January can put me in a certain mood, a dicey mix of contemplative and bored (for which booze is probably never a good chaser, but anyway). Since nothing happens in January, my mind’s left to dwell on December’s heedless indulgences and… well, let me start from the beginning.

When I originally made this cocktail for a friend’s holiday party two years ago, it was the first time I’d written a recipe entirely in my head. In fact, I don’t think I’d even tasted Absolut Kurant before I thought to put it in this drink. A chef I interviewed years prior told me he subscribed to a “that sounds great” philosophy of dish-inventing, that if your tongue relishes articulating “coriander encrusted mahi mahi” or “sweet potato fries dipped in banana-guava ketchup” then it’ll probably enjoy eating those things, too. So, having just moved back to New York and with no money to spare on cocktail experimentin’, my party drink came together hypothetically. I wanted it to taste like ice skating on a frozen pond. I pictured Charlie Brown’s friends catching snowflakes on their tongues. (“It’s fun!”)

The cocktail, which I then called Santa’s Little Enabler, went over very well and it’s probably the one I’m still proudest of, but it wasn’t until a few nights ago that I ever mixed one up again. This might be because it’s on the complicated side (making it en masse at the party meant never leaving the kitchen). It may be due to my dithering over whether the drink would be as good as I remembered. Or maybe it’s because I’m no longer friends with the friend I made it for. There’s not much to say about that, except it’s the kind of thing I think about in times like January.

Revisiting Santa’s Little Enabler, I found it too sweet. How shoddy of character must I be to let myself get away with sipping on a too-sweet cocktail that harks back to a former best friend… in January, no less? This wouldn’t do. The drink needed something — or rather, I did — that bestowed a little more gravitas. Santa’s Little Enabler was for partying; January’s Cocktail needed to be for… OK, not penance, but you get the idea. You get the idea especially when I tell you that I swapped out the ginger ale topper for tea.

Both iterations of this recipe have produced similar, and I admit satisfying, results. I get great compliments and impassioned descriptives from people who try it. It carries a can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it appeal, tasting like no one of its ingredients, neither at the front nor on the finish, but also not tasting like an out-of-tune quintet of disparate flavors. Unique and uniform, I guess. I might even call it kind of kooky — where the hell did I come up with the pink grapefruit juice? — yet to my mind, this recipe makes perfect sense. It puts my mind at ease, is what I might be trying to say. Which is what January most certainly calls for.

January’s Cocktail

2 ounces Absolut Kurant

¾ ounces Licor 43

A splash of butterscotch Schnapps

2 ounces freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice

1 ¼ ounces peppermint tea

2 tsp. raw egg white

(alternate) Splash of ginger ale

Confectioner’s sugar, for the rim

Rim your cocktail glass with confectioner’s sugar and set aside.

Pour the Absolut, Licor 43, Schnapps and egg white into a cocktail shaker. Cap and shake vigorously for about a minute.

Add grapefruit juice and peppermint tea into shaker, fill with ice, cap and shake again for another minute. Strain into cocktail glass.

Alternatively, do your second shake with the grapefruit juice but without the tea. Strain contents of shaker into cocktail glass and then top with a splash of ginger ale.

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