Overheard last week: “Gawd, the entire commercial audition was filled with Christmas carolers. Glad I was just the guy in the sweater,” said the guy at Peet's with a sweater hanging out of his messenger bag. In L.A., the holiday season begins early.

We know you have cocktail parties to plan and gifts for your agent to buy. And so we bring you four drink recipes — some for cocktail drinkers, others for abstainers — from recently released cookbooks that would double as great gifts. A 2-for-1 palate teaser that yields party beverages and sends the perfect “I'm thinking of you” Dead Celebrity Cookbook gift message to your agent.

After the jump, get recipes for homemade citrus infused vodka, a dried cherry sidecar, non-alcoholic tamarind atole and a super-frothy hot chocolate recipe purportedly from John Lennon (!).

Tacos, Tortas, Tamales; Credit: Wiley

Tacos, Tortas, Tamales; Credit: Wiley

4. Atole de Tamarindo

From: Tacos, Tortas and Tamales (Hardcover, $19.99) is Roberto Santibañez's pocket-sized, street food follow up to his fantastic cookbook, Truly Mexican. Get the review of his first book, and a pipián verde (pumpkin seed sauce) recipe, over in our cookbook reviews.

Note: Per Santibañez, “The tamarind-flavored version is a gateway to atole: Try the warm, tangy drink once and you'll be eager to sample its siblings as well.

Squid Ink Note: You can find amaranth flour such as Bob's Red Mill at many Whole Foods and specialty grocery stores.

Makes: 8 to 10 servings.

6 ounces tamarind pulp with seeds (slightly less than half a 14-ounce package)

1 ½ cups sugar

2 (5-inch) pieces Mexican cinnamon, crumbled

½ cup amaranth flour

1. Combine the tamarind, sugar, and 6 cups of water in a medium pot. Use your hands to break up the tamarind, set the pot over high heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the cinnamon, then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.

2. Pour 4 cups of water into a medium bowl, add the amaranth flour, and stir well. Pour the flour mixture in a slow, steady stream into the tamarind mixture, whisking constantly. Let the mixture return to a simmer, then cook for 5 minutes, skimming off any foam that appears on the surface.

3. Season with sugar to taste and bring the liquid back to a simmer. Strain through a sieve into a separate pot, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.

4. Ladle the hot atole into mugs, or cover and keep the drink warm over very low heat, gradually adding water to maintain consistency.

D.I.Y. Cookbook; Credit: America's Test Kitchen

D.I.Y. Cookbook; Credit: America's Test Kitchen

3. Citrus-Infused Vodka

From: The latest from America's Test Kitchen, D.I.Y. Cookbook (Paperback, $26.95), is a guide to canning and preserving, making yogurt and cheese, curing meats and seafood, candy and sauce making, and beverages. This book is a great beginner's guide, with step-by-step photographs for the first-time mozzarella maker to the aspiring vermouth infuser.

We would have included the homemade vermouth recipe below were it not for the 32 ingredients, including several obscure additions, and the 3 month+ curing time. Next year.

Note: Use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove the zest without getting any of the bitter pith (blanching helps eliminate any residual bitterness).

Makes: A 750-ml bottle

13 3-inch strips lemon, orange, or grapefruit zest (1 ¼ ounces; 3 lemons, 2 oranges or 1 ½ grapefruits), preferably organic, thoroughly washed

1 750-ml bottle vodka

1. Bring 1 quart water to boil in a small saucepan. Add zest to boiling water and cook until beginning to soften and dull in color, about 30 seconds. Strain zest well and transfer to blender. Add vodka (Saving bottle for storage of finished infusion) and process until zest is finely minced, about 30 seconds. Pour into 1-quart jar, cover, and store in cool, dark place until fully infused, about 4 days.

2. Set funnel over empty vodka bottle and line with coffee filter. Strain infused vodka through filter, discarding zest. Infused vodka can be stored in cool, dark place indefinitely.

Foolproof; Credit: Clarkson Potter

Foolproof; Credit: Clarkson Potter

2. Sidecar with Dried Cherries

From: Barefoot Contessa Foolproof (Hardcover, $35), Ina Garten's latest cookbook, features easy recipes for home entertaining — think jalapeño cheddar crackers to Parmesan fennel gratin and salted caramel brownies.

Note: Per Garten, “I've tried all kinds of sidecars but none of them really hit the spot. They're either too sour from the lemon, too sweet from the orange liqueur, or too harsh from the inexpensive brandy. But I've always been intrigued because they seem to be a second cousin to my favorite drink — the whiskey sour. I decided to tackle the recipe (I know, my job is grueling) and came up with my version which I think hits all the right notes. I used good but obviously not the best Cognac.”

Makes: 2 drinks

Juice of 1 lemon for sugaring the glasses

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup dried cherries

6 ounces good Cognac (VS not VSOP), divide

3 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

3 ounces Grand Marnier liqueur


1. To sugar the glass rims, pour the juice from 1 lemon into a shallow bowl and put the sugar on a small plate. Dip the rim of 2 highball or martini glasses first in the lemon juice and then in the sugar. Set them aside to dry.

2. In a small bowl, combine the dried cherries with 2 ounces of the Cognac and microwave on high for 60 seconds. Set aside.

3. Combine the 3 ounces of lemon juice with the remaining 4 ounces of Cognac, the Grand Marnier, and 1 teaspoon of the marinated cherry liquid. Fill a cocktail shaker three-quarters full with ice and pour in the cocktail mixture. Shake the mixer for a full 30 seconds (it's longer than you think!) and strain into the prepared glasses either straight up or over ice. Thread 3 or 4 marinated cherries on small skewers and serve each drink ice cold with a skewer of cherries.

Dead Celebrity Cookbook: Christmas In Tinseltown; Credit: HCI Press

Dead Celebrity Cookbook: Christmas In Tinseltown; Credit: HCI Press

1. John Lennon's Hot Cocoa

From: Frank DeCaro's follow-up to The Dead Celebrity Cookbook, the holiday version (Paperback, $14,95) is full of campy references and recipes, like “Lucille Ball's Brazil Nut Stuffing” and “Dick Clark's Spicy Turkey Meatloaf.”

Note: This lightly sweetened recipe accompanies an introduction about Lennon's Christmas song, “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” DeCaro says “Lennon's original recipe for hot cocoa.”

As for provenance, DeCaro doesn't provide them for each recipe but instead says this in the book's Introduction: “For years, I've been collecting stars' recipes via out-of-print cookbooks and musty biographies that I picked up at flea markets, old appliance manuals, tattered giveaway pamphlets and vintage magazines that I found on eBay, newspaper clippings forwarded to me by listeners of my Sirius XM radio show, and more.”

Makes: 4 drinks

1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons sugar

A few grains of salt

2 cups boiling water

2 cups scalded milk

1. Mix the cocoa, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Dilute with ½ cup of the boiling water and stir to make a smooth paste. Add the remaining water and boil for 1 minute. Add this to the scalded milk and beat the mixture with an electric mixer for 2 minutes on medium speed. Pour the cocoa into mugs and serve.

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