Economic gloom and doom—not to mention an unending winter—have you reaching for the bottle? Too bad you can’t afford the Grey Goose anymore.
Yes, gone are the days of trolling the liquor-store aisles, cart at the ready, seeking out the new, the exotic, the vintage. Who can justify a triple figure booze tab in these uncertain times? For most Canadians, replenishing the California cab stock falls firmly in the category of “frivolous.”
Now is the time to get creative where your liquor cabinet is concerned and rediscover some old favourites. Bottles fall out of fashion, and once their sweet elixirs have satisfied a cocktail fad or hot recipe they stand forgotten under a layer of dust, relegated to the back recesses of the cabinet with only a few sad shots left to their name.
It’s those sweet liqueurs—the Chambords, apricot brandy and crème de banane—that linger for years. But you drank them once and you can drink them again. Or if, say bad memories render that impossible, many can be used to tasty end in the kitchen (since restaurants are no longer part of the budget, either).
And the rule is one bottle out, one bottle in, right?
First on the list is Chambord, a delicious black raspberry liqueur from France and housed in a gorgeous (albeit space-eating), bulbous bottle, decorated with bits of gold plastic. It was likely purchased to shake up the highly satisfying French Martini—a mixture of two parts vodka, one part Chambord and one part pineapple juice—which is a pleasant way to enjoy it again.
But its potential doesn’t stop there. It can add great flavour to a raspberry vinaigrette. Add one part Chambord to two parts extra virgin olive oil, one part red wine vinegar and a dab of Dijon. Season with some salt and pepper, and you’ve got a versatile and economic salad topper. Other liqueurs like sambuca and limoncello, or fortified wines like sherry and port can also add great flavour and depth to a mound of mixed greens.
Add a minced shallot or toss in some of your favourite fresh herb to build on the flavour.
With St. Paddy’s day just around the corner now is the time to bust out that bottle of electric green crème de menthe but please don’t pour it into your pint glass. Sweet and minty cocktails are a hard sell so either enjoy it over ice after a heavy meal as it helps cleanse the palette and aid digestion, or better yet, use it to flavour chocolate truffles.
You can use brandy, Kahlúa, Cointreau or any number of spirits but the combo of rich dark chocolate and cool mint holds a significant place in many a confectionary repertoire (Grasshopper Pie ring a bell?). And despite what you may think, truffles are neither complicated nor laborious.
Simply heat 1 cup (250 mL) heavy (35%) cream until it just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over 1 lb (500 g) of chopped dark chocolate—the best your thin wallet can afford. Let sit for 30 seconds, add an ounce (30 mL) of crème de menthe and 2 Tbsp (30 mL) butter, then stir until smooth.
Cool in the refrigerator until solid then use a teaspoon to scoop out small portions and shape into balls. Roll truffles in cocoa powder or chopped nuts and voila, fancy-pants truffles with just a hint of mint.
That bottle of peach schnapps, years forgotten now, may be what’s left from your Fuzzy Navel days but there’s a reason that trend gripped the ’80s like Michael Jackson’s sparkly mitt—it tasted pretty damn good. For an updated version of the classic cocktail combine one ounce peach schnapps with ¾ ounce triple sec in a tall glass filled with ice. Top with equal parts orange juice and cranberry juice and garnish with a few frozen cranberries.
Your bottle of crème de banane may date back even further (Chocolate Monkey and a swing on the dance floor at Studio 54 anyone?) and with its candied banana flavour it can dominate even the most complex of libations, but used to its full potential as a banana flavouring in a traditional cream pie or pudding recipe it’s the perfect addition. Save the Chocolate Monkey shots for really tough times.
Old Fashioned Banana Pudding
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) sugar
- 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp (30 mL) cornstarch
- Pinch salt
- 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 1 cup (250 mL) milk
- 1/4 cup (50 mL) evaporated milk
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) butter
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) crème de banane liqueur
- 1–2 bananas thinly sliced
Whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the egg yolks, then gradually whisk in the milk and evaporated milk until smooth. Cook over medium heat until foaming subsides and mixture thickens, about 8–10 minutes, whisk¬ing constantly. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and banana liqueur. Cool 5 minutes, whisking periodically to prevent a skin from forming.
Spoon some of the pudding into the bottom of four dessert glasses, add a few banana slices and cover with remaining pudding. Cover surface with plastic wrap and cool completely before refrigerating for 3 hours or until chilled. Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and drizzle with just a touch of Kahlua, if desired.