Vanilla, pepper and thyme martini – this is how to ring in the new year!
I love a good cocktail. And even better? A holiday devoted to them. New Year’s Eve marks the end to a season of excess and I like to go out with a bang.
On New Year’s Eve we ring in the new year with friends at a get-together at home. Over the years, the menu has varied from fancy sit down dinners to bowls of chili in our laps. The cocktail menu has been just as varied. There’s always champagne at midnight, but we kick off the festivities with a specialty cocktail or two.
Martinis are one of my favorite cocktails to serve at a party. They make you feel sophisticated and elegant whether you’re in jeans or a cocktail dress. And I’m in full agreement with Mr. Bond…it is a must to shake it well over ice. You know it’s right when you have those frosty little ice shards along the rim.
As much as I love a classic vodka martini with two olives, I’m always looking for a fun variation around the holidays. This year is no exception. The martini I’ll be serving at our NYE party this year mixes a little sweetness with peppery herbaceous notes. Over the summer I was obsessed with cocktails that were refreshing, but had a little heat, like a jalepeno infused margarita or paloma. But to me, those are best sipped when my toes are sandy at the end of a perfect beach day.
I decided to take those sweet/spicy/tangy flavors and winterize them. Say hello to the vanilla, pepper and thyme martini. I started with steeping peppercorns, vanilla bean and thyme springs in simple syrup. Then I grabbed the cocktail shaker and mixed that syrup with a good vodka and a healthy squeeze of lemon juice and yep, gave it a powerful shake over ice. Pink peppercorns and a sprig of thyme for garnish give it a festive look.
This cocktail is everything you want on New Year’s Eve. You can make the simple syrup today, squeeze the lemons a couple hours before your gathering and set up a martini station on your bar or counter before guests arrive. Then go slip on your party shoes, turn up the music and get ready to say hello to 2016.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 Tbsp pink peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise and scraped
- 6 sprigs thyme
- Good quality vodka
- Lemon Juice
- Pink peppercorns and thyme sprigs for garnish
Simple syrup: Combine sugar, water, peppercorns, ground pepper, scraped vanilla bean seeds/pod and thyme in a medium saucepan over med/high heat.
Bring to a rolling boil and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes.
Strain, using a fine mesh strainer and reserve simple syrup.
Make your martini: Combine 1 oz simple syrup, 3 oz vodka and 2 tsp lemon juice over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.
Poor into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a few pink peppercorns and a sprig of thyme.
You will have enough simple syrup for about 12 martinis and you can reserve unused syrup for several days covered, in the refrigerator.