Every host likes to think that he or she has a special holiday drink for their guests. Something that "wows" them and is different than anything they've had before. Sweet Potato Pie, a concoction of a purée of the earthy tubers, rum and a dab of half-and-half and the Hot Blonde, a riff on the classic cold-weather warmer, the hot toddy, gives every host the ability to make those entertaining dreams come true. They may require a little more effort but isn't that what the holidays are all about?

Every host likes to think that he or she has a special holiday drink for their guests. Something that "wows" them and is different than anything they've had before. Sweet Potato Pie, a concoction of a purée of the earthy tubers, rum and a dab of half-and-half and the Hot Blonde, a riff on the classic cold-weather warmer, the hot toddy, gives every host the ability to make those entertaining dreams come true. They may require a little more effort but isn't that what the holidays are all about?

HOT BLONDE
1 serving

Chamomile flowers can be hard to find, but most health-food stores stock them, as do some Whole Foods Markets. If you can't find them, you can substitute verbena.

Ingredients

For the chamomile-infused gin

1/4 ounce (4 tablespoons) chamomile flowers
1 liter gin, such as Plymouth

For the drink

1 teaspoon honey
6 ounces boiling water
1 1/2 ounces chamomile-infused gin
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Lemon wedge, for garnish

Directions

For the chamomile-infused gin: Place the flowers in the gin. Cover and let it sit in a cool place for five days. Remove and discard the flowers using a fine-mesh strainer. Store in the original bottle or in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

For the drink: Combine the honey and water in a mug, stirring until the honey has dissolved. Add the gin and lemon juice, stirring to combine. Serve with a lemon wedge.

SWEET POTATO PIE COCKTAIL
1 serving

The recipe for the sweet potato reduction makes more than is needed; store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to four days.

Ingredients

For the sweet potato reduction

1 medium sweet potato (about 12 ounces),
peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the drink

Ice
2 ounces gold rum, such as Mount Gay
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sweet potato reduction
1/2 ounce half-and-half

Directions

For the sweet potato reduction: Place the potato pieces in a medium saucepan and add 1 1/2 cups water, or just enough to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until the pieces are tender and can be pierced easily with a fork.

Transfer the potato pieces and their cooking liquid to a blender or food processor (do not fill to the top; be careful with hot contents). Purée for about 30 seconds or until smooth. Return the purée to the saucepan and add the sugar and spices. Add the remaining 1 cup of water and cook over medium to medium-low heat, so that the mixture barely bubbles at the center, for 20 to 25 minutes or until it has thickened to an applesauce-like consistency. (You should have 2 to 2 1/4 cups total.) Cool to room temperature before using.

For the drink: Fill a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice. Add the rum, sweet potato reduction and half-and-half. Shake for 10 to 15 seconds, until well chilled. Strain into a martini glass.

Recipes adapted from Tiffany Short, of PS 7's in Washington.

Content © Copyright 2008, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service, all rights reserved