Whiskey & Fur: My Favorite Party of the Year

Right smack in the madness and merriment that is the holiday season lies my favorite party of the year, Whiskey & Fur.  Yes, that’s Whiskey, nectar of the Gods, and fur, and yes, th

The party has only two rules:

  1. You come in theme.
  2. We only serve whiskey (and water).

Now in year four, it feels a bit like the cocktail party that could.  Each year, we manage to attract a bigger crowd of wonderful friends and loved ones who mosey on over to toast to the holidays and sample all the goodies from my home bar—all the while decked out in their best furry garb.  We have a wide variety of themed imbibers–from ladies in their best roaring 20s getups, to flannel-clad hunting outfits, to attire that have been lifted straight from Foxy Brown’s wardrobe in the late 90s.  It’s a sight to be seen.

Once again, the wonderful Todd Richman, Brand Ambassador for Sidney Frank, graced us with his presence, tending bar with a selection of homemade libations.  Here I’ll share one of his delightful whiskey punches—a favorite among our guests, as well as some of my favorite holiday inspired treats: Salted Bourbon Caramels & Bourbon Pralines.

Happy holiday sipping!

Holiday Punch (Created by Todd Richman)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups Cognac (I recommend using a VS)
  • 1 cup rye whiskey
  • ½ pint of dry curacao
  • 4 cups of apple cider
  • Club soda
  • Pear and/or apple slices, for garnish
  • Grated cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise, for garnish

In a punch bowl, add Cognac, rye, dry curacao and cider.  Top with club soda.  Add pear and/or apple slices for garnish, plus grated cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise.  Allow to chill for 30 minutes prior to serving.

Bourbon-Spiked Pralines

Bourbon-Spiked Pralines (adapted from Southern Living)

Bourbon-Spiked Pralines

(adapted from Southern Living, December 2011)

Makes 2 dozen

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups pecan halves and pieces
  • 3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

PREPARATION

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Cool completely (about 15 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, bring brown sugar, and next 4 ingredients to a boil in a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 236° (soft ball stage). Remove sugar mixture from heat.
  • Let sugar mixture stand until candy thermometer reaches 150° (20 to 25 minutes). Stir in vanilla and pecans using a wooden spoon; stir constantly 1 to 2 minutes or just until mixture begins to lose its gloss. Quickly drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto wax paper; let stand until firm (10 to 15 minutes).

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels

(from Bon Appetit, December 2013)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 14- oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup butter (unsalted)
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus sea salt for sprinkling on top

PREPARATION

Lightly coat an 8×8” baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2” overhang on 2 sides; spray parchment.

Bring sugar, corn syrup, and ¼ cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture turns a deep amber color, 8–10 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter (mixture will bubble vigorously) until smooth. Fit pan with thermometer and return to medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer registers 240°. Remove from heat and whisk in bourbon and kosher salt. Pour into prepared pan; let cool. Sprinkle caramel with sea salt, cut into ¾” pieces, and wrap individually in parchment paper.

A FEW OF MY OWN NOTES

  • If you don’t already have a candy thermometer, go out and get one.  They’re all of about $10 and will keep the guesswork out of so many recipes moving forward.
  • Since candy can be a bit temperamental, I generally avoid doubling recipes.  For some reason, I can’t ever seem to get the same result when making party-sized batches.