Sauce and I love to drink muddled cocktails. One day while we were roaming about, we happened upon a sparkling cocktail with muddled grapes. We talked about it for weeks and went back a few more times before I decided to attempt replicating it. What I settled upon isn’t exactly like our inspiration, but it is light, crisp and eccentric.
Equipment: Boston shaker (the two part style), muddler and martini glasses
5 crisp grapes
1 sprig of mint
1 sprig of Thai basil
1 tsp sugar (I like to use demerara – a partially refined light brown cane sugar)
½ oz fresh lemon juice
1½ oz vodka (we prefer Tito’s)
4 oz sparkling wine (I used a Cava)
In one part of Boston shaker, muddle 3 grapes with a few leaves of mint, one good-sized basil leaf and the sugar.
Add lemon juice and vodka to shaker and fill with ice.
Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds.
Strain into martini glass and top with sparkling wine.
Garnish with skewer of grapes, Thai basil and mint.
Several years ago, I picked up an original 1961 copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook for at a used bookstore. Illustrated by Andy Warhol, I had no idea what a treasure I’d discovered at the time. I was still a novice, and while her cookbook is not complicated, it did not jump out as something I could easily follow. I rediscovered it in my library just before the holidays, and it is full of classic, delightfully nostalgic ideas. While the formal cocktail party is no longer as in vogue as it once was, the tasty nibbles that adorned the passing silver platters are certainly not passé. Amy Vanderbilt’s book has countless tiny bites that make for great inspiration, and my favorite thing to play around with currently is egg white puffs. Hers are a little 1960s (commercial cheddar cheese spread? What?), but mixed with good cheese and baked on toast, you’ll feel fancy even if you’re eating them in your sweatpants (the best way.)
4 egg whites
5 slices white sandwich bread
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 tbsp. chives, minced
Crispy bacon or prosciutto, crumbled
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grate cheese very fine. Mince chives.
Slice into squares (remove crusts) or use a shot glass to make small circles. Toast bread. Butter lightly and smear with a thin layer of avocado, if using.
Whip egg whites with electric mixer-you can do it by hand, but it is quite time consuming and difficult. Whip until stiff peaks form, like little snowy mountains.
Fold cheese, chives, and a few pinches of salt into the egg white. Using a spoon, pile a little onto each piece of toast. It doesn’t have to be perfect; baking will help them round out.
Bake on baking sheet for 10-15 minutes, until puffs are golden brown. Garnish with crumbled bacon if you are into that kind of thing.
Saucy Leftover Note: If you have leftover egg white mix, its phenomenal on toast as a breakfast or fancy snack!