While planning a holiday cocktail party a couple months back, I was on the lookout for some interesting recipes to try. I didn’t want to spend the evening in the kitchen, so I wanted to have a selection of easy-to-mix drinks available. For these sorts of situations I usually mix up large batches of a couple different recipes a couple hours beforehand and chill them in clean, empty wine bottles.
For this party I wanted something seasonal and the November/December issue of Imbibe Magazine (who just got a great new web site design) had just the thing: The Nutty Monk. The key ingredient in this cocktail is walnut-infused Cognac. I had just received a bag of organic walnuts from our CSA the week before so this sounded like just the thing.
Walnut Cognac is made with toasted walnuts, not raw, and so has a short infusion time in order to avoid overpowering the Cognac. Start with 2 cups of whole walnut halves with the skin on. You can make them in the oven by toasting them at 350°F until the skins are dark, about 5 or 10 minutes. Alternately, toast them in a pan on the stove over medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring constantly. The stove-top method is quicker but requires constant attention so the nuts don’t burn on one side.
Once the walnuts have been toasted, place in a large jar and pour one 750ml bottle of Cognac over them. Cover the jar and let them sit for 36 hours, then strain.
You’ll probably want to do a double-pass straining to get out all the walnut pieces. I first poured it through a medium-mesh strainer to get rid of all the large pieces out of the way and then, in batches, ran it through a coffee filter to get everything. Change the filter as needed.
The Nutty Monk
* 2 ounces walnut-infused VSOP Cognac
* 1 ounce Benedictine
* 1 dash aromatic bitters
Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, and gently stir for 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass over a large, irregularly-shaped piece of ice.
Imbibe is all about ice cubes lately, after running a feature on them a few issues back. To make the ice pieces called for in this recipe, fill a loaf pan with water and freeze. Once frozen, run hot water over the outside of the pan to free the ice and use an ice pick to break it into pieces. I didn’t bother and instead used cubes from my Tovolo perfect cube trays.