October 15th, 2009 | 1 Comment »

So my very dear friend Kate Milford has a book, The Boneshaker, coming out next March. Thanks to this, and a number of other obligations, she’s been out of town for almost a year. I’ve visited her in Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband, once or twice–notably a couple of weeks ago to attend a Friday Night Fights event during which her friend got knocked out in his first amateur bout. But we don’t talk about that. We talk about cocktails, because that’s how Kate and I basically met. Her book’s for kids, but I suspect a lot of us adults’ll read it, too, so I volunteered to hold a grown-up book signing here at Magothy Treats as soon as she’s able to make it back to Nagspeake after the book release. Obviously I want to have a signature cocktail for the event, since cocktails are kind of my thing (at least they become my thing after the shop closes and I start to need something to occupy myself until I fall asleep over whatever Aubrey/Maturin novel the stupid Book-Club-of-the-World is reading on any given week). I decided to create a potable which I would call a Velocipede, since the Boneshaker in Kate’s title is an antique bicycle. And since my next door neighbor can’t drink anything harder than Milk of Magnesia, I need a few testers, so without further ado, here’s attempt #1. Try it and let me know what you think.


  • 2 oz Stone’s Ginger
  • 1/2 oz Lillet Rouge
  • 1/2 oz applejack
  • 4 shakes Peychaud’s bitters

Shake well, strain, and garnish with orange peel and a bit of candied ginger.

Mix, drink, report your findings!

Posted in Recipes, Toddies
September 9th, 2009 | No Comments »

It’s Plum Pudding Day! And I would’ve been all ready to start steaming at this point, but I forgot that I hadn’t candied the lemon peels yet, so I am literally watching a pot full of lemon peels boil. It’s scintillating, by which I mean it’s not remotely. So I made myself this drink:

1 Part B&B liqueur

1 Part Orange Peel Syrup (This is what was left in the pot after the final step of semi-candying orange peels for the Plum Puddings. I started with 2 cups water, 1 cup light brown sugar, and 1 cup fresh orange juice-squeezed from the oranges I’d taken the peels from–and, of course, the peels of three oranges, which had already been boiled twice, for ten minutes, in fresh changes of water. Once the orange peels were translucent and the liquid was reduced to about 1/2 cup, I strained out the oranges and kept the resulting syrup and mixed it with B&B. The lesson is, never throw anything away.  Just mix it with liquor.)

September 9th, 2009 | 3 Comments »

With this post I am inaugurating a new series: things to do when you’re stressed out and need to stop yourself from hitting someone. There are several activities you can undertake in the kitchen to help you overcome this impulse. Some require more preparation than others; kneading bread dough, for instance, is fantastic, especially if you do it thumpingly and without flouring your workspace, but then you have to have dough ready for kneading, obviously. Pulling taffy: equally good, but only if you want to calm yourself down. I’ve said it before: taffy pulling has a zenlike quality to it. It’s like yoga for me. But right now I don’t want to just calm down. Today I need to get the aggression out of my system, so I am making butter, because the motions involved range from the same muscular actions required to shake your fist at someone, stab someone, and/or hit someone over the head with a sauce pan. I have been tempted to do all three this morning.

Basically, it’s easy: throw some high-butterfat cream into a jar and shake it until it separates. Pour off the buttermilk. Shake it some more. Pour off more buttermilk. Repeat until you are left with a yellow lump in the jar. Remove from jar, rinse off the remaining buttermilk, mix in anything you want (salt, honey, herbs, zest, whatever), shape it and wrap it in wax paper or stick it in a jar. There. You’re done. Fresh butter in something less than an hour. I was so mad an hour ago that mine took fifteen minutes.

The reason for my fury, and then I must get back to Plum Pudding Day, is, of course, the debaters. I unlocked the door this morning to find, taped up next to my hours of operation, a flier announcing the first annual Bayside Forensics Tournament at the end of September. The location?


Magothy Treats.

The little buggers have volunteered me to host a freaking convocation of argumentative, issues-oriented teenagers.

So anyone who orders a Magothy Treats Christmas Plum Pudding this year gets a complimentary jar of brandy butter. Because I have more now than I will ever, EVER use.

