Recommendation: Serve this in a tea-cup and saucer, and nobody’ll know it’s not altogether innocent. (Then again, if they think you’re innocent, they clearly aren’t looking closely.) This recipe serves two. Or several more, than two, if you’ve got a lot of brandy, some dragonfire, and a really massive tea-cup.
Some things that add a bit of punch—oh, fine, a bit of bite—to this brew:
* Candied Lemon (we know, we keep coming back to that. You’ll see why, once you’ve tried it.)
* Mulling. (Go ahead, add mulling spices to your brandy and warm it before adding it to chai. You can pick up ‘mulling spice mix’ fairly easily; you can even get it at quite a discount if you get it after Yule. Otherwise, you just need some citrus, some crushed cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, cloves, perhaps a bit of apple or some apple cider, star anise, rare poisonous berries from the sentient murder-bushes which grow profusely ‘round the chicken-legs of Baba Yaga’s hut, perhaps some nutmegs, or bay leaves. Alternate to your taste; some people like to add fresh mint or basil, and some people reach through that pesky hole into That Other Dimension and pull out some Triffid sprigs, which make a lovely infusion. In any case, pour your fruits and spices into a cauldron (or pot) of brandy, and warm it up for about a quarter hour. (Do NOT let it come to boil, unless, for some obscure reason, you want to retain most of the flavor but lose all that lovely alcohol.)
* Pixy Stix. Okay, frankly, we think that anyone who’d put Pixie Stix into good brandy, or even into terrible brandy, deserves an unexpected and unwelcome visit from a hungry horde of Tooth Faeries. But, as I once remarked to the crocodile which swallowed Captain Hook, there’s no accounting for taste.
Right then! The rest of the recipe is fairly straightforward; at least, as much as we’re straightforward about anything:
300ml whole milk. (You can substitute a certain amount of sweetened condensed milk to taste We won’t tell on you.)
4 tsp loose chai tea (or 2 chai teabags; or, if need be, regular tea with cinnamon and cardamom. Especially if you’ve got some left over from that mulling you might have tried earlier.)
50ml clear honey (as local as possible; we’ve got friends who say that local honey is not only the freshest, but also helps you resist certain pollen allergies. We continue to get our honey infused with whiskey, which, as far as we’re concerned, will either cure or kill absolutely anything anyway.
50ml Somerset cider brandy (or something fancier; we won’t tell).
Put everything bar the brandy in a pan and simmer for two minutes. Take off the heat and leave to steep for 10 minutes or until you sense, by the pricking of your thumbs, that there’s appropriate wickedness about. Slowly bring the whole brew up to a suitable drinking temperature, strain once or twice, and serve.
Note: Brandy, of course, tastes terrible. But it sounds very classy, and we’re sure that someone, somewhere, likes drinking it neat. For the rest of you, we can assure you that this recipe will make your brandy more delicious, although, frankly, we think you can make brandy more delicious simply by pouring it all into the sink, washing the bottle thoroughly, and substituting some Monkey Shoulder Scotch. But (as happens so often!) – we digress.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with other spices; at best, they’ll add something really lovely, and at worst, seriously, honestly, there’s no more horrible fate than just plain swallowing brandy, unless, perhaps, it’s sipping Everclear on the rocks. We enjoy brown sugar, cloves, confectioner’s sugar, dried cranberries, filet of a fenny snake, anise, some other sugar of any kind whatsoever, a little bit of cayenne, a blasphemous hint of pumpkin spice, and, if you must, nutmeg.
If you add fruit, slice it thin. Be careful: If you cut yourself in the process. Certain Forces may decide you have made an appropriate Blood Sacrifice, and…
…but let’s not worry about that. You’ll be careful, right?
We’ll emphasize again: once you’ve finished experimenting with your spices, warm the brandy, but do not bring it to a boil; boiling kills the precious, precious alcohol.
Drop the spices in.
If you don’t want to time the process, simply do what we do: wait impatiently until it seems done, and, to speed the process, stir the whole thing threateningly with a wooden spoon.
Once the brandy doesn’t taste terrible, you’re good. Don’t burn your tongue.