Don't you especially love the parties and get-togethers that happen just after Christmas? I do. The stress is lower, the gifts have been given, and the vibe is all about hanging out with family and friends and welcoming in the new year.
I've already picked up a few boxes of wine for the holiday season — some for sipping, some to cook with, and some to use as a cocktail mixer. This white wine and clementine cocktail is the first of five posts this week that incorporate boxed wine as a main ingredient. I'll keep the recipes pretty simple, and you'll have an option, whether you have a box of crisp white, dry rosé, or bold red.
One of the great things about boxed wine is its lengthy shelf life. Translation: You always have a cocktail mixer on hand. This boxed wine pitcher cocktail is a bright and cozy mashup of freshly juiced clementines, subtle vanilla, and a hint of fresh thyme.
I went with a lightly oaked chardonnay for this recipe, but you could easily substitute a crisp pinot grigio. The citrusy, toasty, vanilla notes of the oaked chardonnay are a natural match for the vanilla extract and clementines, resulting in an almost creamsicle-like flavor here. I also had a few sage ice cubes in my freezer, so I tossed them in the cocktail glasses to add a subtle herbal note and captivating color.
White Wine, Clementine & Vanilla Pitcher Cocktail
For the thyme syrup:
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup water
3 to 4 sprigs of thyme
For the clementine and star anise ice cubes:
2 clementines, sliced
12 whole star anise pods
Water for the ice molds
For the cocktail:
24 ounces chardonnay (I used Black Box)
12 ounces citrus vodka (I used St. George California Citrus)
24 ounces freshly squeezed clementine juice
6 ounces thyme simple syrup
3 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces chilled soda water, to taste
8 to 12 fresh thyme sprigs, for garnish
Clementine and star anise ice cubes, for garnish
For the thyme simple syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the cane sugar, water, and thyme. Bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat and then lower the heat to a slow simmer, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, let steep for at least 10 minutes, discard solids, and let cool completely.
For the clementine and star anise ice cubes: Slice two clementines and place slices in a muffin tin or mini-bundt pan. Toss in a star anise pod and fill with water. Freeze 24 hours or until solid. When ready to use, run warm water on the underside of the tin to release.
In a large pitcher or punch bowl, combine the white wine, citrus vodka, clementine juice, thyme syrup, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Stir until incorporated and chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to enjoy. You can even make this portion of the cocktail a day ahead and store it in the refrigerator; just give the mixture a good stir before serving.
For the cocktail: When you're ready to serve the cocktail, fill your pitcher or punch bowl with regular ice and the clementine and star anise ice cubes, and add the chilled cocktail mixture. Quickly top with the desired amount of soda water, taste for balance, and give the mixture a gentle stir. Prep individual cocktail glasses with ice; add the finished white wine, clementine, and vanilla cocktail; and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.
- Don't be intimidated by the look of this cocktail. Making decorative ice molds and cubes couldn't be easier and is so worth the added flavors and eye-catching color. It's such an easy step to take your cocktails to the next level.
- If you don't have a juicer, no worries. You can easily substitute fresh tangerine juice in this recipe, since I haven't easily found fresh clementine juice in the store.