Friday, December 31, 2010

...and a Lucky New Year

In Greece, during the Christmas holidays and all the way up to New Year's, the gambler in everyone comes out. 'Tis the time of poker and black jack playin' and roulette dice rollin'. Well, I suppose during the holidays, Greeks become totally addicted to games of luck.

The members of my family are the definition of the holiday gambler and no, we don't actually go out to any casinos but we kind of bring the casino to our house. Every year, around New Year's, my family's traditions switch from holiday baking and ham glazing to setting the table for a little card game fun.

The green felt tablecloth makes its appearance from the buffet drawer. It is perfectly ironed, no crease to be seen anywhere, no crease that will accidentally make a poker card flip and reveal what a perfect little bluffer my cousin is. The poker chips are all aligned in their boxes, ready to be distributed by my brother among us high rollers (!) and the good quality plastic playing cards are cleaned and ready to be dealt by my uncle, who always gets a kick out of being the card dealer.

Our lucky game of choice is poker. Draw and stud poker, lowball, follow the Queen, roll your own, to name but a few variants of the game. We all gather around the table, we put our game or better yet, our poker faces on and... let the games begin!

I have to say that, we take the game pretty seriously. No funny business is allowed and even if the youngest, more inexperienced members of our extended family play or friends who are newly initiated to our holiday customs join us, they are all expected to follow the same rules. They don't get any special treatment—we call that "tough poker love". How else are they gonna learn?

We bluff, we pass, we bet, we win, we lose, we laugh, we yell, we eat, we drink. Well, food and drinks are always part of whatever activity my family's engaged in and since the games might go on for hours, we surely need something to nibble on and sip. Nibbling is confined to finger food, spiced nuts and chocolate truffles that are passed around if we're in the mood for something sweet, and let me tell you, we always are.

When poker is played, or any card game for that matter, messy food may not be allowed but the drinks, ah the drinks; there are no rules where drinks are concerned. The bar is open and everyone can have whatever they want. Each member of the family has their favorite drink but I always like to be flexible or change things up. Sometimes I go classic, with a brandy or a Scotch, other times I'm in the mood for something sweet, like Port or Sherry, and then there are the times when a cocktail is in order. And it goes something like this; coffee liqueur, vodka, espresso, sugar, milk, ice / mix, pour, drink.

Listen, I'm not crazy about coffee and I'm perhaps one of the few people out there who could live without it but what I'm absolutely nuts about, are coffee-flavored desserts and drinks; coffee flavored alcoholic drinks that is. Espresso cocktails and Cappuccino shots are my favorites of the kind and I urge you to try them on New Year's Eve, right before you give a kiss to your loved one to usher in the New Year.
And then I urge you to try them on New Year's Day, right when you finish your big festive meal and you're waiting for that chocolate dessert to come.

And then I urge you to try them on every other weekend after that, until summer comes and you begin to crave fruity type of drinks. Until then, these are the mixed drinks of my winter and the reasons why you must try them are fairly straightforward. Both of these drinks are delicious, easy to prepare, they don't require fancy or outrageous ingredients and most importantly, they are guaranteed to make you light headed and alert at the same time. Is there anything more you could possibly want from a drink?

P.S. Yours truly rarely wins at poker but we have a saying in Greece "He/She who loses at card games, wins in love".

Espresso Cocktail
Adapted from Robert Schinkel

Have your New Year's kick with this amazing espresso-flavored cocktail. Don't worry if you don't have an espresso maker though. You can use the common instant espresso. Dissolve it in water and you're ready to go.

Yield: 200 ml espresso cocktail / 2 large drinks

80 ml freshly brewed espresso coffee
2 tsp sugar
20 ml coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua)
80 ml vodka
Pinch of ground cinnamon
10 large ice cubes
4 espresso beans, for garnishing (optional)

Special equipment: espresso maker, cocktail shaker, cocktail glasses

Make the espresso coffee either by using an espresso maker or by dissolving instant espresso powder in hot water. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Leave the coffee to cool.

In a cocktail shaker (or any other shaker if you don't have a cocktail shaker) add the ice cubes, vodka, coffee liqueur, cinnamon and the cooled espresso. Shake vigorously for 20 seconds and empty the drink in the two cocktail glasses, passing it first through a sieve to get rid of the ice cubes (if you use a cocktail shaker you will not need a sieve because it's already attached to the tip of the shaker).

