Bourbon and Bubbles
This season’s hottest holiday cocktails and combinations
This is, hands down, the most festive time of the year, what with gift giving, decadent dinners and spirited parties. A celebration doesn’t get real, however, without a bar full of cheerful libations. All year long you stick to your safe vodka/sodas, chardonnays and the like. Now you have an excuse to get adventurous with things that might not be in your weekly wheelhouse.
The holidays seem suited for the warmth of scotch, and while the weather might not be cool enough to light a real fire, you’ll feel like you’re sitting by one after one sip of Laphroaig 10-year-old Scotch whisky. Featuring premium malted barley that’s dried over an Islay peat fire, this scotch has a medicinal nose and a distinctively smoky taste with a hint of sweetness— not for the faint of heart.
The strong peaty flavor of the Laphroaig makes cocktail mixing a challenge, so keep it over ice or give the Smoked Hefeweizen a try: 1 part Laphroaig, 4 parts Hefeweizen (or similar wheat beer) and a splash of orange juice. In a beer mug or pint glass, build this drink in order and garnish with an orange slice.
Another belly warmer that is still sophisticated, yet a bit easier on the palate, is John B. Stetson Bourbon Whisky, shaken or on the rocks. Its flavors of caramel, vanilla and cinnamon also make it perfect for mixing in cocktails like the Kentucky Apple: shake 1 ½ ounces of John B. Stetson with ¾ ounce of apple liqueur, ½ ounce of lemon juice and ½ ounce of ginger beer; serve it in a Collins glass, strained or over ice for a drink full of seasonal flavors.
To really make a distinguished cocktail, bring in the bitters, a spice rack for your bar. Bitters all but disappeared during Prohibition, but you know how everything old somehow becomes new again. The Bitter Truth has a spectacular line of nostalgic flavors to make classics like the Manhattan: 2 ounces of bourbon,
¾ ounce of sweet red vermouth and 3 dashes of aromatic bitters, shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass.
The Bitter Truth flavors range from chocolate to orange bitters (nice in a gin martini with dry vermouth) and cucumber to celery: great for a Bloody Mary. Bloody Marys are protocol for a holiday brunch, and here is one with a twist your guests won’t expect—Colman’s mustard, both powdered and prepared: In a pitcher, muddle 1 ¼ teaspoons of celery seeds with 1 ½ tablespoons of horseradish. Add 3 cups of tomato juice, 1 cup of pickling liquid, 2 tablespoons of hot sauce, 2 teaspoons of prepared mustard, 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and stir. Mix 3 parts salt to 1 part powdered mustard for the rim of your Collins glass; add about 4 ice cubes and 2 ounces of vodka. Top with the Bloody Mary mix, add your favorite garnish and raise your glass.
Perhaps the quintessential drink for the holidays is one with bubbles—Champagne, sparkling wine and cocktails made with it.
Prosecco (an Italian sparkler) is ideal, as it is generally fruitier and more affordable than Champagne. The Bellenda San Fermo Prosecco, DOCG ( Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the highest classification for Italian wines) is floral, with hints of peach and apple; it is not only delicious on its own, but also even better when seasonal fruits and juices such as pomegranate and cranberry are added.
The cranberry mint spritzer is easy and fast: 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce cranberry juice, 3 ounces of Prosecco over ice, garnished with fresh mint leaves.
For an even sweeter treat, this Frozen Cannoli cocktail from bartender Marc Nicoletta will WOW your guests: Make cannoli syrup by whisking together 1 cup of ricotta, 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of heavy cream. Fill a goblet with crushed ice for proper measuring, then pour the ice into a shaker with 1 ½