Appetite-boosting presentations

SIPS

December 03, 2003|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

As any good chef can tell you, presentation enhances appetite. That's as true with beverages as with food.

For holiday gatherings, it's good to have some ideas for presenting beverages in ways that take full advantage of the spirits of the season.

Imagine a drink left for Santa - Santa's Surprise. It's pretty simple, just 2 ounces of coffee liqueur and 2 ounces of peppermint schnapps. And it sounds like a perfect nightcap for Christmas Eve. Now picture it served in a tumbler with a rim covered with chocolate, and it rises from good to potentially memorable.

Likewise, a pale crimson Kir Royale takes on added sophistication when it's served in a glass rimmed with pure white superfine sugar. We're accustomed to serving margaritas in a salt-rimmed glass, but all too often we don't think of dressing up other drinks in a similar fashion. A new book, Holiday Cocktails by Jessica Strand with photographs by Laurie Frankel (Chronicle Books, 2003, $15.95), shows what we're missing.

Strand features garnishes that can add to holiday spirits and gives good instructions for preparing them. That chocolate rim takes a bit of work, but it's worth it. Or try a cranberry wreath: 15 to 20 dried cranberries strung on a 5 1/2 -inch piece of pliable wire. Bend the wire without joining the ends, making a circular wreath to hook onto the side of a glass. (You might even want to tie a small ribbon on one end of the wire, letting that side hang outside the glass.)

For something simpler but equally elegant, try decorating rims with sugar, cocoa or cinnamon. First, pour a shallow layer of your chosen garnish on a small plate slightly wider than the edge of the rim of the glass.

Wet the rim with a slice of orange, lemon or lime, or just dampen it with a paper towel before dipping the rim in the garnish. Lift the glass and tap lightly to remove excess before placing the glass upright.

Sugared apple slices are another option. Quarter and core a tart green apple, such as a pippin or Granny Smith. Cut the quarters into very thin slices, about 1/16th of an inch thick. Place superfine sugar on a small plate, coat both sides of the apple slices and shake gently to remove excess sugar. These garnishes should be used immediately.

Holiday Cocktails has other good ideas as well - and no doubt so do you. With a little imagination, concocting your own holiday cocktails - and designing their presentation - can be as much fun as decorating your own cookies.

Santa's Surprise

Makes 1 drink

2 ounces coffee liqueur

2 ounces peppermint schnapps

Chill a glass of your choice and prepare with a chocolate rim. Pour coffee liqueur and peppermint schnapps over a handful of ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until cold. Then strain into a prepared glass.

Chocolate Rim

Makes 8 to 10 chocolate rims

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped finely or chips

3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon butter

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate over just-simmering water, stirring until smooth. Add the cream and butter and stir until smooth. Remove top pan and let chocolate sit for 2 to 3 minutes.

Quickly dip the rim of a glass in the chocolate, remove and let excess drop off. Turn over the prepared glass and place immediately in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.

Kir Royale

Makes 1 drink

1/2 ounce creme de cassis

1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice (optional)

sugar rim for garnish

5 ounces champagne

Pour the creme de cassis and lime juice (if using) into a sugared champagne flute. Add champagne. Stir.

Apple Snowflake Martini

Makes 1 drink

1 ounce vodka

1 ounce sour apple schnapps

1 ounce apple juice

sugared apple slice, for garnish

Pour vodka, sour apple schnapps and apple juice over a handful of ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until very cold, then strain into a chilled, tall glass. Place apple slice in glass for garnish. You can also serve this in a martini glass and place the apple slice on top.

- All recipes from "Holiday Cocktails" by Jessica Strand (Chronicle Books, 2003, $15.95)

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