Notes in Capitol City, his imbibing can be followed on his Twitter feed @DCcocktails.

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