Zero Proof: Warm Witch's Brew

[Photo: Christianne Winthrop]

Whether you're taking to the streets or staying home to pass out candy, try stirring up a witch's brew in your cauldron this Halloween. Made with equal parts pomegranate and cranberry juices, this deliciously dark (but alcohol-free) concoction is perfect for sipping between trips to the front door or packed into a Thermos for a spooky night out with candy-seeking trick-or-treaters.

The secret to this warm brew is in the spice mixture—a slight variation on Chinese five spice that with a bit of fresh ginger and black pepper. Peppercorns might seem like an unusual choice for a sweet drink, but it adds a subtle warmth that is delightfully complex when mixed with the cinnamon and star anise.

I like to use unsweetened cranberry juice, which you can find in natural and health food stores and most well-stocked supermarkets, because it allows me to control the sweetness. However, if you're having trouble finding it, feel free to substitute sweetened cranberry juice and decrease the amount of simple syrup.

While this drink really doesn't need a garnish, an orange slice makes for a bright and colorful addition. You could also use eye of newt if you have some lying around.

About the author: Christianne Winthrop is a freelance food writer, boutique caterer and culinary instructor. Her personal blog is Better Bitter Blonde and she lives in Los Angeles with her husband Bob and their beta fish, Hercules.

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Zero Proof: Warm Witch's Brew

About This Recipe

Yield:4
Active time:5 minutes
Total time:35 minutes
Special equipment:2 quart saucepot, vegetable peeler, sieve

Ingredients

  • For the simple syrup:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • For the Warm Witch's Brew:
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1 orange
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 5 black peppercorns, lightly cracked
  • 1" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4" chunks
  • Garnish: orange slices and star anise, if desired

Procedures

  1. 1

    For the simple syrup: Combine sugar and water in the sauce pot and bring to a boil. Stir and let simmer until sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Pour into a separate container and set aside.

  2. 2

    For the Warm Witch's Brew: Pour juices into the sauce pot. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the outermost layer of zest from the orange, being careful not to get the bitter white pith. Add zest to the juices in the pot. Save orange to slice and use for garnish if desired.

  3. 3

    Add all of the spices and fresh ginger to the pot and let simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

  4. 4

    Remove the pot from the heat, add 1/2 cup simple syrup and stir. Pour the juice through a sieve into thermal pitcher or punchbowl and taste for sweetness. Add more simple syrup if desired. Serve warm, with desired garnishes.

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