Midlife Mixers

Suffering from Chardonnay fatigue? Cocktail guru Emma Roberts buzzes up the party with a dozen trendy new concoctions to get you out of your white wine rut.
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Emma Roberts, cocktail designer extraordinaire, created a dozen holiday recipes especially for MORE. Roberts is the founder of award-winning Capers Catering, outside Boston, and owns the restaurant at the historic Wenham Tea House, in Wenham, Massachusetts, the oldest continuously running teahouse in the country. In 2006 she published the cookbook Sassy Sips & Nibbles.

"As we get older, we get fussy," Roberts says. "We have strong opinions. We want our own way. These cocktails speak to that: You can put your personal stamp on the ingredients so your drink reflects a lot of personal choices."

Something on the Side

Roberts says: "Guys really enjoy this updated classic sidecar. It’s perfect for a friendly card game by the fire."

Makes 1 cocktail

1 1/2 ounces Cognac (preferably Hennessy) 1/2 ounce Cointreau or other orange liqueur 2 ounces sour mix 1 ounce vanilla tangerine mix, chilled (recipe follows) In a lowball glass filled with ice, combine all ingredients. Stir well. Garnish with an orange twist.

Vanilla Tangerine Mix 5 tangerines, peeled, chopped, and seeded 2 cups sugar 3 cups water 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

Combine tangerines, sugar, and water in a 3-quart saucepan. Cook over high heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vanilla beans, scraping to release seeds. Reduce heat to medium. Stirring occasionally, simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until mix is reduced to 2 cups. Cool. Remove vanilla. Puree mix in blender. Pour into a bottle; chill. Makes 16 cocktails.

Hot Flash Sparkler

Roberts says: "This is a healthy, heart-smart cocktail because of the pomegranate and ginger. It’s like sangria, and just as potent, but perfect for brunch."

Makes 4 cocktails

1 cup pomegranate juice 1 tablespoon sugar 1 small piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut to yield one 1/4-inch-thick slice 4 tablespoons fresh orange juice 1 teaspoon Cointreau or other orange liqueur 1 bottle (750 milliliters) brut Champagne, well chilled

Combine pomegranate juice, sugar, and ginger in a saucepan; bring to a boil, and cook, stirring, until mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Pour 4 teaspoons pomegranate syrup, 1 tablespoon orange juice and 1/4 teaspoon Cointreau into each of four 6-ounce Champagne flutes. Add 2/3 cup Champagne to each flute. Garnish with 3 to 5 pomegranate seeds each.

Flying Fearlessly

Roberts says: "Serve this fresh-tasting sparkler at brunch or at an afternoon open house. It’s not that strong, and you can make most of it ahead of time, adding the bubbles at the last minute. The fizz will last for about 20 minutes."

Cranberry cocktails are lovely when garnished with white or red cranberry swizzles. To make them, skewer 4 or 5 berries on a toothpick. Place in freezer until ready to use.

Makes 6 cocktails

4 kumquats, thinly sliced 1/3 cup Grand Marnier 1/4 cup superfine sugar 1/2 cup cranberry juice 1 bottle (750 milliliters) chilled sparkling white wine 6 frozen cranberry swizzles

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 sliced kumquats, Grand Marnier, sugar, and juice. Mash ingredients with the back of a spoon and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine sieve over a measuring cup or bowl, pressing on the solids to extract all juice. In a pitcher, combine liquid kumquat mixture and sparkling wine. Pour into Champagne flutes, and garnish each flute with a frozen cranberry swizzle and a slice of the remaining kumquats.

Grapeade for Grown-Ups

Roberts says: "This kind of grape-flavored martini is very popular with women. And the garnish of frozen grapes is fun."

For the swizzles, thread green grapes on a short bamboo skewer or long wooden pick; freeze until ready to use.

Makes 1 cocktail

1 1/2 ounces grape vodka (preferably Ciroc) 3/4 ounce triple sec 1 ounce fresh lime juice 1 ounce simple syrup Grape rimming sugar (available at barsupply.com)

In a shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients. Shake vigorously until well chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with sugar. Garnish with green-grape swizzle.

Simple Syrup 1 cup sugar 1 cup water

In a heavy saucepan, bring sugar and water to a very low boil. When sugar dissolves, immediately remove pan from heat. Let cool. Store syrup in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready for use. Makes 12 cocktails.

The Keeper Husband

Roberts says: "This pumpkin spice cocktail is a favorite with men, probably because it’s not sweet. You often find rum in summer poolside drinks like mojitos and mai tais, but this one is good for cooler weather. Vanilla gives it added body. And thanks to the cream, the drink is not that heady."

Makes 2 cocktails

5 ounces spiced rum (preferably Captain Morgan) 2 ounces light cream 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 4 tablespoons pumpkin spice rimming sugar (recipe follows) Pumpkin pie spice 2 cinnamon sticks

Combine rum, cream, and vanilla extract in a shaker. Shake for about 1 minute. Pour into glasses rimmed with pumpkin-spice sugar, and sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice in each drink. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Pumpkin Spice Rimming Sugar Mix 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice and 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl.

Peppermint Patty Ages Up

"This drink looks festive when garnished with a chocolate mint or candy cane; it’s my favorite in terms of looks. Set out six of these on a silver tray to welcome guests as they arrive. They’ll love it, except for those who just don’t like peppermint liqueur."

