Oh Bother Blog / Drinks
December 8, 2020
The holidays are a perilous time. Despite the brilliant allure of garlands and pruned trees, dark dangers lurk in every dark room.
During this time of year, domestic accidents increase, car accidents increase and emergency room visits increase. The guilty? Alcohol, which Americans double their dose of during the holidays.
One answer to the problem would be to stop drinking. Or, you can switch to low-alcohol drinks, which can deliver complex flavors without inspiring the complex behavior often associated with stronger products.
First, a few basics:
WHAT IS A LOW AVB DRINK?
"ABV" stands for alcohol by volume, a standard measure used to identify the amount of alcohol in a spirit. You may also have heard the word "proof" used in this way, but it's an outdated term from the days when gunpowder was used to "prove" how much ethanol, aka ethyl alcohol, was present. in a liquid.
Typically, hard spirits like vodka are between 35-50% ABV, while wines are typically between 10-15% and beers can drop between 3 and 13%.
Here in the test kitchen, we define a low ABV cocktail as a cocktail with about 10 percent or less alcohol by volume.
WHICH SPIRITS ARE WEAK AVB?
To mix up low AVB libations, you'll want to stock your bar with those liquids you should really get to know better: sherry, vermouth, port, and a liqueur or two.
Once relegated to the back of your grandmother's pantry or liqueur cellar, this historic fortified Spanish wine is making a comeback to the craft cocktail scene with its diversity of styles.
The beauty of sherry is that it can be dry, sweet, or drop anywhere in between. Dry sherries bring salinity, umami, and nutty to drinks, while sugary sherries add richness and acidity to twists on classic libations - try adding a half ounce or so for upgrade an Old Fashioned or use it in place of vermouth in a Manhattan. You can also drink it straight away; dry sherries go well with many savory dishes, and sweeter sherries make excellent after dinner quaffs.
In short: The mind helps create friendly cocktails.
Probably best known as the magical ingredient in martinis, vermouth is a fortified wine flavored with various herbs. There are two main varieties: red (sweet) which is usually native to Italy and white (dry), which usually comes from France.
Like sherry, vermouth works wonders in classic cocktails. Sweet vermouth binds gin, Campari and watermelon juice in our Watermelon Negroni - delicious, but not weak AVB.
To make a good vermouth shine, mix the ratio of a traditional drink. Try combining three parts of vermouth with one part of gin for a twist on a gin martini… just make sure you use a really good vermouth. Or, you can sip a quality vermouth all by itself with a touch of citrus.
You guessed it… port is also a fortified wine, this time from the shores of the Portuguese city of Porto. Broadly speaking, there are three main categories: vintage (expensive and all made from the same year), fawn (blended from older vintages and aged in wood) and ruby (young blends of different vintages and grapes; named for its deep ruby color).
While all are undoubtedly delicious, we tend to stick with ruby port for cocktail making because it's cheaper, pairs well with strong cheeses, chocolate, and berry-based desserts, and works. perfectly in cocktails in cold weather like Clarified milk punch.
But to make this comforting winter drink, you'll need another low-AVB ingredient ...
Basically allspice infused rum (aka, a high AVB spirit), allspice dram is earning a spot on our low AVB list because it takes very little to give a lot of flavor to our libations. How does it taste? Like winter pastries by a hot fire… with a kick.
The sip enjoyed a moment during the tiki craze of the mid-20se century, but it's getting harder and harder to find.
Luckily, it's extremely easy to make as long as you can get your hands on a bottle of over 50% ABV rum and don't mind waiting a bit. You know what we say about patience.
As American as apple pie, shrubs are fruit-based vinegar drinks that were once popular for their cooling effects back in the days when ice was easy to find. They also gave temperance people something fancy to drink before the sodas arrived. Plus, it's easy to prepare at home.
The end product is invigorating, fruity, and made holiday-worthy by the inclusion of rosemary and sage. Seltzer turns it into the one sip you need to get you through the New Year, but three fluid ounces of Prosecco or another sparkling wine per fluid ounce of shrub gets you right into that low AVB sweet spot.
If you're feeling inspired to experiment with low (and no) AVB sips, here are a few more ways to whet your whistle:
Make this holiday classic a little less alcoholic by replacing the scotch with a sweet port, sherry or vermouth. If you want to keep all of its potency, a touch of one of these AVB spirits will add a burst of festive flavor.
Cucumber Lemonade Gin Punch
Perfect for sipping in the summer or for a vacation get-together in warm weather, the cucumber lemonade in this cocktail can easily be served alcohol-free. Those who wish to soak up the low AVB side can add a touch of dry sherry or vermouth for a light kick.
Concentrate Fiery Ginger Ale
This spicy ginger ale concentrate is always good to have on hand, whether it's for a homemade soda or as a sparkling addition to seasonal drinks.
If you’re a regular cook, you’ll know the “eureka” feeling when you discover a way to cut an everyday kitchen task in half. As our cookery team has spent so many hours writing and triple-testing recipes, they’ve picked up a fair few tricks and tips along the way, so we asked them to impart their wisdom…
You probably already know that adding a dash of vinegar to egg poaching water helps coagulate the white. But did you know that adding a dash of vinegar to the water when boiling eggs helps the shell peel off more easily ? Say goodbye to piles of tiny egg shell shards. Test this tip out with one of our egg recipes.
A pizza blade can be wheeled through a sheet of pastry or bread dough with ease, saving you the expense of buying shaped cutters, or having to fiddle around, twizzling the point of a knife into strange angles.
