We are not very adventurous in our liquor choices. A plain gin and tonic is our perennial summer cocktail; why change a good thing? We'll order something new and exotic when dining out, but at home we stick to the basics.
Then a bottle of Navan showed up in our mailbox. Navan is a vanilla cognac from the makers of Grand Marnier. Not being brandy-drinkers, we were a little apprehensive about this. Cognac is a type of brandy produced only in the Cognac region of France. To make Navan, the same company that brought you Grand Marnier takes cognac brandy and infuses it with vanilla and a little extra sugar.
Like Grand Marnier's orange-flavored cognac, this is a liqueur that doesn't replace the standard liquor-cabinet brandy, but is best straight or mixed into specialty drinks.
We are not used to brandy, but we do like sweet drinks with rum (mango colada, anyone?) And we adore vanilla - those deep, rich, sweet notes in true vanilla are some of our favorite flavors anywhere.
So we thought - hmm. We just got a new blender, and we have utterly delicious local milk in the refrigerator. Why not a vanilla milkshake - spiked with Navan? The first round of this was a huge hit, but one of our taste-testers thought it needed a little extra something.
In went fresh-brewed coffee from another new toy: a ten-cup Chemex coffee brewer. That was it; this drink hit the spot!
On a hot, muggy weekend afternoon, this creamy, cool milkshake was just the treat we needed. The Navan gives it a little kick, but not too much. Just enough to make us pleasantly relaxed and a little drowsy. The real benefit is the intensely floral vanilla flavor from the liqueur; it's wonderfully fruity, smooth, and rich. We tasted a sip neat and it was delicious as well, although we think it's a drink better suited to the winter, if drinking straight-up.
Coffee-Vanilla Milkshake (With a Navan Kick)
2 healthy adult-sized portions of milkshake
1 1/2 ounces Navan vanilla liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
3 teaspoons sugar
1 cup crushed ice cubes
1/2 cup fresh-brewed coffee
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree until the ice has been completely incorporated and the milkshake has a smooth and frothy texture. Drink immediately - but slowly. No ice cream headaches!
(Images: Faith Hopler)