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Blue Harvest

a 12BB original

4 oz Blue Moon Wheat Ale (or similar)
2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Harvest Spice Syrup

Combine all three ingredients, stir
Serve over crushed ice
Garnish with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
Scale as required


For Harvest Spice Syrup:

2 cups Brown Sugar
1 cup Water
0.25 tsp Cinnamon
0.25 tsp Ground Ginger
0.25 tsp Ground Cloves

Over low heat, dissolve sugar and spices in water
Allow to cool


Featured Glassware:  Boston Highball by Villeroy & Boch

* * *

We have to admit it, we’re not really Thanksgiving people. Of all the major holidays throughout the year, turkey day is low on our hit parade. The reasons are simple enough. We’ve never been able to rationalize the two days of prep to 20 minutes of dining to 4 hours of dishes ratio – unless you have a family of ten visiting and helping tend to the chores, which we don’t. On top of this, Thanksgiving comes with the promise of a guaranteed four-day weekend – not to mention the cheapest PTO expenditure to claim a whole week’s vacation – and we’re inclined to spent the time cashing in on off-season rates in pilgrim-free regions of the northern hemisphere.

In keeping with our holiday tradition, we had planned to bolt town this week for a quiet respite somewhere off the grid, but alas, things did not materialize as expected and we found ourselves spending the week at home, taking care of chores and giving in to a menu rife with cranberries, mashed potatoes, and stuffing.  Part of the reason for this change of heart is that 12BB Junior – now graduated from toddler to preschooler – decided the he was particularly looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner around the big table.   Like it or not, family and traditions have a way of trumping the most freewheeling of intentions.

Hailing from a larger family, I’ve learned a thing or two about negotiating holiday landmines.  The primary defense when the cousins come marching in is to be flexible.   Schedules will be missed; plans will be half-communicated, if at all.  And, you will need a drink.  Something festive, something simple, and something that can scale from five to fifty at a moment’s notice.   Here, we offer the Blue Harvest.

We recently created the Blue Harvest for an event hosted by our good friend Garrett Markenson.   It’s the second fete at which Garrett has asked us to tend bar, and when we’re invited to perform services as such, the first considerations are the number of guests, the budget, and our own particular skill level – parameters well worth acknowledging when it comes to hosting holiday feasts as well.

Going into Garrett’s event, we knew a couple of things:  there would be approximately 100 guests – chiefly au courant Los Angeles hair stylists – and we were working with a modest but reasonable budget.  As the bar was to be free, it would be foolish and budget-breaking to lead with top-shelf, spirit-heavy drinks like martinis, which offer much lower bang for the buck.  At approximately 9 drinks per 750 ml bottle of spirit, a martini with decent gin and vermouth can easily set you back $2.50 or more per drink.  Plus, booze-heavy drinks at an open bar can produce some unfavorable side effects, such as having to cut people off or, even worse, not cutting them off.   The next consideration was our own skill level as amateur bartenders, and the time-and-effort considerations that go into assembling many drinks.   Slow stirs outside of a bar can leave guests anxious.  Citrus, aside from being costly, is messy and time-consuming.  Since we had no knowledge of space or sink-accessibility, we decided to come up with a drink that was not only low cost but easily batched ahead of time and served as quickly as we could ladle.

I’ve become a fan of Blue Moon lately, mostly due to its availability and quaff-ability.   Given its wheat beer base and traits of orange and spice, it makes a solid base for a beer cocktail.   Also, as we discovered, it’s well enough known to make the final product more readily approachable for most people.  Being a big fan of early 19th century beer “punches”, I decided to riff on the classic recipes, like Brown Betty with something that covered a broad spectrum of beer-inspired flavors – predominantly spice and sugar – while keeping the cost low.  We served those 100 guests 3.5-ounce servings (half the size recommended here) at a cost of $0.50 per drink.   Over three hours, we went through just two 6-packs of beer and three bottles of Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth – just $40 worth of supplies, before the syrup, cups, and ice.

Of course, a cheap drink is a worthless drink if it doesn’t taste any good.  On this front, I’m happy to report that not only has Lesley claimed the Blue Harvest to be one of the best original drinks to come out of 12BB but almost every guest at Garrett’s event came back for seconds, if not fourths.  The low-alcohol content combined with the high taste factor makes this a drink that can you can easily serve at any holiday gathering with almost absolute impunity.   And, best of all, not only does it scale from a single glass to a trough without issue (the syrup scales equally well), it is best if made slightly ahead of time.  To chill our punch bowl without diluting the drink, we simply placed the bowl inside another bowl filled with ice.  If served over crushed iced, the drink will chill itself in a moment, so just leaving the bowl un-chilled won’t present an issue.

The Blue Harvest is the first of two drinks we concocted for Garrett’s party, and it was a real crowd pleaser.  Inexpensive and easy-to-make in batch form, it will also get you out from behind the bar and let you spend your holiday mingling with your family and friends – if you go in for that kind of thing, that is.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.


Esoterica:  If you’re a nerd, and you think that the name of the Blue Harvest alludes to something more than Blue Moon and Harvest spice, you would be correct.  After all, we’re nerds, could you blame us?



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