Tag Archives: holiday entertaining

Pete’s Chocolate S’More Brulee

Pete's Chocolate S'More Brulee
Serves 4
The recipe I’ll share with you is a pretty elegant one and not too complicated.
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Chocolate Crème Brulee Mixture
  1. 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  2. ½ cup Milk
  3. 1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
  4. 3 Extra-Large Egg Yolks
  5. ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
  6. 1/3 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Graham Cracker Bottom Crust
  1. ¾ cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
  2. 3 Tbsp. Melted Butter
Topping
  1. 2 cups Mini Marshmallows
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, bring cream, milk, sugar and vanilla to a scald, and then remove from the heat.
  2. Add chocolate chips and melt in while stirring.
  3. In a separate small bowl, beat egg yolks until smooth.
  4. Drizzle hot chocolate mixture into egg yolks while whisking. Set aside this mixture.
  5. You’ll need four (4 to 6 ounce) brulee dishes or similar ramekins to bake your brulees in.
  6. Stir together the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter to combine. Then divide evenly between each of the four brulee ramekins and tamp down to create a bottom crust for each dish.
  7. Place each of the ramekins in a baking dish and place a small amount of water in the pan to create a shallow water bath around the ramekins.
  8. Carefully fill each ramekin with the chocolate brulee filling and bake in a 275 F oven approximately 45 minutes or until just firm. The batter should appear to set like Jello®.
  9. When fully cooked, remove the baking pan from the oven, carefully remove the ramekins to a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator 2 to 3 hours to fully chill and set.
To Finish
  1. Remove chilled ramekins from the refrigerator and pat the surface of each to remove any water condensate that may have occurred.
  2. Coat the surface of each ramekin with a layer of mini marshmallows one marshmallow deep, with areas here and there of two deep to give the surface some uneven texture.
  3. Set your oven rack at the highest shelf and turn on your broiler. When hot, place the ramekins under the broiler until the marshmallows are medium- to golden-brown, being careful not to burn them.
  4. Place ramekins on a separate service plate and enjoy!
Optional Additions
  1. Float Bailey’s Irish Crème, Godiva Chocolate Liqueur or Meyer’s Rum over surface of the brulees before adding and browning the marshmallows.
  2. Sprinkle the finished brulees with toasted almonds or toasted coconut.
Nino Salvaggio https://www.ninosalvaggio.com/

Nigella’s Clementine Christmas Cake

Nigella's Clementine Christmas Cake
In September of 2007, Nigella Lawson, internationally renowned food celebrity and cookbook author, visited Nino Salvaggio’s in preparation for a television appearance promoting her new book, “Nigella Express”. Nigella’s delicious recipe for her Christmas Cake is another one of many reasons to celebrate the holiday season “with taste”! The mandarin orange originated in the Far East and has been around since 2000 B.C. Clementines are the tiniest of the mandarins. Grown domestically but also imported from Spain; Morocco and other parts of North Africa. Clementines are a cross between a sweet orange and a Chinese mandarin. They are small, very sweet and usually seedless. Most people think of Clementines as small tangerines, but they’re a different variety entirely with a distinctive taste. The Clementine is an excellent eating orange with a soft peel perfect for peeling out of hand.
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Ingredients
  1. 4-5 Clementines, unpeeled (about 1 lb.)
  2. 6 Extra Large Eggs
  3. 1 cup + 2 Tbsp. Granulated Sugar
  4. 2 1/3 cups Almonds, finely ground
  5. 1 heaping tsp. Baking Powder
Instructions
  1. Put the unpeeled clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to boil, and cook for 2 hours.
  2. Drain and when cool, cut each Clementine in half and remove any seeds.
  3. Then chop everything finely – skins, pits, fruit – in the food processor (or by hand, of course).
  4. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  5. Butter and line an 8-inch spring form pan with waxed paper or parchment.
  6. Beat the eggs.
  7. Add the sugar, almonds, and baking powder.
  8. Mix well, adding the chopped clementines. I don’t like using the processor for this and frankly, you can’t balk at a little light stirring.
  9. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for an hour, when a skewer will come out clean; you’ll probably have to cover the cake with foil after about 40 minutes to stop the top burning.
  10. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, on a rack, but in the pan. When the cake’s cold, you can take it out of the pan. I think this is better a day after it’s made, but I don’t complain about eating it anytime.
  11. When the cake’s cold, you can take it out of the pan and enjoy this delicious Holiday treat.
Notes
  1. Yield 1 - 8" Cake
Nino Salvaggio https://www.ninosalvaggio.com/

Make Holiday Dinners a Snap

Mark Twain was once quoted as saying, “There’s nothing as annoying as a good example.” And when it comes to preparing for large dinner parties or even a good-sized family meal, watching a chef prepare a multi-course dinner for a large group (solo) must be pretty annoying for someone who would give anything to prepare just ONE Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner without stress, aggravation, or failure.