Posted in Recipes
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

December 9, 2008

I am a fan of liquor in coffee, which I suppose isn’t all that unique in the world when there are such good things to spike coffee with. This morning, however, after waking up with a hangover I don’t remember earning (must’ve been a sleepless night last night!), I decided to go simple, and since I am a charter member of my friend Kate’s twenty-book Patrick O’Brian book club (the name’s changed a couple of times, beginning with the exclamatory Book Club Of The World! and currently going by Around O’Brian in However Bloody Long it Takes), I decided to make boiled coffee.

Now if you read the excellent Lobscouse and Spotted Dick (Which It’s a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels) by Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas, you will find that boiling coffee is not looked upon fondly by the primary characters, which, frankly, is why I decided to make it. Kate loves these damn books and I am so damn sick of them I actually think my spontaneous hangover might be the result of my attempting to stay up late last night in order to finish The Ionian Mission (Book Number Eight!) in time for tonight’s book club meeting. I suspect I might have been drinking a lot of grog at the time, justifying it on the grounds of being in the spirit of the book (spirit–do you smoke it? Hahahahahaha!) but hoping it would knock me out eventually, thereby giving me an excuse to pass out without actually deciding to stop reading, which would’ve caused me some guilt as I absolutely promised to help keep this book club going no matter what it took.

Okay, I guess I remember why I’m hung over.


Boiled Coffee is made with fresh medium-ground coffee, cold water, and eggshells, the last of which help the grounds to settle. It’s a thicker, stronger brew than your normal brewed stuff. I, of course, have to doctor everything, so here’s what I made this morning, which is also a lovely Christmassy sort of beverage for holiday celebrations due to the subtle spice flavors added by cardamom and clove.


4 heaping tbsp fresh-ground coffee

4 cups cold water

2 eggshells, crushed

2 white cardamom pods

3 cloves

*Throw everything into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and boil for at least five minutes. Strain and serve.

Posted in Recipes, Toddies
May 5th, 2009 | 2 Comments »

September 19, 2007

I always know it’s fall when the  summer breeze starts for the first time to feel like the tiniest of chills and I excavate a scarf from under the pile of coats that’s been threatening to topple my coat rack for the last six months.

Either then or the first time of the season my AWFUL next-door neighbor gives me that ghastly leer of his and says, “Cold, Annabelle?” I know that son of a you-know-what-kind-of-bitch isn’t asking because he thinks he should offer me a sweater.

So, scarf or nasty neighbor’s nipple-observations, whichever comes first–that’s what really tells me autumn’s in the air. And you know what that means for an insomniac? If you guessed cold-induced shaking fits no number of blankets will put a stop to, you guessed right. The point, however, is: at Magothy Treats, fall is for hot toddies!

In celebration of this, my favorite time of the year, here are my most stalwart recipes for drinks to take the chill off the first bite of the season. And many of them involve boiling water, which, in conjunction with a capably-wielded teakettle, can be a formidable way of discouraging the nasty man next door from commenting on the physical manifestations of cold weather on your person.

Buttered Toddies have the same charm for me as truffles; you can accomplish almost endless variations by changing one or more of the primary ingredients: in this case the liquor, the spices, and the butter. Or, more precisely, what goes into the butter.

The basic technique here, if you can call it that, will be the same for the variations that follow. With a flavored butter, you change the drink. I make up half-sticks of each kind of butter and use about one tablespoon for each drink.

Equipment you’ll need for all these variations:

A teakettle

Heat-proof glasses or mugs for serving (although glasses are prettier for presenting)

A small wooden spoon (or use metal, just be careful not to break the glass)

Honey-Buttered Rum

Delicious, delicious. Honey and rum were meant to go together.


1 tbsp brown sugar

3 oz dark rum

3 white cardamom pods

boiling water

1 tbsp honey butter (see below)

To make honey butter:

*Soften 4 tbsp (half a stick) of butter to room temperature

*Blend with one tablespoon honey.

Cool to solid in refrigerator (I form it into a rough rectangle and wrap it in wax paper, gift-wrap style)

To make buttered rum:

*Boil water, then pour some in to warm the glass. Pour it out again.

*Put brown sugar and cardamom pods into glass. Add water, stir to dissolve sugar. Add rum. Fill rest of glass with boiling water. Stir. Top with a tbsp of honey butter.

