Now Serving – Ho Ho Ho-Cho!

By The Lady

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As I am sure you are all aware, Thursday was Christmas Day. Accordingly, at the end of a very long day, The Gentleman and I collapsed on the couch in a food induced comma after driving cross country! While we were completely stuffed, we still had a hankering for something festive, decadent,  and a little bit naughty. Therefore, we introduce to you, the Ho Ho Ho-Cho!

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During the week, my housemate kindly gifted us a jar of The Food Curators’ Healthy Nutella. From the outset of receiving this tasty spread, we knew it was destined to be incorporated into one of our drinks. Considering that a hot chocolate would be the perfect drink to satisfy our festive urges, the Healthy Nutella was the perfect addition to our Christmas nightcap. Also, after our first visit to Bank Street Social on International Rum Day, we fell in love with Stolen Spiced Rum (I think we possibly may have drank their entire supply that night!). We finally got around to acquiring a bottle of our own to demolish, so this too was to be an essential ingredient in our festive ho-cho.

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Ho Ho Ho-Cho!

1 cup of milk

3 tablespoons of The Food Curators Healthy Nutella

1 tablespoons of Mörk Original Dark Hot Chocolate Powder

60mL of Stolen Spiced Rum

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Add the Healthy Nutella, Mörk Hot Chocolate powder, and the milk into a saucepan on a low heat. Stir until the chocolate powder has dissolved completely. Turn off the heat and add the spiced rum. And ta-da! Have yourself a Ho Ho Ho-Cho!

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The Ho Ho Ho-Cho was the perfect end to the day, really. The Healthy Nutella, made by the lovely ladies at The Food Curators, had a lovely nutty texture which really added a unique textural element to our naughty ho-cho. The spiced rum had a deliciously warm and festive flavour that really packed a punch. Overall, we think we may have to make the Ho Ho Ho-Cho a yearly occurrance!

We hope you all had a great a Christmas filled with cocktails and delicious things. Now onwards to the New Year!

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Out & About – Thrift Shop Bar

By The Lady

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Image courtesy of Thrift Shop Bar Facebook page.

For a long, long time now, we have been meaning to check out Thrift Shop Bar. This little gem boasts an impressive range of 100% Australian Spirits, as well as locally produced wine and beer. We heard that all the cool kids were going there, so as we are clearly (oh so) cool, we felt it our duty to partake in a slice of the Thrift Shop Bar pie! To our delight, there was a wine tasting on that evening by one of our new favourites Delinquente Wine Co., so we both agreed that it was the perfect opportunity to head on down.

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Image courtesy of Thrift Shop Bar Facebook page.

The bar has a unique and refreshing vibe about it. The furniture is foraged from local op-shops. One feature wall is plastered with what looks like old sheet music and the light shades are pre-loved vintage dresses. My particular favourite touch from the bar was the old school glassware. It really reminded me of my grandpa and his home bar he used to love. He would have loved sipping on a whiskey or two at Thrift Shop Bar, that I am sure of!

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Image courtesy of Thrift Shop Bar Facebook page.

Throughout the evening, we had several drinks, all of which were equally as delightful. Firstly, we started off with a tasting from Delinquente Wine Co. We started with the Screaming Betty Vermentino, which had a lovely refreshing flavour perfect for hot, Australian summer days. We then sampled the Pretty Boy Nero D’avola Rosato which was described as “a rosé for those who don’t drink rosé”. We can’t agree any more with this sentiment. The Pretty Boy is a perfect gateway wine to the world of rosé if one were so inclined to follow that path in life. Finally, we sampled Roxanne the Razor Nero D’avola & Montepulciano. Personally, I would have to say this was my favourite out of the bunch. It is incredibly easy to drink and would go well with a variety of meals yet it would also be perfect by itself. As you all know already, we loved The Bullet Dodger Montepulciano when we tried it a few weeks back, so it’s really no surprise that we are digging the other flavours that DWC have on offer.