I bring this up because the week before Thanksgiving I entertained about 30 guests in my home for a dinner reception, and I did it all on my own, with relative ease.

It amazed people that one person could create that much delicious food so quickly and still have time to enjoy himself.

I hope I didn’t annoy anyone. I was just doin’ my thing.

The buffet menu consisted of a salad, four entrees, a vegetable, starch, breads and two different desserts–one a Pumpkin Baked Alaska, which I finished as many looked on.

Now admittedly, I have a nice kitchen and that helps, but honestly, I really only used one of my ovens and three burners to finish the dishes I chose to flash sear and re-heat at the last moment.

SO? How did I do it? Well, I’ll tell you.

www.ninosalvaggio.com

Probably the most important first step is to create a menu that allows you to prepare a great deal of the items in advance. In some cases, you’ll want to prepare items as many as two days in advance. This will spread out your work load so that you’re not stressed just before the party trying desperately to finish many items at the last minute.

The second most important thing is to choose menu items that don’t rely on just one cooking device (a burner top, oven, or just a microwave, for example). Create a menu that utilizes as many of your appliances as possible, so you’re not unintentionally creating a food traffic jam of dishes waiting to go in and out of your oven. Your Char-Griller or even a Crock-Pot can be dedicated to one menu item.

For example, one of my entrees was Char-Grilled Mongolian Pork Tenderloin. In this case, I made the Mongolian Marinade a week ahead and froze it. Then two days before the party, I thawed the marinade and marinated my tenderloins overnight in it. The evening before the party, I char-grilled the exterior, leaving the meat rare, and placed the tenderloins on a sheet pan to finish at 400 F just before the party. Done. All I had to do was pop them in the oven, baste them with more marinade and then slice them–easy peasy. And if my oven had been a bit taxed, I could just as easily have finished them on the Char-Griller.

I did something similar with my Chicken Enchilada Egg Rolls. I made those a day ahead of time too. Then, I fried them in oil until light brown in color and placed them on a sheet pan. All I had to do was uncover them and finish browning them in my oven just before my guests arrived. It was all scratch-made food, but it was made to be convenient for me, by me.

I prepared my salmon likewise, choosing 2” x 2” pieces of salmon fillets, which I placed on a silicon baking mat, brushed with butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then topped with a spinach and artichoke mixture. Once again, it was a dish ready to place into the oven, under the broiler. And it only took minutes to finish.

My salad was pre-cut, washed and all prepped, covered tightly with plastic film and just waiting to be tossed with a kit of garnishments also nested right there. I didn’t have to search the cooler for a thing.
My starch dish was a Wild Rice Pilaf, which I prepared in its entirety the day before and placed in two Pyrex casserole dishes. When the time came, they just went into the microwave oven for 6 minutes each, and I had a perfect rice pilaf once again. No fuss, no muss.

I chose to use my just-before-service time to sauté my colorful medley of fresh vegetables (because you just CAN’T do that ahead of time and do them justice) and to sear my Jumbo Scallops and Shrimp, which (again) I served with a Lobster Sauce I made two days earlier.

Including slicing my Pork Tenderloin, the amount of time I spent to finish preparing all my dishes, plate them and get them to the buffet table in my dining room was about 15 minutes. Of course, I have to admit that a few of my friends, volunteered to run some food to the buffet. I had planned for that by placing tent menu cards, with the name of each dish and what was in it, in front of each of my small chafing dishes and table displays. In addition, I placed the service wares (tongs and spoons) needed for each dish at each station, just to save a little more time.

It was fun, and I had time to enjoy my own party.

What would I do differently next time?

Admittedly, even I learn something each time I do these high-wire acts. And the one BIG thing I’ll be sure to do next time is this:

I love to keep my kitchen clean and organized, even when I’m hosting these big events. Unfortunately, I generate so many dirty pots, pans, tongs, spoons, spatulas, and bowls in such a short amount of time that, well, my sink and adjacent counters are just mounded with debris. And everyone feels bad that I’ll have so much cleanup work afterwards.

