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CranberryThe holidays offer endless possibilities for gelatin molds – think eggnog, pumpkin, apple cider, and cranberries. Cranberries? Yes please! Delightful and tart, I associate cranberries with turkey and cosmopolitans. This boozy gelatin, based on the classic cosmo, combines 100% cranberry juice with my favorite holiday flavors – ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. And booze. If you’re inclined to mix drinks at home, the ginger-spice simple syrup transforms cocktails into dazzling little liquid celebrations.

Recipe for ginger-spice simple syrup*

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 small whole nutmeg

Combine water with sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat and add ginger, cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning, strain the syrup and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Should last a few months.

*Recipe adapted from here (epicurious.com)

Cranberry Ginger-Spice Martini (recipe for 3.5 cups)

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming)
  • 3/4 cup cranberry juice (I use 100% cranberry juice, but if using a blend with added sugar, consider adjusting the sugar)
  • 1 cup ginger-spice simple syrup
  • ½ cup vodka (better vodka equals better gelatin mold!)
  • ¼ cup triple sec (I used my new favorite Paula’s Texas Orange Premium Liqueur)

Put 1 cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top of the water. Set bowl aside.

Put cranberry juice in small sauce pan, and put on medium heat. Upon almost boiling, remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in ginger-spice syrup and alcohol. Pour mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set.

Top layer (optional)

Since I had this seasonal gelatin mold to play with, I added a creamy top layer. Here’s what I used:

  • 1 packet gelatin
  • 1 cup water (½ cup for blooming gelatin, ½ cup for boiling)
  • ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk

Put ½ cup of water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Set bowl aside. Bring ½ cup water to boil and remove from heat. Pour hot water over bloomed gelatin, stir until fully dissolved. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Pour mixture into mold and put in refrigerator. Once creamy layer is almost set, pour in cranberry mixture.

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“Have a drink. It’ll make me look younger.” — Roger Sterling, Season 4, Episode 5: “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”

Roger Sterling, the king of self-indulgence, has the best one-liners on Mad Men. Expertly portrayed by silver fox John Slattery, Roger exudes entitlement and superficiality, but with just the right amount of self-awareness to make him occasionally endearing. Very occasionally. In honor of Roger and his beloved vodka, I present the Greyhound – the fantastic combination of grapefruit juice and vodka. This gelatin was sweet, tart, and boozy –  a hit my Mad Men party.

As I write this, I’m still reeling over episode 11: “The Other Woman.” I could write volumes about my reaction to the situation Joan was put in. For now, I’ll say that Roger disappointingly agrees to LITERALLY pimp out Joan at the expense of her value as a human being. As Roger once said to Joan, she’ll never be a Jackie, only a Marilyn. Meaning in the eyes of Roger (and many men), Joan will only be a sex object. Like a beautiful and impractical car – the intelligent and competent Joan is an object to be experienced and owned. Bad Roger! BAD!

I’m really struggling to get past my anger at the fictional Roger. He is fictional, right? Fictional means NOT REAL. But I guess that’s the power of story telling. Good stories, at the end of the day, teach us something about our world and ourselves. What I learned from Joan’s predicament is too personal to share here, but I assure you my friends will receive an earful. Isn’t that the brilliance of good story telling? God, how I love it.

 Recipe for 3.5 cups

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ¾ cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, strained to remove pulp
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup vodka

Put ½ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 2 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside.

Put strained grapefruit juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil for 10-minutes. Boiling is very important – fresh grapefruit juice has enzymes that will prevent gelatin from setting. Add juice/sugar to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in vodka. Spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

To remove gelatin, put mold(s) into a bowl or sink full of warm water for a few seconds. After removing from water, gently shake the mold side to side. When the gelatin jiggles away from the edges of the mold, put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process or run a knife around the edge. Be careful not to melt the mold in the process.

Joan, in all her fantastic competence and intelligence, is one of the few characters on Mad Men I actually like. Mad Men characters are generally fascinating and dynamic, but rarely likable. Really, how likable is sexism, racism, infidelity, self-absorption, lying, denial, and substance abuse?

Joan has been guilty of all of those things, but in Joan we witness an inner strength and tenacity that other characters lack. Because of that strength, and because Joan is good at everything she does, we watch her grow and change in positive ways. Hurray for leaving her doofus rapist husband! Hurray for recognizing that, while she loves her son, she also loves her job! Hurray for changing her mind on her, “marriage is everything and the end goal of all women” attitude! Hurray for seeing Roger as the man-child he is!

Unlike Don, Betty, and Roger, Joan doesn’t have a signature cocktail. I resigned myself to the task of re-watching previous seasons to see what she orders, then Episode 4: Mystery Date aired. During the dinner scene when Joan realizes what a doofus her idiot husband is, she orders a gin fizz. Hence, the Joan Holloway gelatin mold is a gin fizz with candied lemons. And it tastes lovely – I enjoyed eating the candied lemons suspended in the gelatin, but it’s optional.

Recipe for 5.25 cups

Candied Lemons (optional), I used the slices of three lemons, and this recipe from Real Simple magazine

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming)
  • ½ cup water (for boiling)
  • ¾ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ cup lemon juice, strained, with zest reserved
  • 1 ¾ cups gin
  • 1 cup club soda
  • Candied lemon slices (optional)

Put 1 cup of water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 3 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside. Put ½ cup water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lemon zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lemon syrup, and return to saucepan. Reheat the syrup, and pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in gin and club soda.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the candied lemons. Place candied lemons into mixture, and the mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

To remove gelatin, put mold into a bowl or sink full of warm water for a few seconds. After removing from water, gently shake the mold side to side. When the gelatin jiggles away from the edges of the mold, put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process or run a knife around the edge. Be careful not to melt the mold in the process.

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