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Gingerbread Black Russian (L), Popcorn Sour (R)

Then, we were drawn to the vast cocktail menu. As it is scarily close to Christmas, I opted for the Gingerbread Black Russian. Oh my, this was tasty. The drink had a perfect blend of spiciness and richness. It really did taste light naughty, alcoholic gingerbread men too! The Gentleman opted for the Popcorn Sour which was oh so buttery. The drink had a lovely creaminess also, and tasted particularly like a lemon meringue pie with a hint of sour citrus. We are now 100% convinced that we must invest in a bottle of 666 Autumn Butter Vodka that was used to create this delightful cocktail. Really, what is not to love about the marriage of butter and vodka? We here at Cocktail Challenge HQ are clearly prepping our stomachs for food galore on the 25th as we are continually drawn to foodie cocktails. Delicious! Whilst drinking these cocktails, the bartender who made them came and sat down next to us and spoke about how he had created the two cocktails we had selected. He was very informative by explaining the creation process and it added that extra personal touch to Thrift Shop Bar.

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Storm In A Teapot

Then, we decided to share a “Pot Tail” .i.e a cocktail inside a teapot. Yes people, shit just got real. We decided to go for the Storm in a Teapot, because it sounded delightful and we loved the name. Again, a lovely spiciness and rich flavour engulfed us in a refreshing and festive manner. We could really tell that the ginger beer was homemade, with lovely natural and zesty notes. The spiced rum was a perfect addition to this pot tail! Ho ho ho indeed! The Storm In A Teapot was beautifully presented, being served in an elegant gold teapot with cute little teacups to boot that made you look damn fancy while you were drinking it.

 

Finally, we polished off the evening with two different glasses of Delinquente Wine – the Pretty Boy Nero D’avola Rosato and the Roxanne the Razor NDM.  Also, we were never without free popcorn and we think we may have consumed our body weight in popcorn that evening!

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Pretty Boy Nero D’avola Rosato (L) Roxanne the Razor NDM (R)

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our Thrift Shop Bar experience. We are always happy to drink in a gorgeous setting, especially when the establishment is as enthusiastic about Australian liquor as we are. Onya Thrift Shop!

 

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Now Serving – Pop My Cherry!

By The Gentleman

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I discovered something recently that I feel I should have know earlier. Cherries are basically crack to The Lady. Last Christmas there was a bit of a shortage of cherries so I don’t remember experiencing this, but this year cherries are in abundance and she is just going crazy for them. We got given a massive bag of cherries and by the time I got around to making a drink with them they were almost all gone! So, readers, you’re quite lucky that we can even post this drink as the crucial ingredient was almost missing. Introducing Pop My Cherry!

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Pop My Cherry

For 2

150 ml Breuckelen Distilling Glorious Gin

1 bag Tea For Who Christmas Tea

6 fresh cherries

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp bourbon vanilla extract

1/2 tsp sugar

120 ml Nudie Cloudy Apple Juice

20 ml lime juice

Ice

Cinnamon for garnish

Dehydrated Orange for garnish

In a glass infuse the gin with the Christmas tea for at least 5 minutes. While the tea is infusing muddle the cherries in the base of a cocktail shaker with the cinnamon, vanilla and sugar. Once you’ve finished muddling the cherries remove the tea bag from the gin and pour it in with the cherries. Add the lime juice and apple juice and then fill with ice. Shake it real good then strain into ice-filled brandy balloons. Garnish with a dehydrated orange slice and a dusting of cinnamon.

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The drink had cherries in it so The Lady was always going to like it, but there were a few extra elements that made this Pop My Cherry! Mainly the drink had a gorgeous bright pink colour. The apple juice tones down the really deep, dark tones of the cherries and makes it a lighter and very pretty colour, and we all know pretty things are always a winner. The Lady also loves tea so that’s another big tick. This time the tea didn’t infuse as strongly as the Clubhouse Rock, but we didn’t infuse it as long. We wanted to make sure we got the balance between the tea and the gin, which tends to have more of an independent character than most vodkas. We didn’t want one to overpower the other. The Tea For Who Christmas Tea has nutmeg, almond, and orange flavours and we think these gave the drink a nice spicy, warming aftertaste. The tea paired really nicely with the cinnamon and vanilla that we added because there’s not a lot that doesn’t benefit from a dash of cinnamon or vanilla. Also given the fact that there’s two and a half shots of gin it was very smooth and easy to drink. This is a drink to get you comfortably sauced with minimal effort so watch out. Finally, the cherries gave the drink a nice tart and sour flavour that moves to a spicy aftertaste. It’s an interesting but delicious combination. We think the cloudy apple juice also makes the drink less sweet than if we used normal apple juice. That mix of sweet and tart flavours made the drink taste like some sort of fancy-pants cordial and we are all about the classier things in life so that’s okay with us.

