Want to blow away your holiday party guests? Don’t slave over the stove. Focus on cocktails instead.
These holiday favorites from some of America’s most beloved mixologists are impressive enough to be the center of your holiday celebrations. They take a bit of prep and use a few special ingredients, but the payoff is worth the effort.
DRINK: Mortimer & Mauve
BARTENDER: Pamela Wiznitzer
BAR: Seamstress, NY, NY
Mortimer & Mauve has been the top selling drink at Seamstress since the bar opened in 2015. “When I first constructed this drink, I thought about spice as the main flavor,” Wiznitzer says. “I started with Barrow’s Intense Ginger, which is a super robust ginger liqueur and paired it with the spicy rye as the base. To round it out, I infuse a sweet vermouth with chai tea (more spice) and those three spice components all work together harmoniously.”
Prep: make the chai vermouth
8 oz. sweet vermouth, such as Martini & Rossi Rouge
1 tbsp chai tea
Let stand 20 minutes then fine strain.
For the drink
Combine over ice and stir:
1.25 oz. chai infused sweet vermouth (see above)
1.25 oz. rye
.5 oz Barrow’s Intense ginger liqueur
Finish by expressing orange peel oils (discard the peel after expressing the oils).
DRINK: The Mr. October
BARTENDER: Tim Miner
BAR: The Long Island Bar, Brooklyn, NY
The Mr. October is Long Island Bar’s most popular seasonal drink. Miner describes it as “apple pie a la mode in a glass.”
The liqueurs in the drink are fun to have on hand for experimenting, as is the cinnamon syrup. Longtime New York bartender Miner uses Vietnamese cinnamon he grinds himself. “Depending on the origin (cassia, Saigon, Ceylon, etc) the flavor will vary,” he says. “Ceylon Cinnamon Syrup and Saigon Cinnamon Syrup made with the exact same recipe will yield different finished products.” The syrup recipe can be adapted for other spices as well and will last about a week.
Prep: make the cinnamon syrup
Combine in a saucepan over medium heat:
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup boiling water
1 cup of demerara sugar
Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, turn off heat, let stand for three hours, muddling occasionally, then strain.
For the drink
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice:
1.5 oz. applejack
.75 oz. lemon juice
.75 oz. cinnamon syrup
.5 oz. Galliano
2 dashes allspice dram
Shake, chill and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg.
DRINK: Hot Coffee Buttered Tom & Jerry
BARTENDER: Aaron Zieske
BAR: Little Bird Bistro, Portland, OR
This hot variation on an egg nog is a collaboration between Aaron Zieske and pastry chef Erin Hughes at Little Bird Bistro, named one of Portland’s best restaurants 2017. The cocktail is available on the dessert menu or at the bar. Crème anglaise is a thin dessert custard that is also the traditional base of egg nog.
Prep: make nutmeg crème anglaise
Stir together in a small bowl:
3 large egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar
Bring to simmer:
1 cup whole milk
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Slowly whisk 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolks. Gradually add egg yolk mixture back to remaining milk mixture, and cook, whisking constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Let cool.
For the drink
Combine in a small saucepan:
2 oz. coffee
1 oz. nutmeg creme anglaise
.75 oz. bourbon
.75 oz. aged rum
.5 oz allspice syrup (prepare like cinnamon syrup, above)
2-3 dashes mole bitters
Heat gently over low heat. Serve in a glass mug. Garnish with a pat of salted butter.
DRINK: Casserole Cocktail
BARTENDER: Lu Brow, Cocktail Director
BAR: DTB, New Orleans, LA
Lu Brow is from North Louisiana where everything around the holidays comes in a casserole dish. “We use bourbon in our sweet potato casserole and just the smell of it cooking is delightful,” she says. “I got to thinking: if it’s that good cooked in a casserole, it has to be great in a glass.”
Prep: make sweet potato syrup
Roast 2 pounds unpeeled sweet potatoes in oven at 400° until tender.
Cool, peel and cut into 3-inch pieces and transfer to a large pot or dutch oven.
6 cups water
2 cups dark brown sugar
3 tbsp whole cloves
3 tbsp grated nutmeg
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour until syrupy.
Cool, strain through a fine strainer and add ½ cup bourbon. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.
For the Drink
Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice:
2 oz. bourbon
½ oz. dry orange curaçao
½ oz. lemon juice
1 oz. sweet potato syrup (see above)
Shake, chill and strain into a rocks glass and garnish with fresh grated nutmeg.
DRINK: Share the Pear
BARTENDER: Shaun Meglen
BAR: Péché, Austin, TX
Meaning sin in French, Péché, is one of Austin’s most beloved prohibition-style cocktail bars. This ice cream-based drink is just sinful enough to live up to the name.
For the drink
Combine in a blender:
1.5 oz Osborne Fino sherry
.75 oz spiced pear liqueur
3 scoops of vanilla ice cream
Puree until blended. Serve in a tall glass, sprinkled with ground cinnamon.