Monday, December 8, 2008

A Comfortable Conflagration

As I drove up to see some old friends this weekend past, the lightly-falling snow - the first of any consequence around here - got me thinking. I'm not big on being cold myself, so the change of the seasons from chilly and windy to windy, cold and wet has brought about the need for something that will send the chill packing & bring thoughts of warmer days to the forefront.

Peaches are among my favorite summertime produces; their flavor, in fact, exerts a very strong memory-association with warm summer afternoons for me. But for a December drink, why Peaches - haven't they been out of season for months, you ask? Indeed, but bear with me a moment. What really got me onto this whole notion was a bottle of the often-maligned 100° Southern Comfort which I knew my friends to possess; a higher-proof variation on the usual fruit & spice liqueur of the south. Said spirit, likely due to the increased alcohol content, asserts an even stronger suggestion of Peach flavor than it's lower-proofed cousin, making it an ideal base for the next step:

The Blue Blazer
is a classic concoction of impressive presentation, excellent flavor and marvelous warming properties. Consisting of a healthy measure of cask-strength spirit, boiling water, lemon peel and sugar which is then set alight & flung between two mugs, it's mere creation will warm the room by a few degrees. But the usual 'Blazer is prepared with Scotch - which while an excellent addition to a winter warmer - might be difficult to blend into my peachy idea. Watery peaches didn't sound so appealing either, so the hot water would have to go...sort of:

is a delicious Japanese green tea which contains a bit of toasted brown rice. This feature takes the soft, grassy flavors of the tea in a whole new direction - adding a smoky, bittersweet aromatic element which is quite unique. Indeed, after playing with it here I have a number of plans for utilizing it in a Rhum or Cognac Punch in the future, but more on that some other time. Sampling the Genmaicha with SoCo yielded some favorable, if one-sided results - not quite the peach emphasis I desired.

Into the mix then came the next ingredient, an organic Peach nectar, gently warmed & added to the prepared tea. As said nectar is already sweetened, I tipped a heavy dash of Angostura bitters into the mixture to add a little complexity & reign-in the sugar. The final ingredients went into the glasses arrayed before me - a long twist of Orange peel paired with a heavy dash of Fernet Branca - a very tasty Italian amaro of great complexity. Now that the ingredients are all sorted out, what came next, you ask? Just this savory, if poorly-photographed, drink - redolent of warm peaches, caramel, spice & a discernable absence of the cold (©):

Comfortable Conflagration
6 oz. 100° Southern Comfort
2½ oz. Genmaicha tea
2½ oz. Peach nectar
2 dashes: Angostura bitters
In each Glass (makes 4):
1 long twist: fresh Orange peel
1 Teaspoon: Fernet Branca
1 Teaspoon: Nectar-Tea mixture, hot
Preparation: Brew Tea, pour into a small saucepan & combine with Nectar and bitters. Warm to a gentle simmer over gentle heat, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, warm four toddy glasses, mugs or whatever you've got on hand by rinsing them with boiling water. Add Orange peel, Fernet & hot Nectar-Tea mixture to prepared glasses. Warm a pair of well-insulated mugs with a rinse of boiling water & get ready for the show (I typically invoke the late J. Thomas for luck).
Execution: Add the hot five-ounce mixture of Tea, Nectar & bitters to one warmed mug. Pour the Southern Comfort on top of this, dim the lights & set aflame with a long match. Taking up your empty mug, carefully pour the flaming liquid from cup to cup approximately six times before extinguishing. Pour hot liquid into prepared glasses and stir briefly. Look cool, enjoy the applause (and the drink).

Cheers & Enjoy!

If you o' gentle reader would like to attempt a Blue Blazer of any ilk, I must stress that both a pair of good insulated mugs and, most importantly, practice are essential. Practice the pour first with cold water, then move up to hot water - being extremely careful when you finally move to the flaming stuff. Setting up a metal tray with a little water, or at least a layer of wet towels, underneath the area you intend to make the drink is a fantastic idea. By-the-by, I take no responsibility for any injuries or property damage sustained attempting this feat...

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