Oh, the holidays. Time for relaxing with family, watching football and eating copious amounts of food. It's also a time for what I simply call


The Best Morning Drinks

Oh, the holidays. Time for relaxing with family, watching football and eating copious amounts of food. It's also a time for what I simply call "daytime drinking." This type of consumption is usually associated with vacation or unemployment, but extended time around family between Christmas and New Year's is also an important time for daytime drinking.

The Queen of morning drinks is the Bloody Mary. And for good reason. A spicy Bloody Mary pairs perfectly with salty breakfast foods. It also has the built-in image of being healthy, thanks to all that vitamin and antioxidant rich tomato juice. The celery stick doesn't hurt either. I forego the pre-made Bloody Mary mix, which is loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, and instead buy some V8 and season with various spices and hot sauces. My bloodies usually include horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, fresh cracked pepper, Sriracha sauce, Tabasco sauce, and a little brine from a jar of peperoncini. Garnish with an olive, peperoncini and a pickled green bean or asparagus spear. I like a Bloody Mary made with the traditional vodka, but use tequila and call it a Bloody Maria, or Akvavit and call it a Bloody Frida. Just adjust your seasonings accordingly. Maybe use some dill or caraway in the Frida and some lime juice in the Maria.

If the Bloody Mary is the Queen of morning drinks, The Ramos Gin Fizz is the King. This frothy concoction of cream, egg whites, gin, and citrus was invented in 1888 by Henry C. Ramos, bartender at Meyer's Restaurant in New Orleans. And because the cocktail requires a lot of shaking to achieve the right texture and consistency, the bar employed "shaker boys" to shake one cocktail after another when the bar was busy. The Ramos Gin Fizz was originally a morning drink, and served as a pick-me-up or eye-opener. It's not the easiest drink to make for a crowd (unless you too have "shaker boys," in which case I want to come over), but the results are truly transformative. I've included a recipe below.

For a rich and creamy drink that is a little less labor-intensive, milk punches are great way to start the day. Shake together 1 ½ ounces of bourbon, 4 ounces of milk, 2 teaspoons of simple syrup, and a couple dashes of good quality vanilla. Pour into a glass filled with ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. You can also make any variation on a simple gin fizz. It's typically made by shaking 1 ½ ounces gin, ½ ounce lemon juice, ¼ ounce simple syrup, straining into a glass filled with ice and topping with soda water. But, if you add an egg white to the shaker, you can call it a silver fizz, an egg yolk makes it a golden fizz, and a whole egg makes it a royal fizz.

For something a little lighter and fruity, Mimosas (or Manmosas as we call them in my house) are probably the most widely accepted brunch drink. They're probably more acceptable because of the use of sparkling wine. Heck, put them in a Champagne flute and they're downright classy. A friend of mine makes Mimosas following a 90:10 ratio, 90% sparkling wine, 10% OJ. I like her version because well, it's boozier for one. But I also think that the OJ can taste a little sour with the addition of bubbly. I like to make pearmosas at home with Looza pear juice and sparkling wine. About a 70:30 ratio works well for this combo.

Sparkling wine is great with every meal and I have no problem drinking it on it's own at brunch. You can add a dash of elderflower syrup (found at IKEA) or Chambord. Or, put a sugar cube in the glass and add a few dashes of Angostura bitters, top with bubbly and you've got what's called the Champagne Cocktail. Even if you just throw in a strawberry or raspberry, you've easily got something festive to serve your guests.

Ramos Gin Fizz

1 ounce club soda

1 ¾ ounces Martin Miller's Westbourne Strength 100-proof gin

1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

¾ ounce simple syrup

5 drops orange blossom water

1 egg white

¾ ounce heavy cream

Fill a Collins glass with large cold ice cubes and add the club soda. Place the glass in the freezer. Combine the gin, juice, syrup, orange blossom water, egg white, and cream in a mixing glass. Add large, cold ice cubes and shake vigorously for at least 2 minutes to make sure that the cocktail has sufficient texture and frothiness. Strain carefully into the prepared Collins glass.

From Speakeasy, copyright © 2010 by Jason Kosnas and Dushan Zaric.Published by Ten Speed Press)

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