Drinks for the December Holidays
World-renowned author and mixologist Gary Regan explores the 21st Century bartender’s Christmas drinks menu.
As a drinks writer, I have dreaded this time of year for a long time.
No matter which newspapers or magazines I have written for over the years, every last one of them wanted me to pen pieces on Eggnogs, toddies, mulled wine and every kind of traditional drink for the December holiday season. This got to be very boring, very quickly.
Luckily for me, things have moved on throughout the years in the world of cocktails and mixed drinks, and although the old standby drinks still hit cocktail menus around this time of year, 21st Century bartenders are far more innovative than their late 20th Century counterparts and that even includes yours truly.
I took a virtual trip from Italy to Panama and farther afield, to get an insight into the Christmas drinks menu of the modern day bartender.
So sit back, relax and enjoy some festive "drinkspiration".
First up is yours truly and funnily enough do have a special go-to ingredient that I run to when I want to fix wintertime drinks.
It’s the simple yet tasty gingerbread syrup.
Monin makes a very nice bottling of this spicy treat and believe it or not it’s not too hard to make your own signature gingerbread syrup. No matter which way you turn, remember that the flavors of gingerbread pair very well with Darkrums such as Ron Zacapa 23 Rum or Pampero, BULLEIT™ Bourbon or Rye and all manner of Scotch Whiskies, whether it’s a Highland, Lowland, Islay or Speyside.
Take it in a direction that you think your customers will appreciate. Add a little Ruby Port or maybe some cold, brewed tea. There are many options — just always remember to make it your own. For now, here’s my favorite.
Gaz’s Gourmet Rye Cocktail
1.5 oz. BULLEIT American Straight Rye Whiskey
1.5 oz. Ruby port
.75 oz. Monin gingerbread syrup
Mix together at room temperature in a cocktail glass.
My virtual journey took me next to Seattle’s renowned Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen.
Drinks expert Kathy Casey recently created a fabulous drink that near-enough sings Jingle Bells as it glides down the throat. It’s a cocktail calling for BULLEIT Bourbon, Frangelico and a spiced pumpkin mix that Kathy created for The Heathman Restaurant and Bar.
The spiced pumpkin mix that makes this drink so special is comprised of unsalted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, kosher salt and pumpkin puree. It can be made in batches big enough to make two-dozen drinks and will keep for a week in the fridge or up to a month in the freezer.
And to top it off, you can put it together in 10 minutes or less. Well worth the time and effort if you’ve got some downtime before the season kicks off.
Harvest Pumpkin Toddy
- 1 oz. BULLEIT Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- .5 oz. Hazelnut liqueur
- 2 Tablespoons Spiced pumpkin mix (recipe follows)
- 1 Lemon wedge
- .5 oz. Boiling water
- Cinnamon stick (optional)
Squeeze lemon wedge into a coffee mug. Measure in Bourbon and Hazelnut liqueur. Carefully add the spiced pumpkin mix, add the boiling water and stir until well mixed.
Spiced Pumpkin Mix(makes 7 litres)
- 4 oz. Un-salted butter, at room temperature
- 12 oz. packed brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- .75 tsp. ground cloves
- .5 tsp. Kosher salt
- 17 oz. Litre pumpkin puree
METHOD: Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
50ml Talisker® Single Malt Scotch
25ml Sweet vermouth
10ml Hazelnut liqueur
Smoke of a cigar
2 x Drops of chocolate bitters
Method: First smoke the cocktail glass. Stir the remaining ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled coupe.
(2.6 standard drinks* - 2.9 units per serve)
50ml Ron Zacapa® Rum
12.5ml Orange liqueur
10ml Cinnamon syrup
1 x Thyme spring
1 x Whole egg
Garnish: Smoked thyme, grated nutmeg and orange peel oils (discard the peel).
Method: Softly muddle the thyme and cinnamon syrup in a mixing glass, then add ice and the remaining ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled coupe. Add the garnishes.
(1.9 standard drinks* - 2.5 units per serve)
I’ll round this piece out with a very simple drink created by Ryan Haile at Bocanova, a restaurant in Oakland, California. Ryan’s "Glogg in the Mill" cocktail is another Scotch-based potion. He recommends using Lagavulin and the only other ingredients are cardamom bitters and a Liqueur based on the traditional Scandinavian Christmas-time drink known as Glogg. Here’s a treat that’s very new to the scene and I’m betting that, a century from now, scribes such as I will be noting that ‘Glogg in the Mill’ is still being served as a December holiday favorite.
I predict it’s going to be a classic!
Glogg in the Mill
1.75 LAGAVULIN™ Single Malt Scotch Whisky
1oz. Glogg Liqueur
2 dashes cardamom bitters
1 lemon twist
Stir over ice and strain into a stemmed glass. Add the garnish.
(*One standard drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol)
Gary Regan is the founder of The Institute of Mindful Bartending and you can occasionally find him serving behind the bar at The Dead Rabbit in NYC. When he’s not working, you can keep up to speed with him on Twitter @gazregan or www.facebook.com/gazregan