Exotic liqueurs, smoking goblets, staring eyeballs -- oh my! Halloween is upon us and we've come a long, long way from the Bobbing Apple Punch of yesteryear.
When it comes to drinks (and everything else), things are a lot more scary than they used to be.
Just ask the people who mix drinks in Western New York. They've come up with some creative -- and ghoulish -- drinks for the holiday.
Kevin Glovack, who is both bartender and food and beverage director at Pearl Street Grill and Brewery, likes to talk about the Candy Corn Martini he created.
"People like to drink seasonably," he says. "It's the same thing as drinking green beer on St. Patrick's Day."
You could, he mentions, even serve black beer for the spooky holiday -- Guinness or another stout, for instance. But when it comes to concoction drinks from substances like black vodka, Glovack draws the line. Blavod is one brand, colored with an African shrub called catechu, in case you wondered.
"People have a lot of trouble drinking things that color," he says.
Chris Panzica, bar manager of the Chocolate Bar (who just happens to be a psychology major) has his own thoughts on the subject.
"There are adventurous people who are cool and definitely want to try these kinds of drinks," he says. "But," he warns, "others will just stick with their Chocolate Martini."
What kind of adventurous drinks is he thinking of? "You could make what I like to call a Devil's Fire, with equal parts of Goldschlager cinnamon schnapps and Bacardi 151 proof rum, then take a spoon of that rum, float it and light it," he says enthusiastically.
"You could make a Slime Martini, a kind of variation on a Mojito, with some fresh mint or top which sort of makes it slimy. You could make a Frankenstein's Brain by dribbling Irish Cream Liqueur down the side of a goblet of Midori and peach schnapps. The viscosity of the Bailey's makes it form lines and it looks just like a brain.
"I know it sounds weird but it honestly it has a pretty good fruity taste."
Panzica thinks a minute and then comes up with an idea for the less adventurous among us -- well, slightly less adventurous anyway:
"Or you could just make a classic martini with a floating eyeball in it." You make a floating eyeball by peeling a radish, leaving a few red "veins" on the white flesh and then stuffing the radish with an olive. Other people have used lychee fruit, olives and raisins to the same effect.
Over at Duo, bartender Cameron Rector says he's getting "good reviews" for his Pumpkin Martini, which could be called more correctly a Pumpkin Pie Martini, since it includes whipped cream and cinnamon.
Rector makes the pumpkin puree from scratch, actually boiling up a pumpkin because, he says, they use only fresh fruit and juices at Duo. But that isn't to say you couldn't cheat a little. (Buy a can of pumpkin pie filling and you're on your way.)
When we asked Jim DaPolito of Blu Martini about Halloween cocktails, he passed the challenge onto the bar staff, and bartender Charlie Trippi came up with the winner, using various fruit flavored vodkas and Grape Pucker Schnapps.
It's a purplish concoction to be sure, but the thing that sets it off is dry ice, which causes a smoky effect. For the garnish you use an orange slice to look like a pumpkin and a little sliver of lime to make the stem.
That makes such a terrific looking drink that you could use it on Trudy Stern's Spiced Chai also. Halloween drinks, after all, don't have to include alcohol.
And the good thing about this chai is that it has make-ahead features. You brew the spicy tea ahead of time and warm it up with milk when the time comes.
Stern, who ran the now closed Tru-Teas on Elmwood Avenue, says you can vary it as you wish. For one thing, you can use your choice of milk in the drink -- whole milk, soy milk, rice milk or coconut milk. And you choose the tea. English Breakfast? Keemun, Darjeeling, Earl Gray, Green Tea, Rooibus?
Any and all of them could settle the nerves after an encounter with a Floating Eyeball.
>Bobbing Apple Punch
1 1/2 cups orange juice
4 cups apple cider
1 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons sugar, optional
4 cups ginger ale, chilled
6 to 8 small red apples
1 orange, sliced horizontally
In punch bowl mix orange juice, apple cider, pineapple juice and sugar. Stir until dissolved. Chill thoroughly. Just before serving add ice cubes to the bowl and the ginger ale. Float the little apples and the orange slices on the top. Makes about 20 servings.
>Spiced Mulled Cider
2 cups apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup spiced rum
Apple slices for garnish
Heat cider, cinnamon stick, honey and hot sauce to boiling. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and remove cinnamon stick. Add rum and serve warm, garnished with apple slices. Makes 2 servings.
From Trudy Stern:
1 gallon water
16 cinnamon sticks
8 tablespoons cardamom pods
4 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 to 4 star anise
5 inches ginger root, sliced into coins
Sugar to taste
1/2 cup dry tea leaves
Whole milk, soy milk, rice milk or coconut milk
Bring water with cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, anise and ginger root to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Toss in the tea. Steep for 5 minutes.
Strain through sieve with cheese cloth liner.
Keep a pitcher in the fridge and heat one or two servings at a time, adding an equal amount of milk prior to heating in a sauce pan. Sweeten to taste.
From the Blu Martini Bar:
1 1/2 ounces orange vodka
1 1/2 ounces raspberry vodka
1/2 ounce Grape Pucker schnapps
Splash cranberry juice
Splash pineapple juice
1 ounce Grenadine
Orange wedge, lime
Place vodkas, schnapps, juice and Grenadine in a shaker with regular ice. Strain into a pint glass. Add a couple of cubes of dry ice and garnish with half an orange and a little lime for a stem.
From Cameron Rector of Duo:
>Pumpkin Pie Martini
2 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled and boiled until soft
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup condensed milk
Cinnamon, nutmeg, white sugar, a little salt to taste
Secret ingredient: pinch of cayenne
1 1/2 ounces vanilla vodka
1/2 ounce Frangelica hazelnut liqueur
Whipped cream for garnish
Prepare puree by mixing ingredients in a blender or mixer until smooth. Refrigerate and set aside.
Now make the martini: Place vodka and Frangelica in a shaker over ice. Add about 3 ounces of the puree and shake. Pour into Martini glass, garnished with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
From Chris Panzica of Chocolate Bar:
1 part peach schnapps
1 part Midori liqueur
Baileys Irish Cream liqueur
Shake schnapps and Midori liqueur over ice and pour into a martini glass. Drizzle a few drops of the Irish Cream down the sides to form lines.
From Kevin Glovack of Pearl Street:
1 part Bailey's Irish Cream liqueur
1 part vanilla vodka
1 part butterscotch schnapps
Shake Irish cream, vanilla and schnapps over ice. Pour into a glass and add a couple of candy corns.