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The cherries may only be available for a short period of time, and even shorter period of time if The Lady keeps eating them, so grab a bunch quick smart and mash those bad boys up so you can indulge in some fine Pop My Cherry! One sip and you’ll be hooked.

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Now Serving – Santa’s Milk

By The Gentleman

Santa's Milk

Spoilers ahead people, my dad is Santa. At least, he was in my house. As usual it took us a while to realise this but in retrospect it should have been pretty easy to work out. Instead of a glass of milk we left Santa an iced coffee, apparently he liked a bit of variety on his travels, but really it was because dad was an iced coffee fiend. Great detectives we were not. So, with that as an inspiration we made the Santa’s Milk, a decidedly more adult offering for Santa.

Santa’s Milk

40 ml Mr Black Spirits Coffee Liqueur

15 ml Tuaca

30 ml Cream

Cocoa powder for garnish

Ice

Cookies or biscuits

 

Pour the coffee liqueur, Tuaca, cream, and ice into a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously. Strain into a small port-style glass. Dust with cocoa powder and serve with cookies or biscuits for dunking.

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Sadly, we do have to admit that the way we served this drink was not exactly how it was meant to go. Initially, instead of shaking everything together we were trying to get a layered effect with the coffee and Tuaca down the bottom and the cream on top. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and we’re not sure why. We had everr hot mess. The cream didn’t form one layer, but a bunch of separate blobs. It wasn’t good. So I jumped on that hand grenade (we can’t afford to waste any liquor here) and made The Lady’s drink in the shaker to much better results.

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The Santa’s Milk had that creamy Bailey’s sort of consistency without the sweetness. It was very smooth and did taste like a fancy, adult iced coffee. That’s what we were hoping for in the end because iced coffee is basically an essential survival tool for Australian summers and it is particularly essential in South Australia, where the people are rather proud that iced coffee (Farmer’s Union to be precise) outsells Coca-Cola and is close to the only place in the world where a milk drink outsells a cola. We certainly love our iced coffee, it’s perfect on a hot day, and this had a good coffee kick behind it. The Tuaca also just helped make it easy to drink, providing a delicious vanilla finish. You definitely want to serve this with some cookies or biscuits, not something soft but more of a biscotti or almond bread that has some substance so you can dunk it in. It’s damn tasty.

Santa's Milk

The saying goes when in Rome do as the Romans do so, we feel Santa (or my dad) would approve of an iced coffee, with a touch of something extra, when traveling through South Australia on a hot Christmas Eve. Still, we don’t want him getting too happy and there being a recreation of the Tim Allen movie The Santa Clause. We would not look good in a fat suit. Instead we think we’ll keep this one to ourselves.

 

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Now Serving – Grape Time

By The Gentleman

Grape Time

When I was little my family would always have prawn cocktails as a starter before Christmas lunch. I hated it. I just can’t get over the texture of raw seafood. Everyone always said when I got older I’d grow accustomed to the taste, but I never did. For some reason, instead of having a prawn cocktail I would have a bowl of grapes (served in the same fancy glass as everyone’s prawn cocktails). This may sound like a punishment, but I loved it. I would just chow down on grapes and look at everyone else like they were the weird ones. I don’t have a bowl of grapes now, but I still always associate Christmas with eating grapes and that’s the inspiration behind our very grapey festive cocktail, Grape Time.

