It's T-minus 16 days until January 1, 2013: the return to reality, and to the gym. Until then, however, life will pretty much be dictated by cocktails, parties, and presents — and that gave us an idea. While gift cards are nice and cookies are
These three DIYs take as little effort to whip up as a gin and tonic and are great options for the wine lovers, liquor connoisseurs, and amateur mixologists on your list. Grab some spirits, some spices, and a glass for yourself. And one for us, please.
Wine Mulling Spices
Mulled wine is just about the coziest winter drink we can think of, and while the spice combo is simple, most folks don't keep all of them on hand. This sachet makes a great party gift, and will sweeten up your kitchen with its seasonal, spicy scent.
1 tbps whole cloves
1 tbsp whole allspice berries
1 tbsp cardamom pods
1 1/2 tbsp orange peel (or the peel of one orange, dried)
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 package unbleached cheesecloth
Cut a large square of cheesecloth and fold it in half. Note: Spice bags work just as well and can be found in many supermarkets around this time of year. Spoon spices into the center.
And top with the crumbled orange peel.
Fold the corners up, and tie with a long piece of baker's twine (or wrapping ribbon).
Tie the cinnamon stick to the outside of the sachet...
...and tie the whole thing to the neck of a bottle of wine (preferably Cabernet, Chianti, or Merlot). It doesn't need to be a fancy bottle...
...because you just made it fancy!
A homemade liquor infusion is one of the easiest (and most appreciated) DIY gifts. You end up with a yummy, rich booze, perfect for homemade Manhattans — plus, bourbon-infused cherries, which any baker will love. It takes a little time, but pretty much zero effort. You'll see.
1/2 pound fresh cherries
1 bottle mid-range bourbon
1 medium canning jar
1 flask or bottle of your choice
Cut cherries in half, remove pits, and place in the canning jar.
Fill almost to the top with bourbon and cap tightly.
Store the jar in a cool dark place (not the fridge). Once a day, give it a good shake. The flavor will be good in three days, peaking at seven. You can keep the cherries in there for weeks, but the flavor won't develop much further after this point.
Using a funnel, decant the bourbon into the gift bottle...
...and stopper it up.
Give to your luckiest pal.
Peppermint Simple Syrup
This is a great present for cocktail-fans and teetotalers alike. You can use this simple infusion in seasonal drinks, mocha-mint lattes, or just a cup of cocoa. Peppermint makes everything better.
1 small bunch peppermint leaves
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
Equal parts sugar and water (size depends on your container)
1 glass bottle
Fill bottle halfway up with sugar.
Add peppermint extract.
Tear off mint leaves and drop into the bottle.
Fill the rest of the way with tepid water.
Shake, shake, shake until sugar is entirely dissolved.
Done. Easiest "cooking" you've ever done, right?
Photographed by by Amelia Alpaugh