Tis’ the season to be merry, jolly and, for some of us, buzzed. Winter is a perfect time to try your hand at your very own signature cocktail. Since we usually relax our calorie counting when it’s cold outside, sweeter liqueurs, cream and half and half are more-than-welcome ingredients for a winter cocktail. This also means you can work with the spices and flavors of the season. This, my friends, is the perfect opportunity for mixologists of any skill level to try their hand at signature cocktails. Fun garnishes, interesting flavor combos, and lots of practice can easily turn a dull and dreary winter evening into a lively and festive soiree.
So, before you can start mixing, you will need a few things to get started. First, stock the bar with a few key liqueurs and pieces of hardware. A well stocked bar should contain at least one bottle each of gin, vodka, whisky, bourbon, tequila, scotch, rum (both light and dark and/or spiced) and brandy. I may have left out something here but you get the idea. Just make sure it’s quality booze. If you drink cheap stuff you might not feel like doing much of anything the next day. If you don’t want to lay down a bunch of cash on all these different flavors pick your three favorite, that’s a good start.
The next thing to add to your collection are liqueurs. Now there are lots and lots of these so you might break the bank trying to buy all of them. Add to your collection a little at a time. A bottle of Frangelico here, a bottle of Grand Marnier there will quickly turn into a respectable collection. Think seasonally when selecting your liqueurs. In the winter time, what flavors are most inspiring? Orange, hazel nut, chocolate, raspberry, maybe even pear? There is a liqueur out there for just about anything you are going for so play around. If you aren’t sure and don’t want to dedicate to a large bottle try buying the airline bottles until you find what you are looking for. These smaller bottles allow you to have lots of different things on hand to mix with.
Now that you have the hard stuff figured out, you can add the finishing touches. Fresh fruit and other garnishes are going to make your cocktail pop. Get creative and don’t be afraid to taste things as you go as this tends to “inspire” people. Play around with variations on classic cocktails by subbing a portion of the liqueur or adding spices. Cranberry, orange, and cinnamon? Yes these things taste good together.
Now that you are well on your way and hopefully have some great ideas, go out and get your drink on. Included below is one of my favorite concoctions. Please drink safely!
Santas Little Helper (a variation on the White Russian)
2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Kahlúa
1/2 oz Frangelico
Half & Half
spiced sugar rim
Chocolate chip cookie on the side
Using two saucers fill one with your spiced sugar to about 1/4 inch thick. Fold paper towels to fill the area of the second saucer and thoroughly soak them with your simple syrup. Dip the rim of your glass in simple syrup and then into your spiced sugar.
Carefully fill glass 2/3 full with ice. Pour over the ice the vodka, Frangelico, and Kahlúa. Top off with cream or half & half.
Serve with a side of cookies (I prefer Chocolate Chip, Santas favorite). In order to get the full effect you should take a bite of cookie and wash it down with the drink (dipping is recommended).
Try different liqueur combinations such as chocolate and orange. You can skip the ice and make Santa a warmed up version of this same cocktail. In a saucepan heat your half and half, then follow all of the same directions above less the ice for a belly warming treat.
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
In a sauce pan bring water and sugar to a simmer and cook until the sugar is well dissolved. Allow to cool completely and store at room temperature in an airtight container (I use an old liqueur bottle).
Spiced Sugar Blend
6 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients and and set aside at room temp in an airtight container.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch of salt
4-6 ounces milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. With an electric mixer, beat butter at medium speed until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla, beating well. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in chocolate morsels. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place about 3-inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheets. Remove to wire racks to cool.
Here are a few great cocktail related events coming up through Brown Paper Tickets!
Saturday, December 7th | Academy of Bartending: Beyond Basics – Atlanta, Georgia
A great follow up class for Bar Basics, or a helpful tool for those who are looking to delve deeper into drink-making, cocktail history, and technique. Learn about more advanced drink styles like the Cobbler, the Flip, the Fizz, the Daisy, and more. Work on your shaking and stirring, fortify your ingredient knowledge, talk about contemporary cocktail culture and debate what’s next! Includes lunch and cocktail samples.
Tuesday, December 10th | Grand Tidings – Boston, Massachusetts
Join Grand Harmonie at Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ale as they ring in the season with a yultide celebration! Enjoy appetizers and the libations of your choice – wine, beer, and a delicious vintage-recipe punch will all be available – while Grand Harmonie’s musicians serenade you with 19th century holiday favorites performed on period-appropriate instruments.
Wednesday, December 11th | tasteBOKA Host with the Most: Holiday Cocktail Edition – Seattle, Washington
Are you thinking of hosting a holiday cocktail party? Let BOKA help you impress your guests! Get tips from BOKA Beverage Manager, Cory Duffy, on setting up the perfect bar, shopping for tools and ingredients, and learn how to make (and taste) a few delicious holiday cocktails. You will leave this lesson with the knowledge and skills to make you the Host with the Most.
Saturday, December 14th & Sunday, December 15th | Sun Liquor Holiday Cocktail Class – Seattle, Washington
Sun Liquor Bar Manager Chelsea Anderson will teach you how to make punches, egg nog, flaming coffee drinks and more. Perfect for home bartenders who are getting ready to entertain guests for the holidays.
Sunday, December 15th | Holiday Cocktails – The Low Octane Edition – New York, New York
Indulging over the holidays is a tradition many of us share, but you can leave the hangovers to the amateurs! We’ve created a bunch of holiday libations that are just a little naughty and very nice, then paired them to some very tasty bites – let us show you how so you can impress your own holiday guests!
Image credit: Tom Ipri