About the Author: Ashley R. is Bartender in Boise, Idaho. She’s known for challenging traditional expectations regarding what a cocktail should be, and having an intuitive understanding of the way flavors interact. on that.
It’s here! My favorite time of the year to get friends together – everyone is in a good mood, they’re dressing their best (aside from the occasional ugly sweater), and there’s something extra special in the air. (It may be pollution, or the inversion, but we’re calling it the holiday spirit for all intents and purposes). Holiday Parties are a prime time to show off your cocktail making skills, after all, no party is complete without a bartender. This list will arm you with a few tips and recipes to create beautiful (and delicious) cocktails. With these recipes and bottles in tow, you’ll have something for everyone – or maybe just for yourself. Remember, drink responsibly – and Happy Holidays!
Spirit #1 and #2 = APERITIF & DIGESTIF
To start your night, approach it like a marathon – not a sprint. If you’re gearing up for a long evening, start with something low in alcohol. Let’s be honest – a drunk host at 8pm just isn’t a good look.
The Navigator – Light and bubbly
- 1.5 oz Aperol
- 1.5 oz Kopke Tawny Port
- Soda Water
Method: Fill glass half full with soda water, pour Aperol and Port into glass over soda water.
Notes: Our first cocktail is a very simple one. It’s a good starter to serve while people are arriving at a dinner party, or something light to sip on before going out for a night out. The base spirit is Aperol, my first suggestion of a bottle to have on hand. It’s citrusy, delicious, and very versatile. It’s Italian, similar to Campari in flavor (with half the alcohol) and less bitter.
Again, this cocktail isn’t pretending to be fancy or difficult – but it is delicious. It’s very similar to an “Americano” – a cocktail comprising of just Campari and Sweet Vermouth with soda water.
Figgy Tabby – Spirit Forward, but an easy drink
- 1.5 oz Bulleit Rye
- .75 oz Kopke Tawny Port
- 1 tsp cinnamon syrup*
Method: Pour all contents into a chilled mixing glass, and stir. Strain into a coupe using a julep strainer and garnish with a skewered fig. *Cinnamon syrup is very simple to make. A basic 1:1 ratio of sugar and water, with up to 6 cinnamon sticks left to steep overnight (the more sticks, the stronger the flavor).
Notes: The second cocktail I’d suggest, like the first, also features Kopke Tawny Port, which is a digestif and the second bottle I’ve deemed necessary during the holidays. It’s a tricky one, because it doesn’t taste overly boozy, but a few will put you on your butt if you’re not careful.
Spirit #3 = GIN
Gin is a spirit that occasionally gets a bad rap. I’ll relate it to a relationship – it takes patience. I believe deep in my heart that everyone likes gin, just in different forms. It’s a completely different flavor depending on what it’s mixed with. If you take the time to learn it’s flavors, or find the right style for you, you too can have a fulfilling relationship with gin. For those of you reading that are thinking you’ll never find love in gin, allow me to introduce (or reintroduce) you to Plymouth. It’s a smooth and citrusy gin, that finishes light and dry. Here are my two suggested gin cocktails.
Talking in Code – Citrusy
- 2 oz Plymouth
- .50 oz Apricot Eau de Vie
- .50 oz lime juice
- .50 oz Cointreau
- POM pomegranate juice
Method: Combine ingredients in shaker with ice, shake and double strain into a coupe. Next, drop about a teaspoon of POM juice into the glass, which should fall to bottom of the glass creating a beautiful layering effect.
Notes: An easy way to do this is to place a straw into a glass (or the container) of POM juice, and cover one end with your fingertip, trapping a few inches of liquid in the straw. You can then drop the juice from the straw into the drink.
Pavorotti – Boozy
- 2 oz Plymouth
- 1 oz Cochhi Americano
- 2 dashes orange bitters
Method: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir and serve over a big rock with a slapped sage leaf for garnish.
Spirit #4 = RUM
In my mind, Rum is the king of holiday spirits. It’s incredibly diverse and malleable, like a boozy chameleon. I wanted to shed light on rum, and give it its due. It’s truly a misunderstood spirit – and I think everyone has had a bad night with this tasty friend.
My favorite rums are seductive – full bodied, spicy, and warm you from the inside out. The rum I recommend is Smith & Cross. It’s a traditional Jamaica Rum and it’s “Navy strength” – which means that it’s 57% ABV. A little history lesson for you – at that proof, if the spirit were to spill on a ship it wouldn’t prevent gunpowder from igniting. Here’s a favorite rum cocktail recipe of mine for this time of year.
- 1.50 oz El Dorado Rum (another favorite)
- .50 oz Smith & Cross
- .75 oz lime juice
- .50 oz POM
- .50 oz simple syrup
Method: Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and double strain into a coupe.
Spirit #5 = BOURBON
For this section, I chose 2 bourbons. Buffalo Trace for mixing in cocktails, and E.H. Taylor for sipping. Everyone should have a sturdy sipping bourbon for the end of the evening when all that’s left is your closest group of friends. It’s the perfect pairing for late nights and long talks. In regards to a bourbon cocktail, here’s one that falls right in line with the holidays.
Egg Nog Flip
- 2 oz Buffalo Trace
- .75 oz lemon
- .50 oz simple syrup
- 1 whole egg
Method: Combine all ingredients in shaker, and dry shake for 10-15 seconds. Add ice, and shake again. Strain into a coupe, and top with nutmeg.
THE SHOPPING LIST
- Aperol – $21.99
- Kopke Tawny Port – $10.98
- Bulleit Rye – $24.99
- Plymouth 82.5 Proof Gin – $24.99
- Blume Marillen Apricot Brandy – $33.99
- Cointreau – $32.99
- Cochhi Americano – $21.99
- Orange bitters – $15.95
- El Dorado 5 yr Rum – prices vary
- Smith & Cross – $29.95
- Buffalo Trace – $21.99
- Colonel E.H.Taylor – $39.99