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With over a decade of experience in the service industry, co-owner of NYC’s Leyenda, Ivy Mix, has seen her fair share of the good, the bad and the ugly during the holidays. Ahead of this year’s busy season, Ivy shares some advice on how to best adapt your bar and offers four cocktail recipes to get your customers in the festive spirit.

I opened my little bar, Leyenda, in New York in 2015 – specializing in Latin spirits, cocktails and food. However, following our first two holiday seasons, we were beginning to notice a trend: we just weren’t that busy.

Of course, after some soul searching, it all became pretty apparent; we are a bright, lively, open Latin bar with a backyard and open windows. Not that many people walk past and think, ‘Oh! The holidays! I want a daiquiri and some tacos!’. So, we decided to up the ante and create a holiday pop-up at the bar: the affectionately known, Sleyenda. One part Christmas, Santa and ho-ho-ho and one part female empowerment.

We blew it out of the water and made a lasting impression on our clientele, both old and new. Along the way of course, I learned a few things that I’d like to share with you.


People really enjoy going out during the holidays and have so many options available these days. To engage regulars and win new customers at this time of year, try adding something new and, preferably, festive to your offering.

My suggestion is to make a special menu for the holidays, or even just feature holiday specials, focusing on three or four drinks.

These should be in addition to your normal menu and keeping the number down should enable you to really blow them out of the water. Get creative. Understand that people taste with their eyes first and play to that. So make them pretty, festive and totally instagramable - that will get the word out!

Then we need to get to the fun part, which are the cocktails themselves. It is important to vary your cocktails with different base spirits so your menu is more accessible (not everyone loves rum!).


I like to design concept menus so people can opt for different spirits to elevate their drink and make it more premium – same drink, just $2 more! I’ve noticed clientele love this, especially during the holidays, as it is a tangible way of acknowledging a special occasion. It also gives you more fodder for your festive fire.

When considering a festive menu, don’t overthink things. It’s important to adapt to the seasonality and have fun, but this doesn’t mean a drastic overhaul of your menu. There a few ‘go to’ ingredients that are versatile enough to work with many recipes and across many spirits; these can be really useful to swap in to recipes that already work well in your bar or restaurant. This is an easy way of incorporating festive flavors and a bit of fun into your drinks, offering a limited time for customers to try their favorite creation of yours with a holiday twist, but also allowing you to be flexible, too.

For example, a regular who typically orders G&T can swap out for the Tannenbaum & Tonic: intrigued by the change for Tanqueray and use of Douglas Fir liqueur. However, if they change their minds after one or two, you are easily capable of reverting back to a G&T.

Below, I’ve outlined some festive ingredients you can swap into some existing drinks and four of my favorite recipes from our Sleyenda cocktail menu, with a suggested upsell recommendation for each one.

Spiced Christmas Coquito

Coquito is like egg nog for Latin America, particularly Puerto Rico. We did a similar version for Sleyenda and everyone loved it! Traditionally made with evaporated milk, I prefer to make mine with some coconut milk and serve it in a holiday mug. Top with nutmeg for more cheer.



Try suggesting Zacapa Rum as an up-sell for this serve which will add more chocolate and nutty notes in the Coquito.

All drink recipes within this site contain no more than 0.6 fl. oz. (14 grams) of alcohol per serving, equivalent to one standard U.S. drink.

Tannenbaum and Tonic

It seems that the Gin and Tonic never fails to be the be the ever-popular drink of choice – no matter the season.

I particularly love it because it can give people who are perhaps trepidatious about bigger menus something to fall back on. Just add a little Douglas Fir and a few cranberries and this classic drink has some Christmas cheer. I love it!


The perfect up-sell for this recipe is Tanqueray No.Ten Gin. Made using all of the citrus fruit rather than the just the peel this quality gin will give this serve a smoother and more citrus flavor that really pops with the Douglas Fir liqueur.

All drink recipes within this site contain no more than 0.6 fl. oz. (14 grams) of alcohol per serving, equivalent to one standard U.S. drink.

Johnnie Nutcracker

Manhattans seems to be the cocktail of winter; even at Leyenda where our focus is mostly Latin Spirits, we always sell a ton of Manhattans during the winter months.

In the Manhattan family of cocktails is a distant relative called Bobby Burns, and this drink is a riff on that. The hazelnut liqueur adds a delicate comforting sweetness to the light smokiness of the scotch- the perfect drink to have by the fire.



Suggesting Johnnie Walker Black Label in this serve will provide a creamier texture to a Johnnie Nutcracker, with smoky notes on the finish.

All drink recipes within this site contain no more than 0.6 fl. oz. (14 grams) of alcohol per serving, equivalent to one standard U.S. drink.

Christmas Cosmo

This is an amped up riff on the classic Cosmopolitan, a light and refreshing take on the holidays – as opposed to heavier options you usually find around winter ingredients.

Replacing the cranberry juice with cranberry compote provides more depth to the drink. It's a very visual cocktail, too – with a bright pink hue and cute grapefruit twist, it’s perfect for online shares and getting the word of a festive menu out there.



Suggest Ketel One to customers for its copper pot still production and citrus forward flavor profile, resulting in a Christmas Cosmo with added bite.

All drink recipes within this site contain no more than 0.6 fl. oz. (14 grams) of alcohol per serving, equivalent to one standard U.S. drink.