Orange-Clove Buttered Rum

This is a good one for the holidays. Oranges and clove always make me think of Christmas.

Follow the recipe above, substituting Orange-Clove butter and a slice of orange peel studded with three whole cloves for the garnish. Also for this recipe I use gold rum rather than dark rum. It’s a personal preference, and you can really use either one.

To make Orange-Clove butter:

*Soften half a stick of butter to room temperature.

*Stir in the zest from half an orange and one large pinch of ground cloves. Cool to solid in refrigerator.

Rumrunner’s Breakfast

Not a buttered toddy, but another hot rum drink that I couldn’t I couldn’t survive the fall and winter without. Because when you add coffee, rum really doesn’t seem so inappropriate earlier in the day. Especially if you sleep late, like I did today.


Fresh-ground coffee

White cardamom pods

Milk or cream to taste

Dark, gold or spiced rum

Vanilla extract (I prefer double-strength)

*Brew a pot of coffee as you like it, and add one cardamom pod for every two cups you brew–so if your pot is a twelve-cup coffeepot and you fill it up, you should add six cardamom pods. By the way, if you don’t have fresh ground, you won’t spoil anything by using a decent pre-ground coffee.

*Pour coffee, add milk to taste, and add 1/2 oz rum and 1/4 tsp vanilla to each cup.

Variations and Notes on Flavoring Coffee

Adding flavors to the brew basket is a nice, subtle way of flavoring coffee; you’ll get just the hint of whatever you add. So, obviously, you can use this technique to flavor coffee even if (perish the thought) you’re not planning on adding rum.

The variations on this recipe are just about as endless as the things you can throw into the basket to flavor coffee as it brews. Orange zest is fantastic, and if I’d had any this morning, I’d probably have thrown it in there right along with the cardamom. In fact, one of my favorite gifts to give is a pound of coffee beans flavored this way–you just throw the flavoring in with the beans (do this in advance, though, so the spices can sit in with the beans for a while before the coffee is to be used), make sure it’s all nicely mixed up, and voila! Just throw the flavorings right in along with the beans when it’s time to grind.

Posted in Recipes, Toddies
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

August 30, 2007

Well, if it’s the good stuff or an inspired combination thereof, liquor can be so many things…something special to share, the icing on a spectacular meal, a tasty accompaniment to an afternoon on the beach or an evening on the porch, a conversational lubricant, a truth serum, a sleeping draught…

I’ll be posting some potables here shortly, but right now I’m trying to cut down on my alcohol to see if it really has any impact on my ability to sleep. Right now I’ve locked up the liquor cabinet, so I just don’t feel like helping any of you have any while I can’t.

I might have to open the cabinet up soon, though, because I think I might have locked my cat in there.

Simple Syrups for Sweetening the Days

I held out as long as I could, but when the cat stopped making noise I had to give in and open the cabinet. What if the poor baby had suffocated? Or lost its taste for anything but my heirloom gin?

Then I had to check in on my heirloom gin and make sure that was as much a joke as I meant it to be.

Then dear little Holly and Rebecca who are performing this week at the bookstore down the street popped in and Holly and Rebecca do like a nice cocktail, so I decided it was time to crack into my syrup cupboard and show those city girls how we do things down here by the beach.

Simple syrups are like truffles–decadent though they are, they’re sinfully easy to make, and once you have the hang of it you can blend up whatever crazy combinations take your heart can conceive of. They are lovely mixed with seltzer or tonic for a refreshing pick-me-up, or incorporated into your own alcoholic inventions to create signature cocktails when visiting performance poets from Los Angeles stop by. They can be thickened up to drizzle over desserts, and the same basic method, with a few adjustments, will set you on the road to jams, jellies, preserves, and pates de fruits.  Here’s what I have in my cupboard this week.

Equipment you’ll need for all these variations:

a medium saucepan (I don’t use my copper here because I find it gives the fruit syrups a mineral aftertaste).

wooden spoon

a mandoline or slicer (optional)

clean glass jars or bottles for storage

Spiced Plum Syrup

This syrup pairs beautifully with brandy or rum–especially a nice dark one like Gosling’s. I’m not a big vodka girl but I suspect that’d be a nice option, too–you can’t seem to mess things up with vodka, probably because all it does is add alcohol.

