Sometimes tradition trumps local and Christmas Eve is one of those times in our house. Seeing my father-in-law wearing red and green plaid pants, a crisp white shirt and Christmas bow tie, walking in with a tray of Old-Fashioneds is a stunning memory of my first Christmas Eve in Iowa. From that moment on, I realized I had married into the right family.
We no longer travel to Iowa for Christmas, but we have our own annual Christmas Eve cocktail party and in the Priester family tradition, Old-Fashioneds are essential. Traditionally served in tumblers, aptly named Old- Fashioned glasses, we instead pull out our collection of vintage pressed glass “open sugars”, once again in honor of Charlie’s father, Dudley. He’s collected these glasses through the years and has passed them on to his children. Although Dudley prefers to serve Old-Fashioneds in their namesake glasses, he’ll use “open sugars” for Bloody Marys on Christmas morning. Now there’s another tradition I can highly suggest.
I’m going to give you Charlie’s recipe for his Christmas Eve Old-Fashioned, but first I want to share some recipes for a couple of easy appetizers you can make with our dwindling supply of local produce. If I say Christmas, you may not think of radishes and celery, but hey, they’re red and green and more importantly, they’re still available.
Radishes and butter have long been a French favorite. I found a new take on that winning combo in a Southern cookbook I’m currently in love with — Simple Fresh Southern by the Lee Brothers.
1/2 lb. red radishes, trimmed, at room temperature
6 T unsalted butter, softened
Sea salt & ground pepper
Put radishes in food processor and pulse until chopped fine.
Place chopped radishes on cheesecloth or double thickness of paper towels and press out the excess liquid.
Transfer to a medium bowl and work in the softened butter 1T at a time using a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon.
Transfer to a 2 cup ramekin or bowl, sprinkle with salt and ground pepper and serve immediately on crackers or bread.
My brother Jon made some wonderful pimento cheese over Thanksgiving so I asked for his recipe to serve with celery. I made mine with cheese I had in the fridge for Lily but think I’ll use some Beecher’s Flagship Reserve for our party. It’s a rich aged cheddar, handmade in Seattle of raw milk from two local dairies.
Jon’s Pimento Cheese
Jon “grates sharp cheddar cheese and adds cream cheese and a little mayo to thin it up a bit, and a small jar of pimentos without the liquid, and mixes it all up. Salt and pepper too. It’s really simple.” — And delicious, thanks Jon.
Charlie’s Old-Fashioned Cocktail
1/2 t sugar or a cube of sugar
Several dashes of Angostura Bitters
2 ounces Bourbon
Slice of lemon (Meyer lemons are available now and are our preference)
Slice of orange
Place sugar in bottom of glass. Saturate with bitters. Muddle until well blended.
Add bourbon to glass.
Fill glass with cracked ice and stir gently.
Garnish with lemon and oranges slices and maraschino cherry.
This is a cocktail even I could make but please don’t tell Charlie. Being served an Old-Fashioned on Christmas Eve is a tradition I’m not willing to let go of.
Here’s another variation from the 1940 edition of The Official Mixer’s Manual by Patrick Gavin Duffy, first published in 1934.