What’s for drinks: Rock and Rye Toddy

“Oh, just glamorously foraging for produce. And you?”

You know that moment in “Babette’s Feast” where —

No, of course not. It’s Danish, and subtitled, and about two spinster sisters and their maid/cook. None of my friends has seen “Babette’s Feast” except for me, Sharyn and people I tricked into sitting through it, like my ex,whom I persuaded to watch it by pointing out that Babette’s outfit was designed by Karl Lagerfeld — she’s the most glamorous scullery maid ever!

Of course, the movie is about way more than that, but without giving everything away, suffice it to say that the symbolism of cooking plays an important part in the movie — cooking for others, particularly. It’s one of my favorite movies.

I’ve thought about it several times this week when picking up the ingredients for Christmas dinner / drinks / dessert / day-after breakfast. I’m lucky that all three roommates are home this year, which made me so happy that I decided the best way to celebrate this was to blow out dinner into An Event. Not like a crazy theme dinner or super-snobby presentation, but a big, delicious meal that left everyone happy.

And the more excited I got about it, the more people I invited. I’m up to 11 now, I think, which is officially more people than can fit at our table, so I may either borrow our neighbors’ table, too, or (more likely) make the whole thing a sit-where-you-can experience. Bit by bit, I’m going to share the results here … starting with the drinks, which I started making first. (And sampled tonight.)

The NYT does take a good photo...

We’ll cap off tomorrow night with Rock and Rye Toddies (pictured right), a jar of which is steeping/brewing/infusing as I type this. (I had never had a hot toddy before, so I had my new friend Jane, who’s from the Shetland Isles, sample for feedback, and she declares it well on its way to tomorrow’s delightfulness.)

I’m sort of angry at the New York Times right now, since its recipe specifies Luxardo cherries, then barely deigns to consider Amarena cherries as a substitute. In a happy coincidence, on the previous weekend via Foursquare I had watched my friend Heidi scour the Valley looking for Amarena cherries, so I knew they were available at Andreoli in Scottsdale. She had warned me they were expensive: $17 a jar. Which I could see if you were using the cherries themselves, but my recipe only needed 4 ounces of syrup. (Which is, conveniently enough, almost all of what’s in a jar.) That’s 4 ounces of syrup, in a 1-liter bottle of 101-proof whiskey.

And just in case you’re thinking of it, there’s the disclaimer: “Do not use regular maraschino cherries.” Because the whole thing will be ruined, you think, so you buy them, and you use 4 ounces of syrup, and you taste it, and you think, “Hell, I could have used cherry pie filling, for all I taste it.” Affectations like that — “only imported Italian cherries will do!” — make me stabby. But I had a delicious infused rye once at Steuben’s in Denver, and decided to at least have a shot at re-creating it. Plus, it’s for the holidays! (Now I’ll have plenty of cherries on hand if I decide to try serving Old-Fashioneds, too.)

Also “required”: horehound candy (for which my friend Rebekah pointed me to Cracker Barrel, saying, “My mom loved [it]”), horehound leaves (which I found at Chakra 4 Herb & Tea House), and more readily available ingredients like cinnamon sticks, cloves, and dried orange and lemon peel. I had to buy all of those things — and even the jar to stew everything in — but I am reassuring myself that I’ll make more batches down the road, and when that happens,  I’ll have everything I need at hand.

Including, at least for one more batch, those damn cherries. Because I bought two jars up in Scottsdale, just to be safe.

WHAT SAM WORE: 12-24-10
The sweater: Cotton/cashmere crewneck by Banana Republic,
a hand-me-down from my friend, James.
The jeans: What? They’re winter white! By 7 for all Mankind, from Last Chance..
The shoes: Leather slip-ons by Bacco Bucci, from Last Chance .
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