Also, for purposes of the syrup you don’t need the solids, but they are delicious for spooning over ice cream or stirring into yogurt–just take out the cardamom pods before eating. I’ve even used a spoonful in place of jam in a pbj special. Or you can whip up a chocolate cake and use them to make cocoa-plum filling…which might or might not be the secret center of what some people around here call ANNABELLE’S FAMOUS MIDNIGHT TORTE…recipe coming soon to the sweets page…


1 1/2 cup thinly sliced ripe black plums

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

4 white cardamom pods

2 large pinches lavender

1 small pinch sea salt (I like fleur de sel for this, but any sea salt will do)

Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Stir to combine, and keep stirring over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes; fruit should be soft and breaking down.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a container. Press gently on the solids with the back of a spoon to express as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids; you may want to put it through the sieve twice if you like less pulp. Cool and store for up to one week.

Plum Punch

1 part dark rum

1 part Spiced Plum Syrup

1 part seltzer water

Mix rum and syrup, pour into glass (over ice if desired), top with seltzer and a sprig of mint or slice of lemon for garnish.

Lemon-Herb Syrup

I love a nice gin gimlet. I call it my grown-up girl drink; it puts me in mind of Nora Charles, or one of those moderns they used to photograph up at the Shutter Club mansion back in Grandmom’s day. This syrup is nicely modern, not too sweet, and just different enough from the standard lime syrup to stymie whomever you serve it to.


One cup fresh basil leaves

Zest of one lemon in wide slices (avoid the pith; it adds bitterness)

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

6 juniper berries

Juice of one lemon

Combine the first six ingredients in a saucepan and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, then turn off heat and add lemon juice. Allow mixture to cool on stove, strain solids, and store for up to one week.

Byway Gimlet

You can mix a gimlet according to your tastes, but this is a good start. Sometimes I add seltzer or tonic for a little fizz.

2 oz gin

1/2 oz Lemon-Herb Syrup

2 oz tonic (optional)

1 lime or lemon wedge

Mix. Drink. Refill. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Sugar-Rum-Cherry Syrup

I named this recipe after that great jazzy version of the Sugarplum Fairy number from the Nutcracker because I love that song and because it’s basically the recipe in so many words.


One lb pitted cherries, halved

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/4 cup water

Juice of one lime

4 oz light rum

Combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer for twenty minutes; fruit should be softened.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a container. Press gently on the solids with the back of a spoon to express as much liquid as possible. Drain liquid and cool.

Discard the solids, or then again you can puree them for cake filling or whatever.

Cherry Kir Royale

This is the easiest little cocktail ever. Serve it in champagne flutes or martini glasses. Just put a tablespoon of Sugar-Rum-Cherry Syrup in the bottom of each glass and top it off with Brut. Give it a stir if you want, and garnish with a cherry on a sword or a twist of lime.

Sometimes I get two bottles so I can make one of these cocktails for a guest.

Posted in Recipes, Toddies
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

June 2007

Well, it’s June, and summer is officially here! Warm days mean one thing at Magothy Treats: it’s time for taffy!

Up until her accident last year, my grandmother still spoke about childhood summers in rented cottages on the Bay Byway, and how she and her sisters always rated their favorite homes away from home based on how far the walk was to the soda shop. That, and whether or not the local lifeguard appeared to have a whorey girlfriend.

Well, the soda fountain no longer stands where Granny insists it was, right about at Milepost Five, but it lives in her memory, along with the famous saltwater taffy the owner’s wife made fresh every day, twisted up in little squares of pink waxpaper. I spent a long time working on the recipes we use here, because I knew they needed to meet Granny’s exacting standards. And they needed to be chewy enough to work her dentures loose, because that’s my favorite thing about her visits.  My favorites are simple taffy variations made with the flavored sugars I whip up at Magothy Treats. They’re very subtle, but since you chew them a long time, you get the flavor in the end.  The recipes below are not so subtle, but are customer favorites every single year.