Grape Time

Grape Time

45 ml Alaskan Rock Vodka

45 ml White Grape Juice

15 ml Noilly Prat Dry White Vermouth

5 ml Grand Marnier

15 ml Grape and Balsamic Shrub

Ice

Grapes for Garnish

Soda Water

 

In a mixing glass half filled with ice mix vodka, grape juice, vermouth and Grand Marnier until chilled. Strain into a champagne flute. Add crushed ice, grapes and top with soda water. I cut a few grapes in half and put them in the glass and then slit one so it could rest on the lip of the glass. Grab your shrub and pour it in over the back of the spoon to get a layered effect. Add a pretty straw so you can mix in the shrub as you desire.

Grape Time

All of this stuff is pretty easy to find except the grape shrub. I made that myself by macerating grapes in sugar overnight before transferring it all to a mason jar with balsamic vinegar, which was left in the fridge for a week and the grapes were strained out. I use a 1:1:1 ratio for shrubs. If you don’t have the time to make it don’t stress, the shrub gives a slightly different flavour but was mostly for presentation.

Grape Time

This was exactly what I wanted, something that was oh so grape flavoured to bring me back to Christmas when I was younger. Vodka is the perfect partner because it doesn’t interfere with the flavour of the grape juice. Vermouth is also an obvious choice, adding a slightly herbal flavour and keeping it from getting too sweet but not veering too far away from that lovely grape flavour. If you can make the shrub then I encourage you to do so because it not only makes the drink look impressive, it also gives it a little bit of bite and something different. We are definitely fans of what balsamic can bring to a cocktail and it paired really nicely with the grape juice. It was basically an explosion of sweet, light grape flavour with a hint of fizz that was topped off by some booze soaked grapes at the bottom of the glass. I certainly didn’t get to eat those Christmas day, but I wouldn’t be turning them down now.

 

The Grape Time isn’t your normal festive cocktail and that’s okay because it’s damn tasty. Just roll with it, it’ll be fine and while you’re at it, have a bowl of grapes on Christmas day. It’s not weird at all…right?

 

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The Cocktail Challenge 2014 Christmas Gift Guide

By The Lady and The Gentleman

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Christmas is fast approaching. Seriously it’s less than two weeks away. This always happens, you say you’re going to be extra prepared this year but it never happens. Don’t worry because the Cocktail Challenge is here to help you ace your gift buying by showing you some great items for the people in your life who don’t mind a drop or two of boozy goodness. Seeing as this is our first holiday gift guide we thought we’d give it a local flavour and show you the wine, beer, spirits, and gear you should choose this year.

 

Four Pillars Barrel Aged Gin

Just in time for Christmas Cocktail Challenge favourite Four Pillars have released their second batch of Barrel Aged Gin. This is a damn fine gin that’s just as good as their award-winning Rare Dry Gin, but it’s got something a little different going on from aging process. It’s a touch sweeter and hits a few different spice notes from the wine barrels. It is equally as good in a glass on it’s own with some ice or in a delicious twist on the classic Tom Collins.

Four Pillars Gift

Four Pillars Mixing Glass and Bar Spoon Set

Sticking with Four Pillars we are just in love with this simple yet elegant mixing glass and bar spoon set. Essential tools for any home bar the set continue to show Four Pillar’s dedication to good design and quality products. The Japanese-made glass looks gorgeous but is still practical with enough capacity to make two drinks and a spout for easy pouring. We love the touch of giving the bar spoon a copper finish in tribute to Wilmer. If one of these ended up under the tree we would be damn happy.

 

Jam Factory Wine Glass/Tumblers

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Keeping it super local, the Jam Factory is an Adelaide design institution that has been instrumental in supporting designers and artists for over 40 years. The Jam Factory is always finding and nurturing great talent, like Emma Klau the designer of the Kinetic Tumbler. We just love the look of these hand blown glasses, which double as a decanter to aerate your wine. When you put it down the glass revolves around its axis to achieve aeration. We appreciate and are slightly scared by this design black magic.

