Confession: sometimes the Beer Muse imbibes a mixed beverage instead of beer. Since beer comes in so many differing styles (lagers, ales, stouts, sours, etc.), I can usually find a beer for any occasion. However, during the holiday season when filling my belly with turkey, stuffing, siding from a gingerbread house, and everything else imaginable, this guy likes to sip on a good ol’ mixed beverage.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving and the impending holiday season, I decided to put down my beer mug for a week and set out to find local spirits to pair with holiday cheer. Luckily for Mainers there is a growing distilling scene to compliment the booming beer renaissance.
At mid-day on Thanksgiving, when the house is filled with the savory aroma of basting turkey and pumpkin pie, I like to make an Old Fashioned for myself and any of my thirsty guests. Since I keep my Old Fashioned simple – muddled sugar, bitters, lemon rind and whiskey – I need a whiskey that can shine on its own.
When I think of Maine whiskey, New England Distilling comes to mind. Their Gunpowder Rye Whiskey boasts a compelling complex flavor. It is spicy with a nice balance of caramel butter notes and peppery undertones. The complexity throws off some whiskey drinkers, but I think it makes for a wild flavor ride. An Old Fashioned made with New England Distilling whiskey is a bold twist on this classic drink.
After the meal, when everyone has awoken from his or her obligatory tryptophan nap, it’s time for a gin and tonic. There’s something about the sweetness of a gin and tonic following the salty meal on Thanksgiving that hits the palate just right.
Cold River Gin was Maine’s first legally made post-Prohibition gin in 2007, and it remains my favorite. Again, because my predilection is for a simple gin and tonic – 2 oz. of gin, 4 oz. of tonic, and a twist of lime – the gin has to be good. Cold River Gin has strong juniper overtones balanced by a nice herbal undercurrent. The resulting cocktail is sweet and piny, perfect after any big holiday meal.
I don’t know about you, but in the Beer Muse household the Christmas tree goes up a day or two after Thanksgiving. When the tree has been purchased from the Knights of Columbus, Mrs. Beer Muse puts on the saccharin sounds of Christmas music, and Mr. Beer Muse mixes up a couple glasses of rum and eggnog.
This holiday mixer isn’t for the faint of waistline. My recipe calls for Maine’s own Smiling Hill Farms eggnog, a dash of cinnamon, and Queequeg Spiced Rum from Maine Craft Distilling. Maine Craft Distilling has concocted the perfect balance of spices in this full-bodied rum to cut through the creamy richness of the eggnog. Christmas music, a fully dressed tree, and an empty glass of rum and eggnog smacks of Yuletide cheer.
The holiday season is the perfect time to explore Maine’s bourgeoning distilling scene. You can visit the distilleries, or you can purchase a bottle from many local Hannaford stores. Make yourself a holiday cocktail mixed with Maine spirits this Christmas season to punctuate your pints of winter-style beers.
Cheers and happy holidays!