Garnish the cocktails with the espresso beans and serve immediately.

If you like your cocktail really cold, then add ice cubes to the cocktail glasses before you start preparing the drink. This will make the glasses super cold. Empty the glasses from the ice cubes before pouring in the drink.

Cappuccino Shots

I have been making these shots for many years. I have always enjoyed their "mock" cappuccino flavor but with alcohol, that gives a sweet buzz. Beware though; drink it slowly, otherwise you're going to get really dizzy, really quick.

Yield: 60 ml / 2 shots

20 ml vodka
30 ml coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua)
20 ml evaporated milk, beaten until frothy
Ground cinnamon, for sprinkling

Special equipment: milk frother, shot glasses

In a large glass (or in a cocktail shaker), add the vodka and the coffee liqueur. Mix with a spoon and divide among two shot glasses.

Froth the milk with the milk frother and add three to four teaspoons of frothed milk on top of each drink.
Sprinkle with a little ground cinnamon and serve immediately.



  1. Magda, have a Happy New Year, hgeis to you and your family!

  2. I love espresso martinis and any cocktail with coffee in it. This looks perfect to kick off the new year with! Happy 2011!

  3. Boy, I wouldn't make it at your table! Happy New Year!

  4. Have been playing our share of poker, 31 and koum kan during this past week and will continue during the next week, until next year again.
    Happy New Year Magda with more delicious recipes!

  5. χρονια πολλα μαγδα! best wishes fort the new year

  6. Happy new year! I am a coffee junkie, I love it in any form, but I did not devote my attention to many coffee alcoholic drinks apart from the occasional irish coffee. This sounds like a must-try!
    We have the same saying about games and love in Italian - and guess what? I always loose at cards and games as well :) lucky us!

  7. Oh, boy, am I a lousy poker player! I can master the poker face---but that's about all. But I love coffee drinks in all forms, and yes, one that keeps you both light-headed and alert is a good way to go. Loved reading about your family's tradition---
    Happy-Lucky New Year, Magda!

  8. Love your holiday tradition.. sounds like so much fun! :)

  9. Owhhh, what fun to get stuck into some serious gambling around the family table. Great tradition you have there :) Here in Oz the gambler in us comes out at Anzac Day..., lots of fun. Thanks for sharing.... excellent cocktails too.... YUM :)

  10. Thank you all for you wishes and comments. Have a happy 2011!!

  11. I love coffee and I love coffee-flavored drinks! All of these look fabulous :) Happy New Year!!


  12. I'm not a huge coffee person, but your coffee cocktails look amazing.
    Happy 2011 daaaaahilng.
    *kisses* HH

  13. I wish you a happy, healthy and creative new year!
    Lots of wishes,

  14. Happy New Year! :) And I am like you, I don't drink much coffee but I love coffee flavoured things so much! :D

  15. A very Happy 2011. What a fun tradition. On New Year Day in South India people visit temples to ask for blessings for the rest of the years. Not this heathen, I would complain to my parents as a teenager how boring it was to go to the temple first thing on Jan 1. I might borrow from the greek tradition!

  16. Happy New Year MagdalWish you good health and fortune.
    I am not a big fan of coffee on its own but the cocktail idea sounds promising because I love coffee flavors a lot in cakes, puddings etc!

  17. wow! these cocktails sound amazing and they must pack a mean punch :)
    Happy new year, and hopa!

  18. Happy New Year Magda! I would love one of those cocktails!

  19. Cappuccino shots would help me play a game of poker; I hate card games and funnily I come from a family of bridge players! (my grandfather was a champion even).
    Hope your New Year was great!

  20. Happy New Year!
    In Italy they also say: unlucky in gambling, lucky in love. Why restrict your love of coffee-based drinks to the winter when you can make the likes of a caffé shakerato or a frozen drink? I will let you do the testing and then copy hehe ;o)

  21. Geia sou glykeia mou kai kali xronia! Sou exo kati sto Donkey! Rikse mia matia kai an se endiaferei... :) Polla filia!