 

Mister Bitters

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We are not afraid to experiment when it comes to adding syrups, bitters, tinctures, and shrubs to our cocktails to give them that something extra or different. It appears we are not the only ones and there has been a boom in the small-batch bitters scene. As these things usually do, it has only recently caught on in Australia but luckily one of the first bitters out the gate is a beauty. Melbourne-based Mr Bitters brings together a bartender and the founder of bitters mecca OnlyBitters.com to craft some damn tasty bitters. We have tried the Pink Grapefruit & Agave and love it’s bitter, but fresh grapefruit flavour. It smells heavenly and has a fun, fruity label that is all class. We can’t wait to get our hands on the rest of the range.

 

Mollydooker Wines Velvet Glove Shiraz and Hither & Yon Shiraz Cabernet

Being Australian, particularly South Australian, meant we couldn’t do a gift guide without talking about wine. We opted for two very different reds for very different people. Mollydooker Wines Velvet Glove Shiraz is the top of the line drop offered by the McLaren Vale-based winery. We just love this bottle. You look at it and you know what’s inside is going to be so good (but so expensive!). The Velvet Glove is for that special someone in your life who is going to appreciate a superior quality wine. We can’t quite afford such a bottle on a student’s living, but we can gaze longingly at the gorgeous bottle and salivate at the description of full bodied, complex, rich and thick flavours that coat your mouth. We are very jealous of whoever has one of these under their tree this year.

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The best thing about South Australia is we are so inundated with good quality wine at a variety of prices to make present buying that bit easier. Hither & Yon, another McLaren Vale-based winery, are someone we can’t recommend enough. The Shiraz Cabernet is in the middle-price range at $35 a bottle, but it is well worth it. The tattoo inspired artwork is amazing and eye-catching and the taste, well the taste was so good we had to express ourselves by mimicking a YouTube video. Yeah, it was that good. Seriously this hits all the right notes. Great taste, reasonably priced and sweet design. Pick up a bottle for a gift and one for yourself.

 

Sample Brew

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Melbourne is so accessible that it sometimes feels like a second city to us…other times it feels like it could be on the other side of the planet, like when we came across Melbourne-based brewer Sample Brew. We love the look of the bottles with their clean, simple yet beautiful design. We also like the sound of the beers. Sample currently brew an American style Pale Ale and a Gold Ale according to the Reinheitsgebote, a purity law which stipulates only barley, hops, water and yeast can be used in the brewing process. They promise fruity yet crips flavours as part of the brewers desire to blend classic styles with an experimental nature. The sad part is Sample aren’t easily accessible in Adelaide, making Melbourne feel like a very far away place. To all our Melbourne readers though, do your beer loving friend a favour and give the gift of Sample Brew.

 

A subscription service – The Cocktail Kit/White Possum Craft Spirits

Still too hard even with all these awesome recommendations? Then maybe you need to check out the latest kid on the Australian liqour scene, subscription services. Simply sign up, choose your plan and let them take over the hassle of finding and sourcing a range of great drinking products. Need to buy for some who is an amateur mixologist? Checkout The Cocktail Kit, a monthly curated cocktail experience that provides you with all you need to make select cocktails plus access to online instructional videos. We can attest to the quality of the end result. You can choose a sample pack, with small bottles, or go the whole hog and get the party pack so they can mix up cocktails for everyone.

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Or maybe you need to buy for the discerning spirit drinker, someone who is always on the lookout for the next big or different thing or is sick of the usual spirits on offer. Then checkout White Possum Craft Spirits, a subscription service that specialises in finding and delivering Australian craft whisky, gin, vodka, and liqueurs. Each bottle comes in a nice box complete with distillery profile and drink recipes to help you craft the perfect drink to highlight each spirit. There’s a great selection of Australian distillers on offer and we like the range of subscription options including monthly, quarterly and on-demand. Plus you can tailor the subscription to a particular type of spirit or be a bit daring and choose the random box. Either way you’re helping some great Australian distillers and are probably going to get something pretty tasty.

 

And The One That Got Away – Denver and Liely Whisky Glass

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We were a little bit in love with the new whisky glass from Melbourne-based Denver and Liely when we saw them. They combine the tumbler and the snifter into one glass to provide a better whisky experience. You get the wide base to allow air contact, but also the tapered barrel to focus and direct the whisky. It’s a sleek and stylish glass that looks amazing. Sadly, by the time we were alerted to these gorgeous new whisky glasses everyone else had realised Denver and Liely were onto something special. They glasses were all snapped up quick smart but you can pre-order for the next batch which will be available in mid-January. We highly recommend this as a present to yourself for surviving the hectic nature of the holidays.

