Home (bartending) for the holidays

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If the drinks at your holiday party start to remind you of Aunt Edna’s favorite Christmas sweater—out of date and all too predictable—you know it’s time for a beverage makeover.
We asked bartender Chris Dooley of Ella Dining Room & Bar to suggest some anything-but-ordinary signature cocktails that have a modern sensibility (fresh ingredients, unexpected flavor combinations) yet still manage to evoke a sense of holiday tradition.

For a Holiday Open House


Blackberry Ginger Punch
An easy make-ahead punch that Dooley says is a nice balance of sweet, herbaceous, bitter and tart.
4 cups blackberries
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
10 dashes Angostura bitters
10 basil leaves
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup simple syrup
4 cups vodka
1 cup gin
½ cup blackberry liqueur
5 cloves
Ginger ale
Soda water

Combine blackberries, ginger, bitters, basil, lime juice and simple syrup in a large bowl. Muddle the berries to a pulp. Add the vodka, gin and blackberry liqueur and stir to incorporate. Strain liquid through a fine mesh into another bowl, add cloves and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, add punch and block ice to a punch bowl and top with ginger ale and soda water to taste. Serve in glasses garnished with whole blackberries.
 

For a Christmas Eve Gathering

Monk’s Toddy
This tea-based toddy is a contemporary twist on the classic version of everyone’s favorite steamy cocktail.
1 ½ ounces bourbon
½ ounce honey
¼ ounce yellow chartreuse
4 ounces freshly brewed
chamomile tea (preferably a
fresh, loose-leaf variety)
Lemon (wedge and twist)
Cinnamon stick
Fresh nutmeg
Cloves
 
In a heat-resistant glass or mug, add bourbon, honey, yellow chartreuse and hot tea. Stir to combine. Squeeze juice from a lemon wedge into the glass and discard. Grate a small amount of cinnamon and nutmeg over the glass to taste, then drop one clove and a lemon twist in the glass.

For a New Year’s Eve Bash

Winter Solstice
(aka Meyer Wonderful)
Here’s a sparkling cocktail that is both beautiful to look at and a colorful alternative to ordinary champagne.
½ ounce vodka
¼ ounce Cointreau
1 ounce cranberry juice
½ ounce Meyer lemon juice
½ ounce vanilla simple syrup
(see below)
Prosecco or dry sparkling wine
Dash of crème de cassis
 
To a pint glass, add vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice, lemon juice and vanilla syrup. Add ice and stir together to chill quickly without diluting. Strain into a champagne flute. Top with Prosecco or a dry sparkling wine. Finally, sink a dash of crème de cassis into the bottom of the glass.

For the vanilla simple syrup: In a saucepan, combine one cup each of sugar and water, bring to a boil and let simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add a vanilla bean. Discard bean after 10 minutes. Cool syrup completely before using.

 

Tyler and Christina (3)