One of the best ways to make your holiday party memorable is with a signature cocktail your guests will never forget. Enter Tony Abou-Ganim, a local mixologist who just published “A Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails.” It’s a clever look at modern cocktails that features spirits and ingredients that make it easy for the amateur or pro to conjure up delightful drinks.
Abou-Ganim is no stranger to the spotlight. He won the 2007 Iron Chef America competition with Mario Batali, “Battle Mango,” and released his first DVD “Modern Mixology: Making Great Cocktails at Home” that same year. He got his start at the hand of his cousin Helen David at the Brass Rail Bar in Port Huron, Mich., where he gained a steady hand pouring traditional classic cocktails. He moved on to Jack Slick’s Balboa Café in San Francisco after college, and helped with the opening of Harry Denton’s, a legendary hangout in Fog City. Off to New York, he met Batali at Po in the West Village. But San Francisco beckoned, and Abou-Ganim returned to open Harry Denton’s Starlight Room atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, where he created his first specialty drink menu with the Cable Car, Sunsplash and Starlight.
Abou-Ganim found his way to Las Vegas when Steve Wynn hand-picked him to create the cocktail program at his Bellagio, where he concocted hundreds of original cocktails for the resorts’ 22 bars. Now he operates his own beverage consulting firm specializing in bar staff training, product education and cocktail development.
Here he shares some of his favorite recipes for the holidays. If you like them, head down to Borders at Town Square this Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. when Abou-Ganim will share one of his seasonal drinks and sign copies of his book. For more information, visit www.themodernmixologist.com.
Spiced Cider Toddy
25 oz. Homemade Rock & Rye *
1 gallon apple cider
1/2 cup clover honey
5 cinnamon sticks
30 whole cloves
1/2 vanilla bean
Start by breaking the cinnamon sticks and cloves and bruising the vanilla bean. Next make a Mirpoix bag with the spices. In a large saucepan combine cider, honey, and Mirpoix bag; bring to a boil and let cool for at least 4 hours. Remove Mirpoix bag and re-heat when ready to serve adding the Rock & Rye at the last moment. Serve in heated mugs with a cinnamon stick garnish.
* Homemade Rock & Rye
Rock & Rye recipe courtesy of “The Gentleman’s Companion” by Charles H. Baker Jr.
Rye Whiskey, 1/5 gallon, not a full quart
Jamaica Rum, jigger
Rock candy, ½ cup, leave in large lumps
Whole cloves, 1 doz.
Quartered small California orange, peel left on
Quartered seedless lemon, peel left on
Stick of cinnamon, or two
Put ingredients in a jar, cover with Rye, and stand for a fortnight. Strain out spices through fine cloth or filter paper. Put back on fruit until needed.
“Rock & Rye can be served hot with excellent effect to fight off colds, influenzas, miasmas, megrims, swamp mists, and blackwater fevers. In fact any sort of excuse seems to work.”
— Charles H. Baker, Jr. The Gentleman’s Companion, 1946
1 white raw-sugar cube saturated with Peychaud’s Bitters
½ ounce Hennessy VSOP Cognac
½ ounce Cointreau
In a crystal Champagne flute place bitters saturated white raw-sugar cube. Next add cognac and Cointreau. Slowly fill with Champagne, garnish with an orange spiral.
Hint: Chill the Hennessy and Cointreau in the refrigerator before mixing.
Tom & Jerry
8 jumbo eggs
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tarter
Freshly grated nutmeg
Separate egg whites and yolks. In a large mixer, beat yolks until thick, transfer to another bowl. Clean mixer and add the egg whites and cream of tarter, beat until stiff. Add powdered sugar and fold in yolks. Mix until batter is light and fluffy.
For each drink:
¾ ounce rum
¾ ounce Cognac
In a pre-heated mug, add 1 heaping ladle of batter. Add rum and brandy. Top with hot water and dust with freshly grated nutmeg. Serve with a paddle or spoon.
1 fifth Southern Comfort
12 jumbo eggs
5 cups of whole milk
½ lb. superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup pumpkin puree *
Separate eggs. Set egg whites in the refrigerator. In a mixing bowl, beat yolks until creamy. Gradually add ¼ lb. of sugar, beating at high speeds until thick. Stir in milk, Southern Comfort, vanilla, cinnamon and pumpkin puree. Place in refrigerator to chill, at least 2 hours. Remove egg whites from the refrigerator and beat until soft peaks form. Add remaining ¼ lb. sugar, beating into stiff peaks. Fold the chilled Southern Comfort mixture into egg whites. Serve in a goblet, garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
Tony’s Hot Buttered Rum
1 lb. light brown sugar
½ lb. unsalted butter (softened)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a mixing bowl beat together softened butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract and spices until well combined. Refrigerate in an airtight reusable container for up to a month, or place in your freezer until ready to use.
To make Tony’s Hot Buttered Rum
In a pre-heated coffee mug combine 2 heaping tablespoons batter with 1 ½ oz Mount Gay Eclipse rum. Top with boiling water and stir well to mix. Serve with a spoon.
Hints: It is best to make the batter in advance so the spices have an opportunity to mingle.
Be sure to remove batter from refrigerator at least 6 hours prior to serving to allow it to soften.