Cheers Bour­bon and Bub­bles

This sea­son’s hottest hol­i­day cock­tails and com­bi­na­tions

RSWLiving - - Department­s - BY GINA BIRCH Gina Birch is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor, a lover of good food and wine, and a well-known me­dia per­son­al­ity in South­west Florida.

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

ounces of vanilla vodka, ¾ ounce of Li­cor 43, ½ ½ ounce of Bai­leys Ir­ish Cream and 1 ounce of the pre­pared syrup; shake well. Driz­zle the empty gob­let with choco­late syrup; then fill with the shaker mix. Top with whipped cream and more syrup, and you have one dreamy cock­tail.

Al­ways keep a stash of wine on hand for hol­i­day soirees for a spritzer, san­gria or on its own. Draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the 1920’s joie de vivre mood in Paris, Les Dauphins bistro wines have a très fes­tive la­bel and are light bod­ied. The Rhone Val­ley re­serves in­clude a rosé (a hint of straw­berry), a white blend (fresh and cit­rusy) and a red blend (mild spice and ripe fruit).

From sa­vory to sweet, th­ese hol­i­day treats are sure to get and keep your cel­e­bra­tions rolling.

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