Next time, I’m going to drag in my two large picnic coolers and just quickly rinse and toss every dirty pot, pan, and utensil into the coolers just before I finish my last-minute cooking and plating. Then, I’ll drag them out to the garage.

The kitchen will be clean, and my guests will be spared the hum of my dishwasher all evening.

Tomorrow? Well, that’s another story…

Shrimp Appetizers for the Holidays

Probably because holidays are such festive times–times of indulgences and celebrations, we throw caution to the wind and splurge for a month or two.

Parties, presents, shrimp.

Yep, it seems that shrimp and holidays are a perfect fit, and you don’t have to take my word for it. This time of the year, you’ll find shrimp well stocked in every grocery store and featured prominently on most menus.
From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, shrimp sells.

And for good reason, most everybody loves it, it’s enjoyed cold and hot, it’s relatively easy to prepare, and, well, it’s just darn good eatin’.

Probably the most popular recipe for shrimp (though it’s a stretch to even call it a recipe) is shrimp cocktail. This is kind of a shame because then it’s all about the cocktail sauce and pretty much NOTHING about the shrimp. In fact, if you buy or make a killer cocktail sauce, the shrimp is then about as important as a premium vodka in a spicy bloody mary.

Don’t get me wrong, I do grab a shrimp or two from a shrimp cocktail platter. But really, in my chef heart of hearts, I’m SO wishing shrimp would get a little more love.

So I have some ideas for you.

Before I pass them on, it might be worth your while to know a bit more about shrimp and how to cook them properly to maximize your enjoyment. I don’t have to tell you that shrimp aren’t cheap, so you’ll want to be sure to treat em’ right.

Click here to read more about shrimp. You learn how to know what you’re buying, buying the right shrimp for each dish and the best cooking techniques. I’ve even included a couple of my favorite recipes. My shrimp guide Who You Callin’ a Shrimp? is a great tutorial.

I enjoy shrimp prepared in so many ways that it’s hard to pick my favorite recipe, but one thing I try and remember is that it’s all about the shrimp.

Here are a few additional ideas you may wish to consider this holiday season:

Shrimp en Filo. Peel and devein jumbo shrimp, leaving the tail on. Marinate for 2 hours seasoned with a squeeze of fresh lemon, minced fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Lay out 2 sheets of filo on top of one another and brushed with melted butter in between. Then cut into strips about 3” wide and a foot long. Place the meat part of the shrimp at the bottom edge of each strip (leaving the tail exposed). Roll up into a stick-like package and then lightly butter each one again to coat. Bake in a 400 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Enjoy with béarnaise sauce, marinara sauce or any sauce you enjoy with shrimp.

How do you make béarnaise sauce? Check out one of my recent blog posts.

When I prepare shrimp to be enjoyed cold, I sometimes season them with Nino’s Cajun seasoning or curry powder or lemon pepper or even our Moroccan seasoning. Then I either sear or grill them. From there, all you really have to do is chill them and enjoy them to the fullest in the juices that develop as they cool.

However you choose to prepare YOUR shrimp this holiday season, you can be sure that Nino’s has a plentiful supply of both cooked and raw shrimp in many sizes for you to enjoy.

They’re darn good eatin’!

Holidays Call for Great Crackers

Holidays bring people together. And when people get together, they inevitably eat.

They don’t necessarily eat dinner or substantial amounts of food mind you. Rather, they eat snacks and other light bites that go just right with conversation, your favorite beverages and good times.

But while you’re enjoying these moments of good tidings and merriment, you might want to pause and give kudos to the unsung, and quite often underappreciated, workhorses of the holiday buffet. They work double duty as both plate and snack–the edible vehicles that get your delicious morsels of cheese, meats and dips from Point A, the plate, to Point B, your mouth.

The Cracker

Everybody knows what a cracker is, but few know its ancestors can be traced all the way back to ancient times before bread was unleavened. Remnants of those crackers still exist today in the form of Matzo, Lavash and the Indian Papadum.

Today’s cracker is said to have its origin in the late 1700s in Massachusetts, when Theodore Pearson created unleavened dough from just flour and water and made a thin biscuit resembling a modern cracker. These biscuits turned out to have a tremendous shelf life, so sailors, in particular, enjoyed them during long trips.

