Halloween's only a few days away and many of you still haven't bought or made your costume, or worst yet, haven't even figured out what you'll be dressing up as. Unfortunately I can't help you in that department. However where I can be of assistance is in figuring out what to serve at your party--or what to pre-party with if you're not throwing a bash of your own. If you're still in search of your Halloween cocktail, then keep reading.
Admittedly, I've never been really good at--nor really fond of--making Halloween-themed cocktails. I've always had difficulty getting past the high kitsch factor. Now I know kitsch isn't always a bad thing, especially when done smartly and with a moderate hand, but perhaps it's been my lack of creativity that's often made it a difficult hurdle. This has been especially true when the creative impulse favors appearance over flavor and quality; when ingredients are chosen not so much for what they contribute to the flavor or aroma of a drink, but for their particular color or other attribute that helps the drink's appearance fit within the event's theme. In the case of Halloween, it becomes critical for the drink's name and/or appearance to reference something ghoulish, frightening, or what have you. So you often wind up with drinks made with crap ingredients like Midori because they'll make the drink green to reference a monster or a witch or Frankenstein or whatever.
That said, it's not always a choice of extremes, and there are always instances when one comes across a cocktail that hits the trifecta of flavor, appearance, and name dead on while staying in character and true to theme at hand. This year, that drink is the Blood and Tears. It's not a creation of mine, but rather a friend of mine and bartender Brian Matthys, a man who wins cocktail competitions left and right without the use of performance enhancing drugs. One look at the ingredient list of this cocktail and you can see why. Below is the recipe, and the ingredients in italics are simply my own additions which I feel add a touch more depth and texture to the drink. Try them both ways to see which better suits your palate.
Blood and Tears
2 oz DonQ Gran Anejo rum
2 oz horchata (recipe below)
1/2 oz honey syrup (mix equal parts honey and hot water)
1/4 oz fresh lime juice
1 egg white (small egg is sufficient)
2 1/2 tbsp diced red bell pepper
2 small diced pieces habanero pepper
pinch of cinnamon
Tools: shaker, strainer, muddler
Glass: chilled cocktail glass
In a cocktail shaker, add the peppers and honey syrup and muddle. Then add the rum, horchata, and optionally, the lime juice and egg white along with ice. Shake vigorously until your fingers are bloody and you're in tears. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, then add a few drops of Peychaud's bitters on top to give it that bloody effect, as well as a small pinch of ground cinnamon. When using egg white, some like to do a dry shake (shaking ingredients without ice) to help it emulsify before adding the ice and shaking again to chill the drink. Also, because of the little pepper pieces in this drink, I like to double strain the drink using a fine strainer like a tea strainer to catch all those little bits.
Horchata (yields 3 quarts)
2 cups white rice
1 cup orgeat (I used Trader Tiki brand, but you can learn to make your own here)
1/3 cup almonds
1/3 cup cinnamon syrup (used Trader Tiki)
1 tsp rosewater
Place the rice in a container along with 4 cups water and cover and allow it to soak for at least 12 hours. In a separate container, place the almonds with 1 cup water and allow that to soak, covered, for same amount of time. Drain the rice and grind it as fine as possible. Drain and peel the almonds, then grind them the same way. Mix the rice with 2 quarts water and pass it through a fine sieve or cheesecloth into a 1 gallon container. Mix the almonds with 1 quart of water and fine strain it like the rice, into the same container. Add the orgeat, cinnamon syrup, and rosewater and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator. Always stir before using as materials will separate and settle.
The Blood and Tears is a rare example of a Halloween-themed cocktail that successfully balances kitsch and quality. And if you go the extra mile of making horchata from scratch, not only will you be rewarded with an extra flavorful cocktail with a bright floral aroma, but you'll have plenty left over for the Dia de los Muertos party.
*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below.