Jason Rodriguez, the beverage director at Hall NYC, holds a Manhattan Ice Tea. (Fox 5 NY)
NEW YORK - Chances are that by now most of you have attended various holiday parties where you threw back some bottled suds, mediocre wine, and mixed drinks made from rail liquor and Coke. Well, if you're luckier than that, maybe your office sprung for top-shelf booze.
Either way, I'm back with another seasonal cocktail recipe roundup to inspire you to be creative and make something delicious and fun for whatever gathering you might have lined up for Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve, or I-need-to-burn-off-this-last-vacation-day solo luncheon.
I hope you enjoy tasting these eight creations and exploring where they came from. Let me know what you think.
Hall is a brand-new eatery in Chelsea that seeks to combine Prohibition-style with modern New York touches, according to Jason Rodriguez, the beverage director. It features a reclaimed wood paneling more than a century old from an upstate mansion with new marble countertops and contemporary light fixtures.
Owner and chef Hiroki Odo's menu features coffee and pastries for breakfast and casual Japanese bistro food for lunch and dinner. (Through an almost-hidden door past the bar area is Odo's eponymous 14-seat restaurant that serves a nine-course tasting menu.)
"In the cocktail scene, we should have a true, proper adult ice tea beverage," Rodriguez said, but not one that leaves you with horrible hangovers.
He makes this tall drink with whiskey from Woodford Reserve infused with black tea (Lipton is fine, he said) and topped with a delicious beer from Finback, a small brewery in Glendale, Queens. Rodriguez said that double-straining the mix ensures that you catch any ice chips that would dilute the cocktail too much.
1 oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz simple syrup*
2 oz Woodford Reserve Rye, infused with black tea
Mint, handful and for garnish
Finback Two Regimes Double IPA, to taste
Add lemon juice, syrup, and rye to a cocktail shaker. Roll a handful of mint in your palm, give it a good smack to release the aroma, and add to shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously.
Using a Hawthorne strainer and a fine-mesh strainer, double strain into a highball glass. Add fresh ice and fill with the beer.
Slap a mint sprig on the back of your hand to release the oils and garnish the drink.
"Salud! Cheers," Rodriguez said, with a wink, as he presented his creation to me.
HALL NYC | 17 West 20 Street, New York, NY | hall.nyc
Vintage 61, which opened in May, is a Yankees-themed sports bistro with an extensive wine list. The "61" in the name refers to three things: the World Champion 1961 Yankees, Roger Maris' record-setting 61 homers that same season, and the famous 1961 vintage for Bordeaux wines.
Keith Carter, the head bartender, designed the cocktail menu at this South Street Seaport pub.
2. Pumpkin Pie Martini
Carter said that his customers love this creamy adult beverage because "it tastes like a pumpkin pie." I agree. It is dessert in a martini glass, which is how I feel about the white Russian cocktail, one of my favorites. This is like a holiday white Russian.
Carter uses Licor 43, a Spanish liqueur. "I like it because it's a great flavor-carrier," he said, "and really balances it out."
Carter makes his own pumpkin spice simple syrup, which is just simple syrup* combined with pumpkin spice and pumpkin puree and simmered for a few minutes.
The Pumpkin Pie Martini could be the perfect treat on Christmas morning while opening gifts. I know I'd want to drink five of them but "that would be a terrible idea," Carter said. Duly noted.
Add vodka, Licor 43, and syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. If you want a creamer cocktail, add heavy cream and shake again (optional). Strain into a martini glass.
Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of more pumpkin syrup, and a dusting of cinnamon powder. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
3. Campfire Old Fashioned
For this variation on the classic, Carter uses an American single malt from Santa Fe Spirits in New Mexico because of its mesquite smokiness.
To get the proper "campfire" effect for this drink, smoke the glass before mixing the cocktail. Here is how: Light a wood chip in a small dish and cover with a rocks glass. When the flame extinguishes, the glass will fill with smoke.
Add whiskey, Frangelico, syrup, and bitters to a mixing glass, fill with ice, and stir with a bar spoon or other long spoon for about 15 seconds. Strain into the smoked rocks glass over fresh ice.
Squeeze an orange peel over the liquid to release the oils, rim the glass, and place the peel into the cocktail as a garnish.
VINTAGE 61 | 233-235 Front Street, New York, NY 10038 | 212-346-9090 | vintage61.com
4. Horse Drawn Zamboni
Here is another spin on the old fashioned. This one is from Russell Dillon, the bar director at Bā'sik in Brooklyn. This version, with maple syrup instead of either simple syrup or a sugar cube, gives it a more "Northern twist," Dillon said.
"The name itself plays on the concept of a departure from the Kentucky roots, while sneaking in a tiny reference to hockey, the horse racing legacy associated with the cocktail's origin," he added, "and a nod to the notion of something within its own definition exists as old fashioned."