Pearson’s Pilot Bread was the first cracker bakery in the United States and continued to make crackers (and chowder crackers–after all, it was in Massachusetts) until as recently as 2008.

But the name “crackers” supposedly came from another in-state baker, Josiah Bent, who while baking his own thin biscuits burnt a batch. While they burned, he heard them make a cracking sound, which inspired the name “crackers.”

Josiah also perfected the cracker by adding soda and seasoning them slightly more–with salt, creating what we now call soda crackers.

He later sold his business to the National Biscuit Company, which you know as NA. – BIS. – CO or Nabisco.

Why all the holes?

Actually, these holes (called docking by bakers) are necessary to prevent air pockets and blisters from forming across the surface of the crackers. No docking, no flat crackers.

The first name-brand saltine cracker was released by Nabisco in 1876, but they really took off in popularity during the depression, when these inexpensive bites of food were used as a filler in foods like meatloaf and soup.

I have my own cracker favorites, including the Nabisco Saltine, but there are others much better suited for enjoying with your favorite meats and cheeses during the holidays. Here’s my short list, and they’re all available at Nino’s (of course!)

  • Breton Originals (the cracker we use for most dip sampling at Nino’s)
  • Medford Farms (Savory Garlic & Herb)
  • Back to Nature (Organic, Stone-Ground Wheat)
  • Milton’s (Everything Multi-Grain)
  • Kashi (Fire-Roasted Veggie)
  • Brown Rice Triscuit (w/ Sweet Potato & Sweet Onion)
  • Dare (All-Natural Water Crackers w/ Sesame)

Reeling? Feeling ambitious? Want to try making your own crackers? It’s really not that difficult. Although, I’ll warn you–it’s a two-day process. But what a conversation starter! No one makes his or her own crackers anymore.

This recipe is based on one from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Bread. This recipe makes enough crackers to fill two half-sheet (13 x 18-inch) pans.

1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp Instant Yeast
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
2/3 cup Warm Water (120°F to 130°F)
1/2 tsp Malt Extract or 1 tsp Sugar
2 TBSP Vegetable Shortening (Crisco)
2 TBSP Butter, Melted

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup flour, yeast, salt, baking soda and cream of tartar. Stir in hot water, malt extract (or sugar) and shortening. Mix well to combine.
  2. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour to form a workable dough. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead till soft and elastic–about 5 minutes by hand, 3 to 4 minutes in an electric mixer equipped with dough hook, or 30 seconds in a food processor. Form dough into ball and place in a large, clean, well-greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 18 hours (the longer, the better).
  3. Punch dough down and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a large rectangle about 1/16-inch thick. If dough seems too elastic and fights being rolled thin, let it rest for 5 minutes, and then start again. It should be easier going after the gluten has relaxed.
  4. Fold the dough in from the short ends to make three layers (like folding a letter). Roll out again, no more than 1/16-inch thick. Make sure the surface under the dough is well floured. Otherwise, the crackers will be hard to transfer to the baking sheet.
  5. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Cut into squares, circles, or whatever shape you’d like. A rolling pizza cutter and yardstick makes short work of this part. Transfer the crackers to lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Don’t allow them to touch one another, but you don’t have to leave much room between one cracker and the next either. Sprinkle crackers lightly with salt and seeds (sesame, poppy, caraway) if desired. Press salt/seeds lightly into dough with your fingers.
  6. Bake crackers in a preheated 425°F oven for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the crackers. Crackers will be lightly browned. Remove crackers from the oven and brush with melted butter. Remove from baking sheet and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy a Gluten-Free Holiday

If you’ve recently been placed on a gluten-free diet, the holidays are a particularly challenging time, especially for those who enjoy holiday parties and dining out with friends and family. While you probably never used to give it much thought, it now seems like wheat and other gluten-enriched ingredients are in just about everything that looks tempting. To make matters worse, sometimes you can’t trust that gluten isn’t lurking in some dish you’d never have suspected it in.

There are plenty of ways to get around the gluten dilemma at home, where you have more control. But because wheat (and gluten) is such an integral part of most recipes served at parties and prepared in restaurants, steering clear of gluten on the road occasionally takes some skilled navigation.

When it comes to choosing safe dishes, here are some pointers.

