Happy new year!!
I know we are a solid five weeks into 2021. I can still celebrate. 😏 We took down our Christmas tree only six days ago, I just finished writing out my goals for the year, and I’m still sending out HNY cards into February. I honestly don’t know where the last few weeks went, so I’ll blame my tardiness on the haze that was the month of January. I think we can all agree that the month was, for lack of a better descriptor, weird.
With the darker days thankfully growing longer and brighter, I have been embracing all-things-cozy to keep me grounded and positive. It’s been rainy, snowy, and muddy here at the vineyard, so we have had to postpone outdoor projects and either remain glued to our computers or work on finalizing the blends for our 2020 wines. To keep my spirits high, I’ve been making time for muddy walks with the dog, cooking with my husband, giving the house a deep clean, and whipping up some new cocktail recipes.
This Chai Pomegranate Whiskey Spritz was one of my favorites that I made in January, and it features an easy-to-make chai syrup that works well with wintry drinks. The cocktail is rich and savory, with bright, pomegranate notes, and it finishes with a dry, refreshing pop of bubbly.
I’m also sharing the recipe for another cocktail that uses this chai simple syrup, the Rum Reviver, a rum-forward cocktail, which first appeared in the fall 2020 issue of Spoke + Blossom magazine. Both of these cocktails require low-maintenance prep and yield high-impact reward.
You might be able to score a fresh, late-season pomegranate at the grocery right now, but if you’re out of luck, using an already-juiced version is just as delicious and definitely less cumbersome. I love making this cocktail as an opening, pre-dinner drink, and since I’ve already popped some bubbly to make it, I follow up with that sparkling wine by pairing it with the main course.
Sparkling wine is my absolute favorite wine to pair with food because of its versatility. It ranges from dry or slightly sweet, rosy pink or golden, to fully sparkling or barely bubbly. Almost always, sparkling wine exhibits great acidity, which makes it highly compatible with almost any cuisine. I’ve paired a brut rosé with grilled steak, a racy blanc de blancs with seared scallops, and a sweet, sparkling red with rich chocolate cake.
I’m definitely due to write a post about my favorite sparkling wines, but first, let’s get after this spicy, fruit-driven, cozy cocktail.
CHAI POMEGRANATE WHISKEY SPRITZ
- 1 1/2 ounces whiskey (I used Side Gig from Storm King Distilling Co.)
- 3/4 ounce pomegranate juice
- 1/4 ounce dry curaçao or orange liqueur (I used Pierre Ferrand)
- 1/2 ounce chai simple syrup (see recipe below)
- splash dry, white sparkling wine
- pomegranate arils or star anise pods, for garnish
- In a mixing tin, combine the whiskey, pomegranate juice, dry curaçao, and chai simple syrup.
- Add ice and shake well.
- Over a large cube of ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with brut sparkling wine.
- Garnish with pomegranate arils or star anise pods.
- This recipe yields one drink.
- This cocktail would also be delicious if subbed with either aged rum, bourbon, or an Old Tom gin.
CHAI SIMPLE SYRUP
- 1/2 cup raw sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 bags of your favorite chai tea
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water.
- Bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and then remove from heat.
- Add the two bags of tea and let infuse until the mixture reaches room temperature.
- Strain off the tea bags and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
- The syrup will keep for up to two weeks, refrigerated.
- For variation, try substituting brown or coconut sugar for an even richer flavor profile or consider tossing in half of a vanilla bean pod for a sweeter depth.
I have to give a special shoutout to my friends over at Storm King Distilling Co. in Montrose, Colorado. David Fishering and his team just received a gold medal within the “specialty” category for their Side Gig whiskey, which I used in this recipe, in the inaugural 2020 Rocky Mountain Craft Spirits Competition. It also won best in class! Even before they received these well-deserved awards, this was a standout product for me from their diverse portfolio.
A few times a year, the team at Storm King Distilling Co. will play around with flavors, techniques, and cask sizes, and they’ll release a whiskey that is truly an expression of their creativity, aptly named, “Side Gig.” This year, David blended 50% triticale whiskey, a wheat-rye hybrid, with 50% bourbon whiskey. The resulting blend was aged for 17 months in two 15-gallon, charred, American oak barrels.
This award-winning whiskey is delicious in a cocktail or poured alone over a large cube of ice. With notes of vanilla, cloves, black pepper, toffee, and hints of orange peel, the Side Gig whiskey is complex and lingers on the palate. I’m happy I picked up two bottles of this interesting blend, before it sold out.
HAVE A LITTLE LEFTOVER CHAI SIMPLE SYRUP?
If you decide to make a small batch of the chai simple syrup, definitely set some aside and make this stirred, rum-forward cocktail that’s supported with sweet vermouth and ginger liqueur. You can find the recipe, which is shown below and was first published in Spoke + Blossom magazine’s fall 2020 issue, via this link.
The flavors in the chai simple syrup also marry well with a variety of brown spirits, like in a classic Old Fashioned cocktail, and I’ve especially loved adding a half-ounce or so with a glass of dry sparkling wine for a cozy twist on a Champagne cocktail.
I’m signing off with a few iPhone photos Steve and I took a couple of weeks ago on a snowy walk. We’re doing our best to intentionally set aside time to relax and enjoy this somewhat quieter season (we only have a few days left), before pruning and bottling season set in. Quiet walks, impromptu bonfires, and daydreams about the summer season are keeping our spirits high.
I almost forgot to share!
We just finished finalizing our blends for the 2020 vintage for our winery, The Storm Cellar, and we are increasing our rosé production by nearly 300%! I’m so excited that we will be releasing TWO different rosés in just under two months. It’s a race to blend the wines together, order bottles, design the labels, get government approval on the labels, send the labels off to the printer, and begin the bottling process in time for a late-April release.
We can do it!!
Cheers and happiest of new years to you!