I'm more than a little excited that Halloween is almost here. Part of my excitement is that Halloween parties can be some of the most enjoyable soirées of the year. The mix of spooky kitsch and childhood nostalgia is irresistible.
Of course, now that we're grown-ups, our Halloween parties are a little more fun thanks to the addition of spooky cocktails. But there's a problem with a lot of Halloween cocktail recipes.
See Also: How to Make a Satan's Whiskers Cocktail
Many Halloween drinks (I'm talking the very vast majority) put form before function. I swear, if I see another recipe that expects me to stuff blueberries into canned lychees to make eyeball garnishes...
But I digress. Some of those are admittedly kind of fun. I even have one of the better ones waiting in the wings for a future column. While novelty shots are almost expected at Halloween parties, I want to serve a cocktail worth drinking more than once.
While perusing Halloween themed drinks, one of the few that I thought looked genuinely enjoyable was Bloody Black Currant Punch, from none other than domestic doyenne Martha Stewart. It's a combination of brown spirits and dark red nectar that gives an almost unsettling blood-red hue. While the color makes it an excellent centerpiece candidate, I thought that her recipe needed work.
The original version called for brandy, sugar, black currant nectar, and soda water. There are a few problems here. First, if you're using black currant nectar, you don't need to add sugar; the stuff is sweet enough on its own. That brings up a second issue: The drink is all sweet. A shot of something tart will liven up things. Finally, black currant nectar is darn near impossible to find without paying through the nose on the Internet.
These problems are easy enough to fix. To keep the dark crimson color of the black currant nectar, use a combination of pomegranate juice (fresh-squeezed if you can) and crème de cassis, a black currant liqueur. While Martha used smooth brandy, I prefer spicy rye whiskey so the spirits can make their presence known. As they should at a Halloween party. Finally, lemon juice pairs well with both the rye and the pomegranate.
One of my favorite kitschy things to do with Halloween cocktails is to serve them with dry ice. It's readily available at most large grocery stores for a reasonable price. A block in the bottom of the punch bowl will both keep the drink very cold and add that fog effect that's practically expected at any Halloween party. You can also drop a small chunk of dry ice in individual cocktails for added effect. Trust me, drinking from a smoking chalice makes for an excellent photo opportunity.
You do need to take some safety precautions when you work with dry ice. Only handle it with insulated gloves; frostbite can happen very fast. If you corral the fog in a low-lying area, make sure you keep any small pets out, as they can suffocate in the carbon dioxide-heavy fog. Finally, if you put a chunk of dry ice in people's drinks, make sure they know not to consume the dry ice.
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Black Currant Blood Punch for Sixteen 1 750 ml bottle rye whiskey 6 cups pomegranate juice 1-1/2 cups crème de cassis 1 cup lemon juice 3 cups cold soda water Combine everything but soda water in a large pitcher. Chill in refrigerator. When ready to serve, transfer mixture to a punch bowl (preferably with a block of dry ice in it), add soda water, and stir gently to combine.
Black Currant Blood Punch Single Serving 1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey 3 ounces pomegranate juice 3/4 ounce crème de cassis 1/2 ounce lemon juice 1-1/2 ounces soda water Build over ice in a tall glass. Stir gently to combine.