It's beginning to look a lot like holiday cocktail season. All over the Twin Cities, tabletop drink menus adorned with Santas and snowmen swell with libations like Irish coffee, spiked hot chocolate and burly barleywines served up in goblets. Despite December's hustle and bustle, we still find the time to stop by our favorite winter watering holes to cap off a long day of Christmas shopping, or an even longer evening at a tragically booze-free office party. It's at the bar where we find friends, clink warm mugs and exchange ruddy cheek kisses before heading home.
Speaking of home, holiday cocktails there have risen above eggnog and the occasional cranberry sparkler. Sure, it's a respite, a place to decompress after suffering the pretense of extended family gatherings. But our kitchen cabinets bear more than scotch and peppermint schnapps these days, stocked with flavored syrups, colored glassware or, at the very least, a mixing tin and strainer.
This is the time of the year when twinkling colors are as much a requirement on the rim of your glass as they are on the glowing strands on your Christmas tree, when whiskey isn't mandated for a hot toddy, and tequila turns into an affair you'll actually remember. The holiday season is full of festive flavors and smells that professional and home bartenders are blending together in inventive, potable ways -- and bestowing them with appropriately punny names. Here are five cocktails to seek out this season that exemplify that spirit and ingenuity.
Ask for the Mistletoe at La Belle Vie between Jan. 1 and the day before Thanksgiving, and you'll be you-know-what out of luck. Bartenders are under strict orders to only make this holiday cocktail between Black Friday and New Year's Eve, which just adds to its irresistible allure. You might fall in love at first bubbly sip, or succumb slowly to each of the Mistletoe's fruit and floral layers. Either way, this tart effervescent drink -- bubbles courtesy of bar manager Johnny Michaels' signature cava splash -- will get you.
Wait until the very end to slurp up the fresh pomegranate seeds (if patience is one of your virtues), or let them pop in your mouth while you savor citrus and clementine vodkas, sweetened only with a touch of pomegranate syrup or an occasional lick of the red, white and green crystal sugar rim. If all that sounds a little too sensual for you, then consider yourself warned: The Mistletoe is a cocktail worthy of a kiss.
Michaels says the Mistletoe "would have a very voluminous recipe" for the home bartender, so he created this simpler version.
- 1 ½ oz. citrus vodka
- ¾ oz. pomegranate juice
- ¾ oz. defrosted lemonade concentrate (strained of pulp)
- 2-3 drops orange blossom water
- Cava (or any dry sparkling wine)
- Shaker and strainer
- Martini glass
- Garnish: Equal parts red, white and green decorative sugar
- Pomegranate seeds
- Orange twist
Directions: Rim half the martini glass with sugar. Combine all ingredients except cava. Shake and strain into glass. Top with cava. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds into drink and garnish rim with orange twist.
The makeup of the Chai Me is deceptively simple. Just five ingredients blended together in a warm, caramel-colored concoction that's light, creamy and easy to drink. But wait, is that a hint of cloves? Is that a touch of cardamom? Absolutely. No premade mixes here -- Om concocts its signature chai tea blend right in the restaurant's kitchen with fragrant Indian spices, strong black tea and a pinch of green tea leaves for brightness. Boiled instead of steeped to release every bit of essence, OM's chai is robust and complex. When combined with Jameson Irish Whiskey, Baileys Irish Cream and hot frothed milk, it becomes an entirely different after-dinner experience.