 

We hope this guide helps you shop small and give local this year. Australian makes some great gear and we’re sure anyone would be happy with one of these gifts, we sure know we would be (hint hint, nudge nudge).

 

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Now Serving – 12 Days of Butter

By The Gentleman

12 Days of Butter

Readers, are you aware of how hot it was in little old Adelaide, South Australia today? It was 32°C today or 89.6 Fahrenheit for our American friends. That is far to hot for all the delicious warming festive cocktails we’ve been seeing. Delicious hot-buttered rum or glorious spiced mulled wine makes our mouths water and nostrils flare in anticipation for drinking the flavour of Christmas…and then a single bead of sweat slides down our face as we think how hot and disgusting that is going to make us feel on a 32°C day! What are we to do!? Get a little weird that’s what. Take the hot, buttery, spiced goodness of many a good-looking festive drink and chill that sucker down. Introducing the 12 Days of Butter. Your arteries have been warned.

Those festive spices yo

Those festive spices yo

 

12 Days of Butter

30ml spiced butter syrup

30ml Bulleit Bourbon

45ml Le Birlou Apple and Chestnut Liqueur

Apple slice to garnish

Grated Nutmeg

Ice

 

Grab your cocktail shaker and pour in your syrup, bourbon and liqueur. Add ice. Put the lid on and shake. Now the butter syrup is going to solidify a little bit so you need to double strain this bad boy. Grab an old fashioned glass and stack two ice cubes on top of each other. Use the ice to hold your apple slice in place. Double strain into the prepared glass and grate nutmeg on top of the ice.

 

Spiced Butter Syrup for 2

50g unsalted butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup water

5 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp vanilla essence

Pinch of salt

 

In a saucepan melt butter over low-medium heat till it smells nutty and starts to turn slightly brown. Stir and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Add water, sugar, vanilla and spices. Leave on the heat until the sugar is melted and combined with the butter. Remove from the heat and leave the spices in there to infuse. This also allows the syrup to cool down. Leave to infuse for at least 15 minutes, but you can leave it longer if you like. Strain to remove spices.

12 Days of Butter

The 12 Days of Butter was exactly what we were looking for. The drink is still rich and full of all those delicious spice flavours. In particular the grating of nutmeg on top makes the drink smell and taste heavenly. It’s smooth and buttery, feeling nice on your tongue and going down really nicely with a noticeable and delightful punch of vanilla. Smooth butter and vanilla, that’s what we’re talking about people. Christmas is a time to indulge and it doesn’t get much more indulgent than drinking butter. The drink is rich with a sweet almost caramel flavour and just fills you with this very festive, European Christmas sensation. As The Lady said, it tastes like Harry Potter, something like the grown up, classy version of Butter Beer Harry would magic up when remembering the good old days of kicking Voldermort’s ass. It has all these festive, wintery notes yet it’s far more suited to the Australian climate. The Le Birlou is also a nice addition to the typical winter drink stable. Le Birlou has a smooth flavour that really compliments the butter. Plus chestnuts and apples seem pretty festive to us and we think you should add a bottle of this to your repertoire (in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere). There is also no unpleasant bourbon aftertaste, it just enhances the spices and lets the butter and Le Birlou take over. Although be warned, there is a bit of a kick here. Finally, if you can wait a little before you start drinking or savour it slowly because if you do that apple slice is not only going to provide a hint of apple sweetness to the aftertaste but it’s going to soak up those flavours and be the most delicious note to finish. A crisp bite of butter, spice, booze and apple. Now that’s Christmas.

12 Days of Butter

We were a little concerned this wouldn’t work the way we wanted it to, but any fears we had were squashed as soon as we took that first sip. It was everything we were looking for and more. A festive, flavour packed drink that took everything we loved about those warm Christmas drinks and made it so we could drink it in Australia without the fear of sweating up a storm.

12 Days of Butter

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