Lush Life

For Weekly SurgeSeptember 23, 2013 

Just like comedian Brian Regan jokes about cranberry being in everything, this time of year we make way for a highly seasonal squash.

Pumpkin infuses our pie, our candy, our coffee, our pasta, our panna cotta, our decorations and, yes, our cocktails.

If you take a trip to the liquor store, you can find every type of flavored spirit known to man. It has really gotten out of control. Why we, as humans, need a Fruit Loop-flavored vodka is beyond me. Our fascination with products that taste like other products seems to be the driving force.

When it comes to drinks, I try to operate under the rule that if you want it to taste like lemon, put lemon in it. Natural. Fresh. You know, real. There is a big difference between the flavor of an actual lemon and a lemon candy flavoring. I haven’t seen a “halloween-flavored vodka” as of yet, and I hope I never will. So, I have some recipes that use real pumpkin combined with other ingredients to create some pretty tasty drinks.

Pumpkin Punch

The season of parties is only greater during December than autumn, with Oktoberfests, Halloween, football and various festivals. Imbibing is synonymous with the Fall. What better way to serve the masses than with a punch?

Start by infusing a 750-mL bottle of dark rum with three cinnamon sticks for three days. Combine 10 ounces of the infused cinnamon rum, 10 ounces of pumpkin puree, 10 ounces of sweet condensed milk, 10 dashes of Angostura bitters, a little fresh grated nutmeg and ice in a large bowl and stir until combined. It’s a nog-style cocktail that packs a little punch. Pun intended.

You can adjust the proportions if you need more or less punch. If you prefer a sweeter version, adjust the ratio of rum to the amount of condensed milk.

The Great Pumpkin

Jim Meehan is a well known mixologist and owner of renowned cocktail bar P.D.T. in New York City. Possibly my favorite pumpkin cocktail of all time comes from his camp of masters. I found his recipe and am proud to share it.

This one uses a raw egg. If you are uneasy about using raw eggs in your drink, you can find pasteurized eggs in most grocery stores. However, the alcohol and, normally, some type of citrus will take care of any impurity that may exist. The truth is that the risk of food born illness from a raw egg is very small. I’m not saying that you gulp back a few raw eggs for breakfast each day, but I am saying that I’ve been using eggs for more than 15 years in cocktails and never had an issue. The purpose of the egg in a cocktail is to give texture without adding much flavor. The foam-like quality that you can find by shaking a raw egg is almost impossible to replicate from my experience.

Meehan starts by combining in a shaker tin 2 ounces of pumpkin ale (yes, beer) with 1 ounce each of rye (you can substitute bourbon if you like) and apple brandy. One-half ounce of maple syrup goes in with one whole egg. This is the important part: do not add ice. Dry shake the ingredients until the egg makes the mix frothy. Then, add ice and give it another shake. Strain it into a chilled glass and grate some fresh nutmeg on top. This one is a winner.

Pumpkin & Apple Cider Cocktail

We have the pleasure of living in a region where nearly everything, ingredients-wise, can be made locally. We are going to tap into that for this drink.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add 1 1/2 ounces of pumpkin puree, 2 ounces of apple cider and 1 1/2 ounces of vanilla vodka. I know what you are thinking. Vanilla vodka gets a pass because vanilla bean is expensive. If you have the cash, get a Madagascar vanilla bean and scrape half into the shaker with regular vodka. Otherwise, we can look the other way and use the pre-infused stuff with only half a guilty conscience.

Shake the ingredients well and strain into a collins glass with fresh ice. Here’s the local part. We need a spicy ginger ale for this drink and it just so happens that Blenheim Ginger Ale is made in Hamer in Dillon County. It is considered by many, present company included, to be the best ginger ale on the planet. I prefer Blenheim’s ginger ale over ginger beer for a Dark & Stormy. So get a bottle of the Blenheim hot ginger ale and top this drink off. It’s delicious. Truly a fall drink. Blenheim also has milder versions if you prefer.

I wish that we could reverse the notion of using pre-mixed flavors for our drinks, but, sometimes, it just makes sense. If you are a pumpkin fanatic, there is no reason to shy away during happy hour from the flavors you love. These drinks are easy crowd pleasers for your party or just to show off your skills for fall drinks at your bar.

I want to hear about your pumpkin cocktail recipes and where we can sample them along the Grand Strand. Feel free to e-mail a quick message with any that you have tried that hit you just right and where we can get them. Enjoy the pumpkin season. Cheers!

You can contact Kevin Hoover at kvnhvr74@gmail.com.

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