The holidays that fill the winter season are some of the best inspiration you will find for great cocktails. In 2013 I continued the blog series 12 Days of Cocktails and in this edition I have found twelve fantastic drinks from some of today's best bartenders and mixologists working at bars throughout the U.S. (and some abroad).
This collection includes a variety of drinks, from warm punches to hot chocolate and coffee. A number of them include at least one ingredient that is truly unique and can spark ideas for using them in other mixed drinks. Also, this seems to be the year of the egg. Many of these cocktails include eggs and there are even a couple of modern interpretations of eggnog.
I hope you enjoy this collection and are inspired. Happy Holidays!
1. Day One... The Holiday Spice
We'll kick off this year's celebration with the Caramel Irish Coffee from Haven Rooftop that overlooks New York City's Times Square.
Essentially, you'll take your basic Irish Coffee and add Baileys and butterscotch schnapps. Then when you have the cream on top, add just a drizzle of caramel. It is delicious and would be a nice option for guests alongside the original.
2. Day Two... Texas Farm Nog
Tequila eggnog? Yes, indeed and it is a wonderful thing. Today's recipe comes from Dallas, Texas' Central 214 and Head Bartender, Amber West.
Texas Farm Nog begins with Partida Anejo Tequila and a sherry with a nutty profile. To that, West adds farm-fresh eggs, raw milk, heavy cream, and a little sugar. The spices really set it off, though, and the combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and pepper bring the drink to a different realm that is a little more interesting than the average eggnog. You will need to plan ahead, however, as this nog is best after two days of rest in the refrigerator.
3. Day Three... Holiday Spirit
We have a lovely little cocktail today that is a great addition to holiday parties and requires just a little prep work. It is only fitting that it comes from Sweet Hospitality Group, a concessionaire and catering company that specializes in events for Broadway productions and other private events.
The Holiday Spirit cocktail is quite simple: just build pour rum, port, and a shrub in a highball, top with ginger beer and seltzer and it's done. It is that shrub, however, that takes this drink over the top and creates something fantastic. The shrub is made up two days before the party and includes balsamic vinegar, cranberry, fig, rosemary, and a few other ingredients that just need a little mixing and time to rest together. Guests will think that you put a lot more time into this one than you did.
4. Day Four... Christmas Clementine Pomander
Today's cocktail is a play on the holiday season tradition of creating those wonderfully aromatic clove-spiked orange ornaments called pomanders. It is from KTCHN Restaurant in New York City and is a perfect way to use fresh clementine just as they begin to come into season.
The one deterrent I can see with the Christmas Clementine Pomander is the fact that it uses mezcal as the only liquor in the drink. However, mezcal today may not be the mezcal you remember and brands like the suggested Mezcal Vago Espadin are rather good. It may also take a drink like this to ease you into the taste for the smokier version of tequila because the layers of citrus fruits, brown sugar, and fresh mint are very nice compliments. Be adventurous and give this one a try.
5. Day Five... Centennial Punch
How about a little tropical flare in the midst of all this cold? Few drinks will get more tropical than this punch from The Stanton Social in New York City, and it does have some elements to contrast and compliment the plethora of pineapple.
Pineapple is the star the Centennial Punch, with three of the four ingredients featuring the fruit. First off, Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey is infused with pineapple. Then, there is the coriander-pineapple syrup, and to finish it off, there is a fresh pineapple puree. It is a fun punch that can serve a small holiday party and brighten everyone up.
6. Day Six... Gondolier Blanco
White chocolate and and touch of mint make up this tempting cocktail that is on currently on The Venetian's cocktail menu in Las Vegas.
For the rest of us, the Gondolier Blanco is really easy to make in our own bars. Four white ingredients - three chocolate and one mint - are all that is needed. What you will enjoy about this take on the favorite chocolate-mint combination is that the white chocolate ingredients will add less chocolate flavor, giving it a softer profile than the average cocktail of this kind. It is a thick and creamy drink, so it should still satisfy any cravings for sweets during the holidays.
7. Day Seven... Glögg
Today we are talking about Glögg, that classic Scandinavian punch that makes you feel all warm and toasty inside. This rendition is a recipe that Morten Sohlberg created for the trio of New York City restaurants, Smörgas Chef.
This Glögg recipe includes the usual ingredients of red wine, cardamom, cinnamon, orange, raisin, vodka, and brandy, but it adds a few extras including ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, and brown sugar. There is also the suggestion of switching the brandy out for spiced rum, which is a nice addition to the other spices. It is a soothing warm punch that will be a hit at any holiday party.
8. Day Eight... Warm Fuzzies
Get ready for a little warm and fuzzy feeling with today's featured cocktail. It comes from Mixologist Holly Zack and The Wallace in Culver City, California.
The Warm Fuzzies is a classically-styled cocktail with a modern twist. It mixes the interesting Blackwell Rum with Cognac and the artichoke-based (not artichoke-tasting) amaro, Cynar. The egg and syrup give it a creamy, sweet texture, and the fresh lemon rounds it all off, balancing the drink quite nicely. It is an excellent cold weather sipper.
9. Day Nine... Kabocha Spiced Cocktail
Today's featured cocktail uses one very unique ingredient and comes to us from the international locations of Nobu Restaurant.
The Kabocha Spiced Cocktail's secret ingredient is the kaboch squash, a winter variety that has a great sweet taste and works surprisingly well in a mixed drink. For the cocktail, the squash is seasoned with holiday spices, then the puree is mixed with a well aged rum from Atlantico along with apple and orange, as well as a little egg white. The drink is not complete, however, without a little ginger beer to give it a great snap.
10. Day Ten... Santa's Little Helper
It seems that 2013 is the year for eggnog and I have one last variation to share. It comes from the Pasadena, California restaurant Trattoria Neapolis and bartender Kris Doyle.
Santa's Little Helper is a rich, potent, and fruity version of the holiday classic. It takes a full liter of bourbon, adds a dozen eggs, a pound of sugar, and nice volume of milk and heavy cream. Yet, it is the pear puree that makes this a great eggnog for a party, because that is a flavor that almost everyone can enjoy and there is a lot of this to go around, so you'll need all the drinkers you can get (or you could cut the recipe, but a big party is more fun).
11. Day Eleven... Farolito Cocktail
The Farolito Cocktail stands out because of two key ingredients, without which it would be a sweet tequila martini, and those are fresh sage and chokecherry syrup. That last one probably has you thinking that there’s some big production needed, but the method to make it is no more difficult than making simple syrup and it is a fantastic ingredient that could find more uses. The syrup paired with the fresh herb and lime juice, your favorite anejo tequila and sweet vermouth, then a touch of mole bitters is a mix that is nothing short of extraordinary.
12. Day Twelve... Fernet Hot Chocolate
We are going to finish off the 2013 edition of new holiday cocktails with a warm and soothing cup of cocoa. It is a recipe that comes from Brian Means of Fifth Floor in San Francisco.
This is no average cocoa, nor is it merely a boozy rendition of the warm treat. It is a made-from-scratch, heap up the chocolate, and spike it with bold mint type of cocoa, but don’t let that first part scare you, the recipe is surprisingly easy and made for a party of four, so it’s worth the time. It all begins with a mix that includes both milk and cream, which is used to melt the dark and milk chocolates as well as the cocoa powder. To that we add both creme de menthe and Fernet Branca, then heat everything up again. You would almost think that it’s too much, but we’re talking some serious hot chocolate here and there is never too much.