Dine Where People Know the Food

When eating out, the better independent restaurants, with more sophisticated dinners and knowledgeable servers, know much more about what’s in the foods they serve than do the chains. The food is made on site, and they darn well know how it’s processed and made. If they aren’t sure, they can go right to the source and find out. Even better, they can ask the chef to modify the preparation for you.

Safe Preparations

It’s almost certain that anything listed as roasted or char-grilled on a menu will not be floured. Therefore, there’s no gluten, and it’s safe. Typically, the only additional ingredients are oil and seasonings. Steaming and broiling are likewise all good.

On the other hand, sautéed items are often floured or breaded, and stir-fried foods (being closely associated with Asian-inspired foods) can have soy sauce as an ingredient. Soy sauce usually has a wheat/gluten component, so I’d be sure to ask whether or not there is any soy sauce in the preparation.

Braised items are iffy if they have thickened the sauce with a wheat-based starch. But if they’ve used arrowroot or cornstarch, or if it’s a pure, natural reduction (lucky you), you’re golden.

Speaking of Sauces

Most thickened sauces use starch as a thickener, and sorry to say, most of the time that’s wheat flour in some form or another. If a restaurant doesn’t make its own stocks or broths, it’s quite possible that its commercial bases have gluten in them as well.

Steak sauces are not generally gluten-free, and that goes for (sorry) zip sauces, with the secret component of soy sauce. My recommendation is a pat of butter to meld into the steak’s own juices. That and some freshly milled black pepper and sea salt, and you’re all set.

Desserts

Well, here’s where you might think you could get yourself into a lot of trouble, but at least in this category, the gluten isn’t lurking behind some ingredient you’d never suspect.

It’s in the flour.

Now you might think that eliminating flour from a restaurant pastry chef’s repertoire is like tying one whisk behind his or her back, but that’s really not the case.

In fact, just about any dessert on a menu can be made with or without gluten, and many of them are NEVER made with flour in the 1st place, including the Holy Grail of desserts, crème brulee, which is basically cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla.

Gluten-Freee Dessert

Other delicious dessert offerings, such as fresh berries/fruits, sorbets, many ice creams, puddings (including rice pudding), mousses made from chocolate, cream and eggs, wine-poached pears, and straight-up chocolate are generally on the safe list as well as what many restaurants call flourless cakes, which are basically eggs, sugar, chocolate and nut flours.

While I’m fortunate not to need to restrict my own diet, I’d certainly be happy to enjoy an appetizer of Seared Scallops in Garlic Butter, a meal of Oven-Roasted Free Range Chicken with Sautéed Vegetables and Rice Pilaf, and a dessert of Crème Brulee with an Assortment of Fresh Berries.

For more information about gluten Intolerance, celiac disease, and a list of some of Nino’s growing inventory of gluten-free products, Click Here.

Holiday Parties Made Easy

The holidays are upon us, and so are parties with family, friends and coworkers.

And with so many things to do this time of the year, ranging from work, family responsibilities, and shopping to wrapping presents, baking and enjoying the company of loved ones, it’s a wonder we manage to get it all in.

It’s especially challenging when you’re planning a party of your own! Because planning a holiday party can get a little complicated and even a little stressful at times, especially if you have never planned one before and you’re not sure where to start.

So where do I begin?

The old phrase “the best place to start is at the beginning” is entirely appropriate here. Successful holiday parties START at Nino’s!

Great Parties Start at Nino's!

Our full line of foods, beverages and catering services, including our knowledgeable Party Planning staff, is here to help you every step of the way.

From deliciously prepared gourmet food and bakery goods to floral accessories, beverages and even rentals, we’re ready to answer your questions and help you with your holiday party planning.

Whatever you’re planning, whatever your budget, a simple call or visit to our Party Planning team (Annette–Troy, Shelly & Kelly–Clinton Township, and Chef Jimmy–St. Clair Shores) will yield ideas, suggestions and assistance for everything from menu planning to desserts, drinks, and flowers. We’ll even help you decide the quantities needed of each. And we deliver!

You’re also welcome to browse through Nino’s Party Planning Guide, which is online and on display in each of our stores. Or if you’d like a Party Planning Guide mailed to your home, click here. Look through the pages to view the huge selection of trays and platters, menu packages, a la carte foods and everything else you’ll need for the perfect party.

Take a minute to read a few reviews from our satisfied party planning customers.

Great Parties Start at Nino's!