Makes 2 cocktails

2 ounces Absolut Peppar vodka 1 1/2 ounces Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur or other white chocolate liqueur 1 ounce peppermint schnapps Peppermint dust (recipe follows) 1 ounce white creme de menthe 2 small peppermint patties

Pour the vodka, white chocolate liqueur, and peppermint schnapps into a shaker that is full of ice. Shake until very well chilled, about 1 minute. Rim 2 martini glasses with peppermint dust. Strain cocktail into the glasses. Add 1/2 ounce of creme de menthe to each glass, and garnish with a peppermint patty.

Peppermint DustRemove the cellophane wrappers from 1 dozen peppermint candies. Place candies in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag. With a meat tenderizer or soup can, carefully smash the candies into a dust. Use a rolling pin over any small pieces of candy that were not crushed.

40-Year-Old Virgin (Wenham Tea House Punch)

Roberts says: "This is my restaurant’s signature punch. Old-fashioned nonalcoholic punches seem to be making a comeback, but unlike some of the traditional recipes, this one isn’t too sweet and has just enough complexity so guests can savor it slowly."

Serves 8

8 cups water 1 cup sugar 6 bags orange pekoe tea 1 cinnamon stick 1 cup apple cider 1 cup fresh orange juice 1/2 cup cranberry juice Candied orange peel (recipe follows)

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Turn off the heat, and add tea bags and cinnamon stick. Let steep for 8 minutes. Remove tea bags. Add juices. Can be made in advance, refrigerated, and rewarmed. Serve warm or chilled. Garnish with candied orange peel.

Candied Orange Peel 2 oranges 1 cup water 2 cups sugar

Cut a section of peel, 1/2 inch wide and 2 inches long, avoiding the white pith. Use a paring knife, not a citrus peeler, so you can cut a wider band of peel. Continue cutting until each orange is completely peeled. Bring water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Add peels and simmer for 10 minutes; strain. Place remaining cup of sugar in an airtight container and add strained orange peels. Toss sugar and peels together and store at room temperature until ready to use. The candied peels will keep for a few days if you are making them in advance.

Empty Nest Blues

Makes 1 cocktail

1 1/2 ounces blueberry vodka (preferably Stolichnaya) 3/4 ounce triple sec 1/4 ounce blue Curacao 1 ounce fresh lime juice 1 ounce simple syrup Blueberry rimming sugar (available at cocktailcandy.com)

In a shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients. Shake vigorously until very well chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with blueberry sugar.

Simple Syrup 1 cup sugar 1 cup water

In a heavy saucepan, bring sugar and water to a very low boil. When sugar dissolves, immediately remove pan from heat. Let cool. Store syrup in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready for use. Makes 12 cocktails.

Over-40 Babe

Makes 2 cocktails

2 ounces premium vodka (preferably Grey Goose) 1 ounce Godiva Liqueur or other chocolate liqueur 1 ounce cranberry juice 1 teaspoon cranberry sauce 1 ounce chilled sparkling white wine

Add all ingredients except the wine to a shaker half full of ice. Let stand 1 minute, then shake for 1 full minute. Strain into 2 chilled martini glasses. Top each glass with 1/2 ounce wine.

Apples Behaving Badly

Makes 1 cocktail

2 ounces premium apple vodka (preferably Citadel) 1 ounce DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker schnapps 1 ounce sour mix 1 lady apple, sliced crosswise so seeds are in shape of a star

In a shaker filled with ice, combine vodka, schnapps and sour mix. Shake vigorously until very well chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an apple slice.

Post-Divorce Fling

Makes 1 cocktail

1 1/2 ounces premium vodka (preferably Grey Goose) 1 1/2 ounces premium lemon vodka (preferably Grey Goose Lemon) 1 1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice 1 1/2 ounces ginger simple syrup (recipe follows) Ginger-infused rimming sugar (recipe follows)

In a shaker filled with ice, combine vodkas, lemon juice, and ginger simple syrup. Shake vigorously until very well chilled. Strain into a chilled glass edged with ginger-infused rimming sugar.

Ginger Simple Syrup 1 cup sugar 1 cup water 1/2 cup peeled, thinly sliced fresh ginger (1 large piece)

In a heavy saucepan, bring sugar and water to a very low boil. Immediately remove from heat. When sugar has dissolved, add ginger. Let cool. Remove ginger. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator. Makes 10 cocktails.

Ginger-Infused Rimming Sugar 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup candied ginger

In a food processor, combine ingredients; pulse until candied ginger is very finely chopped. Store in an airtight container.

Fahrenheit 104

Makes 2 cocktails

1/2 teaspoon almond extract 1 to 2 teaspoons brown sugar 1 ounce brandy 3 ounces premium vodka (preferably Grey Goose)

Combine almond extract, brown sugar, and brandy in a shaker, and let stand 2 minutes. Stir the brandy mixture until the sugar dissolves. Add ice until the shaker is half full. Pour in the vodka. Shake for 1 full minute. Strain into chilled martini glasses or brandy snifters. Can be served at room temperature (omit the ice).

Originally published in MORE magazine, November 2008.

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