Whether you love them or hate them, the holidays arrive every year, and every year alcohol sales (for better or worse) go through the roof. Whether it’s wine and champagne for celebrating or whiskey and gin for medicating, booze is as big a part of the holidays as family and fruitcake. In order to help you digest either one of those, you’ll need something to drink. A friend requested I make a cocktail guide for the holidays with new recipe ideas and renovations of some classic ones. I have compiled a small list I hope will suit your holiday fancy. Please enjoy.
1. The Classic Martini – Let’s get this one out of the way shall we. Many may disagree with me when I say that I truly believe the Martini (done correctly) not only serves as a nighttime-mingling drink but also as an after-dinner drink. Some say the Martini is merely a Summer cocktail, but I say it’s perennial and perfect as a pre-flight drink hours before your extended family members start harassing you with questions such as, when are you gonna get married, have kids, or when are you going to visit them again? Dear God! Drink up and prepare for take-off. This is my favorite Martini recipe. In a mixing glass pour…
- 2.5 oz of Hendricks or Bombay Sapphire Gin (Always use gin. Vodka Martinis are not TRUE Martinis they are the Martini’s younger, more annoying cousins. You know the ones. They’re part of the reason you have to drink in the first place. Also, you can always try to infuse your own gin with cucumber, basil, sage, rosemary, or lavender.)
- .25 oz of Extra Dry Vermouth (Don’t listen to those who say pour it into the glass and throw it out. Not only is it wasteful and silly but, it’s also not a Martini. Vermouth is a major ingredient in a REAL Martini and denying its awesomeness is basically asking for a chilled shot of Gin. In short, if you don’t like Vermouth you don’t like Martinis. Next.)
- 1-2 drops of Orange bitters (Trust me it works but, no more than 2 drops.)
- Fill with ice and STIR for 20 seconds. (DO NOT SHAKE-it makes little bits of ice in your glass almost inevitable no matter how hard you strain and it dilutes the Martini way too much to get any real flavor out of the gin and vermouth.)
- Now pour it into your Martini glass.
- 1 Olive (take it out of the jar with a spoon so you pick up a little juice on the way.)
- 1 Lemon Peel (squeeze the peel just before drinking to get the zest to spray over the gin and drop it in the glass.)
Viola! Now go impress your friends and start those dreaded conversations with your Aunt and Uncle.
2. The Holy Toddy – Everyone probably has their own recipe for this drink, but I think this holiday version might get you ready to listen to more old folks talking about the “good ol’ days” when everyone was openly racist. Here’s my ode to Grandmas and Grandpas everywhere. Put a kettle to boil and pull out your favorite mug and pour in…
- 1.5 oz of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey (Why? Because it’s usually 90 proof and up, so you don’t need much to feel a kick.)
- 1 oz of Simple Syrup or Agave (Honey works too but, you’ll probably need 2 oz for sweetness)
- .5 oz of Lemon Juice
- 4 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters (or Angostura.)
- 2 fresh cranberries cut in half
- 2 dashes of cinnamon
- 1 dash of nutmeg
- 4 whole peppercorns
- 2.5-3 oz of boiled water
- 1 cinnamon stick to stir
You can increase this recipe to serve more. Just multiply by the number of people and make sure everyone gets some cranberries and a cinnamon stick in their mug. It just makes it festive, okay?
3. The Nahuatl – Growing up Mexican means having Mexican Hot Cocoa for the holidays. This is my take on the classic warm drink. In a saucepan set 6 oz of water to boil. Add…
- 2 wedges of Ibarra chocolate
- 1 cone of Piloncillo (raw cane sugar found at most Mexican markets or the “Hispanic foods” aisle at your local grocer.)
- 1 Orange slice
- 1 dried chili pepper (I like chile de arbol.)
Once the chocolate and piloncillo dissolve, STRAIN the mixture into a mug and pour in…
- 1.5 oz of Añejo or Reposado Blue Agave tequila (Don’t use gold or any tequila that isn’t 100% Blue Agave or I can no longer attest to this cocktail’s likability.)
- 2 dashes of Orange Bitters
- .5 oz of orange juice
- 1 Cherry Garnish
Again, multiply it depending on however many you’d like to give out. Now, serve it up and enjoy while you watch Sabado Gigante with your pops–who is also trying to avoid your grandparents.
4. The English Dame – Blackcurrant jam is a British thing. Black currants go in pies, puddings, and lots of other pastry dishes. Over in Europ, blackcurrants are used in ciders, champagne cocktails, and even beer. I used a little semi-sweet blackcurrant puree for this cocktail, but if you can’t find the puree at the grocery store look for blackcurrant jam and exclude the Simple Syrup from the recipe. In a mixing glass pour…
- 1.5 oz of Bombay Sapphire Gin
- .75 oz of Elderflower liqueur
- .5 oz of Blackcurrant
- .5 oz of Simple Syrup
- .5 oz of Lemon Juice
- Ice, Shake and Strain into a Martini glass.
- 1 Lemon Peel Garnish
5. The Cosmonaut – Nothing will ever beat a cocktail made with fresh ingredients. It is the difference between a morning run and a hangover. One will leave you feeling nicely buzzed, the other will leave you feeling like a Day of the Dead sugar skull. This is a holiday cocktail made with fresh cranberries, vodka, and lemon juice. I know what you’re thinking, that’s a Cosmo, right? Wrong, it’s a Comso-not. Get it? I am a pun nerd. In a mixing glass muddle a handful of fresh, ripe cranberries. Muddle them good to get the juice out (if they’re not very ripe drop a little water in to make squashing them easier). Then, pour in…
- 2 oz Vodka
- .75 oz of Simple Syrup
- .5 oz of Lemon juice
- .25 oz of Extra Dry Vermouth
- 2 dashes of Orange bitters
- Ice, Shake, and strain into a Martini Glass
- 1 Cranberry garnish. Hey, it floats!
That concludes my list. Now you’re probably thinking, where’s the eggnog (or Ron Pope for the Latinos out there)? Not here. I’m trying to increase your options here so you don’t have to drink liquid cake the entire evening. So go make some drinks and if you have any holiday cocktail recipes you would like to share, please post them in the comment section. I’m very interested in learning what other folks are going to try this holiday season.