As you consider your upcoming party, let me share with you a few important things to think about to help us help you plan your gathering. I call them the 5 Ws:

WHAT What kind of holiday party or event is it? The answer will help us help you with hors d’oeuvre suggestions, appetizers, buffet items or even a beverage suggestion or two. Do you have a budget? Is it a stand-up reception or a sit-down dinner?

WHO A guest list can help determine what kind of food you’ll want to offer. Knowing your guests’ likes and dislikes and any of their food allergies can be enormously helpful when planning your menu.

WHEN Both the day of the week and the time and length of the party are helpful in estimating the amount of food and beverages you should consider.

WHERE Where is quite often home, and home is one place you know something about. When considering where, think through the availability of space, how your food will be displayed, your kitchen capabilities and any restrictions these spaces may have. These details will also help in determining any rentals you may need.

WOW The wow factor is all in the details and in the planning that helps us help you make your party special and memorable.

In addition, here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction:

Tip # 1 Bland is boring. No one is likely to remember bland food. Don’t be afraid to use bold flavors and spices. Let your food make a statement! Nino’s can help!

Tip # 2 Pre-prepare as many dishes as you can, and have things on pans, ready to pop into the oven when guests arrive. They can cook while you entertain! Don’t be afraid to use the microwave oven to re-heat sauces or side dishes you’ve freshly prepared earlier in the day or even the day before.

Tip # 3 Go vertical. Flat table displays are a bore. Create visual interest in your buffet composition by elevating platters and chafing dishes to varying heights. Also, use what you have to create interesting table decorations. Things like tree branches, colorful leaves and backyard flowers can really add interest to your display of foods.

Nino’s Party Planning “Concierge” Team

Annette (Troy) 248-879-9222 ext 124
Shelly & Kelly (Clinton Township) 586-412-6000
Chef Jimmy (St. Clair Shores) 586-778-3650

Time for Dessert!

The Champagne flutes are filled for when the guests arrive and the Barolo is decanting for dinner, but what about dessert? Sure, you’ll throw on some coffee to perk up guests after they’ve been spoiled with your best attempt at a Martha Stewart Christmas, but isn’t it even more romantic to retire to the living room, sit in front of the fire, and sip on cordials? I think we can all imagine this Norman Rockwell scene, with a Brittany Spaniel at the hearth–sleepy kitty curled up to his side, but what is the sweet libation the crowd imbibes in the painting in our minds?

What exactly is a cordial?

To be honest, “cordial” is a fancy way to say liqueur. It’s a spirit that’s generally low in alcohol, quite sweet, and infused with nuts, berries, seeds, herbs, or cream. Cordials came about as an alcoholic medicine that was used to invigorate and revitalize the heart, body, and spirit, and they worked so well that people who weren’t sick started to drink them for recreation. On a side note, in other parts of the world, cordials are nonalcoholic syrups combined with seltzer water, much like a soda pop.

Cordials fly off the shelves at the holidays, whether they are mixed into cocktails, stirred into cakes, or consumed on their own. Here are our picks for this year’s must-have nightcaps!

Rumchata

First off, if you go to the Rumchata website, you will be wowed by the plethora of mouthwatering recipes there. The one all of our customers are talking about is the Toasted Cinnamon Grahams. Rumchata is a blend of Caribbean rum and the traditional Latin American drink Horchata. Horchata is generally made with rice, vanilla, cinnamon, and milk or water. It reminds everyone of something different: oatmeal cookies, cinnamon toast, or like me, drinking the milk when you’re done with a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal!

Limoncello

We have many different types of Limoncello, and all of them are tart, sweet, and delish! Limoncello is a traditional Italian cordial made with very high-proof grain spirit and fresh lemons. The best Limoncellos come from Sorrento, a region known for its intensely aromatic lemons.

B & B

B & B is one of my personal favorites around the holidays. The first B stands for Benedictine Liqueur: a spicy, citrusy-sweet, 500-year-old potion of 23 different plants and spices. The second B stands for Brandy–well, Cognac to be more specific. They are blended together and aged to perfection for four additional months. Though Benedictine is a nice cordial, the Cognac lightens its syrupy sweetness and gives it a kick. It’s terrific with biscotti or other Christmas treats.

Christmas is a time for new adventures and old traditions. I hope you try out some of these new and old cordials on your guests at your next holiday party!

Enjoy!

Jennifer Laurie