Halloween (Part Two)

You want scary? My friends and neighbors the Avatars have invited me to spend Halloween night with them and their adorable twins, Newton and Natick. The invitation came in the form of a favor: would I help with the food and beverage? Turns out they are throwing a Halloween party for the twins’ school mates (including three other sets of twins), their parents, and other assorted adults (of whom I guess I am one.) Boo!

They have dinner taken care of, no more cookies or cakes are needed, and I would not presume to try to one-up Mr. Hershey in the candy department. So what’s left? Adult beverages, of course.

Now, I worry that you’ll think that the Avatars ascribed to me an intimate knowledge of all things alcohol, and have thus asked me to choose a cocktail for the gathering. No, truth be told, I am a rather abstemious guy. The assignment was actually one of responsibility delegated.

Putting on my thinking cap, I pondered my options. What cocktail can I make that will land squarely in that magical intersection where Halloween appropriateness meets palate pleasing refreshment? I’d prefer to avoid drinks that look like blood, body parts, or that use “cutesy” effects like dry ice to reproduce a steaming cauldron effect. I want the cocktail to taste good, quench a thirst borne of an apartment full of screaming sugar-stoked children, and then look holiday appropriate.

As I looked out of my living room window at a big maple tree that had begun to blush with orange foliage I was taken back to another Halloween many, many moons ago.

(If it was that long ago, chances are I still had hair, so I like this story.)

I was bartending in a bustling hotel lobby bar. A blowsy, windswept woman dressed in shoulder-padded assorted animal prints landed on one of my bar stools and said, “Honey, Jeannie needs an Autumn Leaf.” I went with the immediate assumption that she was referring to herself in the third person.

Let me digress quickly to explain that I think all bartenders fall into two categories: those who know their booze from extensive personal experience, and those who know it from extensive study of the “Old Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide.” I fell squarely in the latter group, often with a jarring thud.

So it was that I had to reveal to Jeannie the dirty little secret that I had no idea what an Autumn Leaf was.

Jeannie, clearly a patient, understanding sort, said, “Don’t worry, honey, we’ll use the point system.”

I could feel myself cringe at a suggestion of something called “the point system” as it implied to me a need for some kind of math-on-the-fly. Jeannie, sensing my hesitation, explained that all I needed to do was to get a martini glass ready, and toss some ice into a cocktail shaker. She’d take it from there. I did as I was told as if under some kind of spell.

Once I had complied and had placed glass and shaker in front of her, Jeannie pointed to the ingredients she wanted.

Ah. The Point System. Get it?

And what she pointed to made the drink we have all come to know as a Cosmopolitan but with a dash of orange juice for color. It reminded me of the Cape Codder (or Cape Cawduh as we say up north) which is a Screwdriver with cranberry juice added.

Back to present day (and my current lack of hair. Oh well.) I thought the Autumn Leaf might make a perfect cocktail for the Halloween gathering, but pondered a little update that would lighten its profile: In the intervening years since Jeannie landed on that bar stool, there has been an invention that I think will provide just the change the Autumn Leaf needs. I speak not of the GPS or the cell phone, but of white cranberry juice.

White cranberry juice provides the same slippery coolness as red cranberry juice, but is clear, giving you a blank slate upon which you can paint a cocktail’s palette. If you think that sounds a little highfalutin’ don’t forget that you eat (and drink) with your eyes too. White cranberry juice just lets you make drinks to fit any appealing color-scheme. Want an orange-tinted cocktail for a Halloween party? Bingo!

The dash of fresh orange juice provides a foliage-tinted blush to the White Cranberry juice that actually suits any autumn occasion. Since this is for a party, I’m adding a touch that Jeannie may have found unnecessary: I’m going to sugar the rims of the glasses with orange sanding sugar. The bonus is that the adults can then stick their orange-dyed tongues out at the little ghosts, princesses, and mini-Madoffs scampering around the party.

I always worry that there will never be enough to eat, so I decided to bake a little nosh to accompany the Autumn Leaf—just to tide everyone over ‘till dinner. I’m baking a simple Cheddar Pecan shortbread crisp. They look like cookies, but they have a salty savory crunch that will cut the sugary tang of the cocktails and fill stomachs emptied by wrangling costumed kiddies through chilly city streets to the party.

Now all that’s left for me to do is to figure out a costume. I wonder where I put my Zorro mask?

Click here for my Autumn Leaf and Cheddar Pecan Shortbread Crisp recipes.

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4 Responses to “Halloween (Part Two)”

  • fmargrita:

    Ahhhhhhhhhh O

  • fmargrita:

    Ok here again OLD MR BOSTON, what a nice touch, sounds yummy

  • M.M.:

    OK, now what is wrong with the dry ice effect??? It works perfectly in a bathtub,giving a little Abbott and Costello edge to any gathering. Great color on the drink.

  • M.M.:

    OK, now what is wrong with the dry ice effect??? It works perfectly in a bathtub,giving a little Abbott and Costello edge to any gathering. Great color on the drink.

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