People the world round have been coming up with all sorts of drinks to help celebrate the holiday season since, well; as far back as we have recorded history. There may in fact be no more bibulous time of the year than the coming few weeks. Toasts will be given and we will be drinking at parties with friends, co-workers, and relatives. I dare say many of us will also have/need a nightcap after dealing with all of the hustle and bustle of the season…and our families.
So with centuries of experimentation you would think that there should be a quintessential holiday cocktail…but there isn’t. Oh sure some will argue that a Poinsettia is the modern classic holiday cocktail. Still others will argue that traditions like Egg Nog, Wassail, and Mulled Wine or Cider have been the favorite holiday drinks for centuries. However, the truth of the matter is that holiday revelers rarely bother with any of the seasonal drinks and simplify things by opting for what they regularly drink. Why?
The problem with the classic concoctions is an obvious one for anyone who has ever thought of making one of the MulledWasnog type libations…they are time consuming and preparation heavy propositions to say the least. They come from a time when drinks were made in large batches and served like punch rather than made a la minute to individual order. So only the most ambitious party host is ever going to attempt one of these classics.
That leaves us with the modern single serving cocktails like the Poinsettia or White Christmas. But lets be honest here. If these were really good cocktails they would be popular year ‘round name be damned. Almost every bar in America has the ingredient to make a Poinsettia (Champagne, orange liqueur, and cranberry juice) yet I dare say the ratio of Mimosas to Poinsettias served during July is something like one billion to one.
So what can you do that’s different, and tasty, but not going to involve three hours of holiday cheer killing stress to make? Well, there are a lot of classic cocktails that can be great holiday drinks. The key is to find cocktails with flavor profiles that match the season. Think of the flavors of the winter months. Think of smoke and spices. Think of nuts and fruit flavor combinations. Fruits like orange and pineapple seem summery but when combined with dark spirits can produce fantastic holiday flavors.
Give one of these a whirl over the Holidays and perhaps you’ll have a new favorite for years to come…or not.
Blood and Sand
1oz Blended Scotch
1oz Sweet Vermouth
1oz Fresh orange juice
3/4oz Cherry Heering
Shake briefly and strain into cocktail glass. Serve up. Garnish with orange twist.
While the name isn’t exactly holiday friendly the flavors most certainly are. Call it a Nut Cracker if your Grandmother asks what you’re serving. This drink is traditionally made with equal portions of each ingredient and with cherry brandy rather than Cherry Heering. The Heering offers a richer and more complex flavor but is a bit too sweet to be used in equal proportion to the other ingredients.
Hot Buttered Rum
2 oz Dark Rum
3/4oz Fresh lemon juice
1 rounded teaspoon of brown sugar
6 whole cloves
1 large teaspoon of butter
2 Dashes of Angostura bitters
Garnish with fresh grated Nutmeg
This is a recipe I adapted slightly from the one in Charles H Baker Jr’s Jigger, Beaker, and Flask 1939. Place the brown sugar, cloves, lemon juice, Rum, and bitters in a small coffee cup. Pour hot water in a little bit at a time to your taste. Remember, you don’t want to dilute your drink too much. You can always add more water but you can’t take it back. Place butter on top and serve while still dissolving. Dust with nutmeg to finish.
2oz Rye Whiskey (Rittenhouse 100 preferred)
1.5oz Fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
3/4oz (skinny) honey syrup
Rinse glass with Walnut liqueur
Shake all other ingredients, strain, and serve up in cocktail glass.
It’s tasty and quite simple to make. The original recipe from the Vedome Club in the 1930s calls for Bourbon but I find it too sweet for my tastes and the Rye ads a nice spice note to the drink. The Walnut rinse is also my own twist. The subtle nutty aroma and flavor put the finishing touch on this one.