‘Hard’ herbs like rosemary and thyme can be frozen whole. When you come to use them, they’ll naturally crumble into pieces, bypassing the mezzaluna completely. Try this recipe for lemon, pancetta
If your brown sugar has clumped into pieces, place a piece of soft white bread in the packet and the sugar will break back down into sandy granules in a few hours. tera stop it happening again, make sure the storage space is nice and dry.
Save yourself the disappointment of an un-squeezy lemon by microwaving it whole for around 20-30 seconds on high. It’s just enough time to release the juices, but be careful not to go overboard and dry the flesh out. Try one of our zesty lemon recipes.
If you have plain flour in the cupboard, you always have bread on hand. Just take one mug of plain flour combined with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil per person, then slowly add cold water until it’s a soft, smooth dough which leaves the bowl clean. Divide the dough into balls, roll out to a 2mm thickness then dry fry in a non-stick pan. They’ll only take a few instants and are ready when both sides have golden brown patches all over.
While the rind of cheese such parmesan, pecorino and Grana Padano is difficult to grate, it’s a shame to waste such an expensive byproduct. But there’s no need to. Add the rind whole when you’re sweating onions in the first stage of making a risotto or sauce. It will impart lots of its flavour but save you taking to it with a chainsaw. Don’t forget to remove it before serving though…Try using cheese rind in a risotto recipe.
Make your own dried breadcrumbs by grating stale bread on the coarse side of a grater, then spread the crumbs in a thin layer over a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes at 140C, giving them a good shake halfway through. The golden, crispy crumbs will last in a sealed container for up to two weeks. Try our wild garlic chicken Kiev recipe made with panko breadcrumbs.
If you need your meat injected with a bermuda, sharp burst of flavour, choose marinade ingredients wisely. Red wine quickly penetrates meat, giving it a deep colour, while citrus zest and juice tenderises it rapidly.
Not enough space for your party loot ? Save space for food by putting drinks into big tubs, buckets and bowls filled with salted ice water – the salt will cause the temperature to drop, giving you icy cold drinks in seconds. Browse our cocktail recipes for drinks inspiration.
Spruce up a shop-bought block of shortcrust by popping it into a food processor with a flavouring like herbs, vanilla, cheese, cocoa powder, honey or spice. All great additons to give your pastry an edge.
Bypass pencil outlines and fiddly scissors when lining a springform cake tin ( that’s one with a clippable ring and removeable base ). Lay the parchment onto the flat base of the tin, then press down and clamp the ring into place on top of it, leaving the edges around the outside to easily tear off. Try the clamping technique with this showstopping courgette, lemon
We love a stripy rainbow cake, but it’s perhaps one for an experienced baker to take on. If you want your sponge to sing with Technicolor joy but need an easier route to success, pick up a tub of multi-coloured hundreds and thousands. Mix some through your sponge batter ( not too many ) and when you cut a slice of your finished cake, you’ll have beautiful polka dots.
to peel a kiwi, just chop off the top and bottom, then push a dessertspoon in between the fruit and the skin. Turn the kiwi until all the skin falls off the back of the spoon.
When you cut the avocado in half, twist into two pieces, then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the side without the stone for immediate use. Return the empty skin to the other half, which still contains the stone, using the skin to cover it over. Keeping the stone in and covering with the skin helps retain colour and freshness until the following day.
Make this comforting ham hock colcannon, topped with a fried egg. ' /> Make this comforting ham hock colcannon, topped with a fried egg. ' /> Achieve the perfect set white and runny yolk with a few splashes of water. Fry the eggs in a non-stick pan and when the whites are almost cooked, put a few drops of water into the pan, quickly cover it with a lid and turn the heat down low, or off completely, and leave for a minute or two to finish cooking. The effect will be a perfect semi-poach. >Make this comforting ham hock colcannon, topped with a fried egg.
As soon as you buy herb plants from the supermarket or greengrocer, remove the plastic wrapping and trim the top leaves quickly to use in your cooking. By trimming off the top leaves first you’ll help the plant shoot out from lower down the stem making it stronger. Water every other day or according to the directives on the pack.
Nutty brown rice can take a long time to cook until tender, so speed up the process by soaking it in water overnight, as you would hard pulses like lentils. It’ll cook far quicker as a result. Try a recipe with brown rice.
Making a roux from flour and butter isn’t too difficult a process, but if time is of the essence, it might be easier to reach into the fridge. A tub of cream cheese watered down until the same consistency as béchamel makes a super simple solution. If you want to boost the flavour, add a grating of nutmeg. Alternatively, use crème fraîche and grated cheese.
Garlic cloves are one of the trickiest items to prepare, and if you find it frustrating, invest in a sturdy garlic press, and voilà – the whole clove can be passed through it with the skin intact. It may take a bit of pushing, but once through, the flesh is passed through the holes while the skin is left in the press to be easily removed. Watch this scène for tips on how to crush garlic.
Don’t just stick with salt and pepper, experiment with other storecupboard seasonings. Try sprinkling a crushed chicken stock cube over a whole chicken before roasting, or add a splash of soy sauce or wine to boost the flavour of your gravy.
Plastic bags of washed and ready-to-eat salad leaves are really convenient but don’t seem to last very long at all, even in the fridge. If you find yourself with leftover leaves, that are starting to lose their crispness, ensure they don’t go to waste. Instead, pop them in a pan with a little olive oil or butter, garlic and seasoning and wilt down as you would for spinach. This works particularly well with leaves like watercress and rocket. Learn how to build the perfect salad with our handy infographic.
Stir a few extra ingredients through your favourite shop-bought hummus and everyone will think you’ve made it yourself. Add a dash of lemon juice, chopped fresh coriander, some ground cumin, smoked paprika or a smidge of harissa paste to give it a kick. Alternatively add a few whole chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil to make it look homemade.