Some cocktails are made right in the glass you drink it from. This is called "building" the drink. Add juices and syrups first, then alcohol, and then ice. Give it a stir and top with a mixer. However, some bartenders add ice to the glass first and then build the drink over the rocks.
2 oz rye
½ oz Fernet-Branca
½ oz rich maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3 dashes orange bitters
Orange peel, for garnish
Build the cocktail in a rocks glass old fashioned-style: Add rye, fernet, maple syrup, and bitters in a rocks glass over ice and stir. Garnish with an orange peel.
BĀ'SIK | 323 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211 | 347-889-7597 | basikbrooklyn.com
Long-time friends Noah Braunstein and Yoni Rabino founded the distillery a few years ago and brought their first product to market in 2015. Neversink specializes in apple-based gin and brandy. The flagship spirit is Neversink Gin, made from apples from a New York State orchard.
I drink whiskey more often than I drink gin, but I enjoy gin-based cocktails in early summer and around Christmas because the spirit's botanicals can pull double-duty that way.
5. Worker Bee
"The honey, lemon, and ginger are excellent companions for the apple spirit," Rabino said. "The cocktail creates a beautiful harmony of fruit, spice, and floral notes."
2 oz Neversink Gin
½ oz honey simple syrup*
½ oz fresh lemon juice
3 oz ginger beer
Candied ginger, for garnish
Build the cocktail in a highball glass over ice and stir. Garnish with candied ginger.
6. Clover Club
I'd never heard of the Clover Club before Neversink shared this recipe with me. While it sounds more like a summer drink because of the raspberries, you could garnish this with frozen raspberries to hint at long sunny days during winter's weariness.
"The fresh, aromatic tartness of the raspberry syrup is a perfect complement to Neversink Gin," Rabino said. "Notes of delicate baking spices and fresh citrus intertwine with juniper to create a balanced and wonderful cocktail for a special occasion."
1 ½ oz Neversink Gin
½ oz dry vermouth
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz raspberry syrup
1 egg white
Raspberries, for garnish
Add gin, vermouth, lemon juice, raspberry syrup, and egg white to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a few raspberries.
Neversink Spirits | Port Chester, NY (no tasting room) | 914-352-1953 | neversinkspirits.com
7. The Nighthawk
Eryn Reece, the capo of bartenders at the secretive Banzarbar, created this smoky mezcal-based drink. I'm told the cocktail pairs well with poultry tamales. That's all I need to know.
2 oz Pelotón de la Muerte Mezcal
¾ oz sweet vermouth
¼ oz coffee liqueur
Orange wedge or peel, for garnish
Add mezcal, vermouth and coffee liqueur to a mixing glass, fill with ice, and stir with a bar spoon or other long spoon for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain through a julep strainer into a coupe glass. Garnish with either an orange wedge or peel.
Banzarbar | End of (yes, seriously) Freemans Alley, New York, NY 10002 | 212-420-0012 | banzarbar.com
FOX N HARE
A cocktail recipe roundup wouldn't be complete without an entry from my friends at Fox N Hare Brewing in Port Jervis, a community along the Delaware River in New York. Owners Sean Donnelly and David Kranz shared this recipe for a mulled cider, a perfect winter libation.
8. Apple Rum Cider
"We keep [this] on in the taproom during the cold weather months," Donnelly said. "Add rum to taste! We usually use a spiced rum like Sailor Jerry's."
1 tsp allspice
1 pinch nutmeg
2 tsp ground cloves
1 apple, thinly sliced
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 gallon apple cider
1 cup light brown sugar
6 cinnamon sticks
Spiced rum (about 1 oz per serving)
Apple slice, fresh or pickled, for garnish
Place nutmeg, allspice and ground cloves into a cheesecloth or coffee strainer and tie-off with a string like a tea bag.
Thinly slice the apple and orange and remove the seeds.
Add a gallon of apple cider, sliced apple, sliced orange, brown sugar, and cinnamon sticks in a pot. Place the cheesecloth (tea bag) into the pot and bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat. Extract the cheesecloth from the rest of the cider mix.
Rim the lip of an 8-ounce glass with cinnamon sugar. Add 7 ounces of the mulled cider and 1 ounce of spiced rum (or to taste).
Garnish with fresh or pickled apple slice.
Fox N Hare Brewing Co. | 46 Front Street, Port Jervis, NY 12771 | 845-672-0100 | foxnhare-brewing.com
NOTE ON SIMPLE SYRUP: You can buy commercially made simple syrup at better grocery stores or online but it is a waste of money. Making your own is easy: Combine equal parts sugar (or honey) and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer three minutes (until sugar/honey dissolves). Remove from heat and cool before using.
Happy holidays! Check out my earlier cocktail roundups:
- 18 festive cocktail recipes for the holiday season
- 10 cocktail recipes that will make you the star of a hot summer party
- 8 more cocktail recipes that will make you the star of a hot summer party