The Birds ’n’ Bees is my spin on a favorite classic, the Hanky Panky, by one of my favorite bartending heroines: Ada Coleman, who began bartending at the ultra-swanky Savoy Hotel in London in 1903. Ada rose to the position of head bartender at the American Bar in The Savoy in 1925 and she’s still making waves as one of the first women to make a serious impression on modern mixology.
The original recipe for the Hanky Panky is a stirred cocktail made with equal parts gin and sweet vermouth with a splash of Fernet Branca, a bitter aromatic Italian amaro. The Birds ’n’ Bees swaps sweet vermouth for Vermut, an incredible vermouth hailing from the region of Catalonia in Spain, that’s bitter, sweet, nutty and fruity, infused with a proprietary blend of herbs and botanicals. Instead of Fernet, I opt for an alternative cordial, nocino, a sweet, tannic walnut liqueur that flies a little under the radar in the U.S. but popular in Italy, especially during autumn when walnuts are harvested and infused into this heavenly cordial.
Instead of garnishing with the normal orange peel, I garnish with a pinch of bee pollen, a nutrient-rich superfood collected by worker bees, parts nectar and pollen, sweet and reminiscent of wildflowers and fresh citrus zest. When serving nocino, remember to alert any guest with a nut allergy.
Some years we ascend to the mountains of Vermont with friends and family, some years we flock to the Big City for a bit of sparkle, and some years we whisk off to far away lands with sandy beaches. What will this year bring? Stay tuned for our signature New Years cocktail recipe that is about to be the hit of the party.
Every November, during the calm before the storm of the holidays, I start scheming the cocktail recipes that will carry me through the season from party to party and cheers to cheers. I make a list of all of the beautiful treasures of the fall harvest for inspiration – the sweet-savory juice of fresh beets and carrots that shine in a sour; the pineapple sage that I’ve packed into raw honey to make syrup; and the seemingly bottomless basket of apples that I will savor into the new year with countless pies, spiced old-fashioneds and compotes.
I’m a huge fan of sparkling cocktails for the holidays. They’re light and effervescent and evoke a certain twinkle in the eye and glow of the cheeks. In addition to bubbles, spritzes can include a base spirit, a cordial, fresh juice, or any combination of the three.
My favorite sparkling cocktail right now is The Orchard Spritz. The base is Thomas Tew dark rum (made by Newport Distilling Co.), with its amber notes of vanilla, caramel, oak, and just enough pepper to drive a bit of heat into the bones. St.George spiced pear liqueur adds some sweetness along with hints of cinnamon and clove. I also include fresh lemon juice, which animates the cordial with a lively zest. Rhody Coyote cider adds….
“A good berry picker moves with her hands, not her feet.” The words have been emblazoned into my mind from years of driving up the dirt road to the berry patch at Macomber Farm. I can still see Mr. Macomber whizzing down the path on his clunky mountain bike, all wheels and spokes, a cloud of dust trailing behind him to meet me by the fence and the “Pick UR Own” sign. Strewn on the picnic table, an inviting stack of green paper baskets would be waiting to be filled to the brim with the ripe berries of the moment.
Even today, as I approach a different farmer, questions dart through my mind: Will he have any strawberries left? Are the raspberries ripe yet? When do the blueberries usually come in, again? How many berries is too many to eat in the field? Damn it, did I leave my sun hat in the car? Yes, I am sure I did…
My favorite mezcal cocktail is the Raspberry Frezcal. I know it sounds Seussian, but it’s the name that’s stuck, summer after summer, when the fresh berries come in. Frezcal is like the older sister of frosé (yes, that’s frozen blended rose) that only leaves the house in kitten heels – vibrant, pink, frothy, and a bit of an ice queen. I love Raspberry Frezcal….