Taffy-making is not for the impatient, but it does have a certain comfort factor, a touch of zen-in-a-pot. Here’s why:

The sugar mixture can take a long time to reach its appropriate stage. You can do nothing to speed the creep of the thermometer needle, because turning the heat up too high will make the sugar boil over, and you have to wash down the sides of the pan to keep seed crystals from forming, so you can’t really walk away.  You must be patient, even if you think it’ll kill you; if you turn up the heat or walk away for too long, the sugar will pass the soft-crack stage and move to the hard-crack, and then all you’ll have to look forward to is smashing the brittle result into pieces and hoping you can convince someone it’s a strange, nutless brittle. Then there’s the pulling. It’s both an upper-body workout and a mindless, meditative exercise.

Also, good quality ingredients are important here. Trust me and don’t skimp on your extracts or your cocoas, or all the time and energy you spend stirring, watching, pulling, cutting, de-sticking your fingers will result in candy that tastes like you got it at a gas station, and which you might just as well use for attaching posters to your walls.

Although these recipes work equally well for that.

Equipment you’ll need for all these variations:

a medium saucepan (I like copper because it heats up fast, reacts quickly when you adjust the heat, and helps the sugar to keep from re-crystallizing once it’s melted, but really any saucepan will do as long as it has plenty of space for the sugar syrup to double in volume during boiling.)

candy thermometer (although as I’ll discuss below, I don’t fully trust mine and think it’s safest to second-guess it early and often)

wooden spoon

pastry brush

a prepared greased baking tray (baking spray works wonders during taffy making, and please do consider using a half-sheet pan with raised edges just in case)

Almond-Rose Taffy

I make this for weddings sometimes. Then I go home and cry into my teacup. Then I put some brandy in my teacup and I feel better.

You can add 1/2 tsp luster dust or a few drops of food coloring to this one if you want to make it even more cutesy.


1 cup sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/8 cup rosewater

3/8 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp almond extract

*Mix sugar and cornstarch in saucepan. Add the rosewater, water, salt, and butter and set over medium heat.

*Stir continuously until mixture boils, then leave to boil untouched until it measures 250-270 degrees or reaches the soft crack stage. (See hints below for more on this.) Wash down sides of pan with a pastry brush and warm water to keep sugar from building up on sides.

*Remove from heat, stir in extract, and pour onto prepared pan.

*When cool, butter or spray hands with nonstick spray and stretch taffy until it lightens and takes on a pearly sheen. This should take 10-15 minutes.

*Draw taffy into a rope and cut into 1″ pieces. Scissors work well for this. Wrap each piece in wax paper.

Honey-Liqueur Taffy

I discovered this recipe when I was forced to hide a glass of bourbon quickly.


1/3 cup honey

3/4 cup honey liqueur

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

Follow the recipe above (minus the extract step). This is a smaller batch, so watch the heat and pan size.

Velvet-Chocolate Taffy

This produces a sticky, chewy, fudgy taffy that’s best kept in the fridge on hot or humid days. I make it for a picky kid who says it tastes like brownies.


1 cup sugar

4 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

Mix cocoa in with sugar and cornstarch, then follow top recipe. Make sure to break up any clumps of cocoa. Watch the heat carefully on this one, and wash the sides of the pan down often. This taffy needs some extra pulling; pull until the taffy really resists, or it won’t hold its shape once you cut it into pieces.

Things I Learned From Painful Trial and Error:

I don’t trust my thermometer. Maybe it’s been broken since the day I got it. Maybe it really reads centigrade and I never noticed. I use the thermometer for reference, but instead watch for the sugar mixture to reach the appropriate stage myself and follow the advice of my doctor: test early and often. To test for the soft crack stage, watch for the bubbles to get small, thick and dense at the top of the mixture. Then drop a bit of it into cold water; the drops should form strands that are flexible, not brittle.

When pulling the taffy, be persistent, and try to hold out for ten minutes even if it starts looking like it’s reached it’s final state before then. Stretching aerates the taffy and makes it chewier, so underdoing it makes for harder candy. All of these recipes double perfectly, but this batch size is small enough to pull comfortably without assistance.

On the subject of pulling, try to grease your hands just once when you start , otherwise the butter or spray will keep the ropes of taffy you pull apart from sticking back together and you’ll wind up with a million strands it’ll take forever to work back together again. The good news is, you can work them back together, but it’ll annoy the hell out of you and you’ll wish you listened to me in the first place.

Posted in Recipes, Sweets