Cocktails and the holidays have a special affinity – for cocktails are eminently festive, represent a little self-indulgence, and just make you feel good. Here are three cocktails that will help get you into the holiday spirit!
The Alabazam goes to show that the current resurgence in the love of bitters is not a new trend, as this cocktail from 1878 originally called for a full teaspoonful of Angostura. But do not be afraid of the bitters! The Alabazam is a wonderfully balanced cocktail rendolent with Brandy, orange, and spice – it tastes just like Christmas, and the bitters play a key role by bringing wonderful notes of clove and cinnamon to mingle with orangey Cointreau, balanced by lemon’s acidity and bound together with brandy’s warmth. There have been numerous interpretations over the decades, some taking out the bitters entirely, some with Champagne or soda water. This recipe, a variant of Dale Degroff’s, is closest in spirit to the original adapted only slightly for modern tastes.
2oz Brandy (for mixing with juice, I simply use Christian Bros. or E&J)
¾ oz Lemon Juice
¾ oz Cointreau
½ oz. simple syrup
10 dashes bitters (Angostura is fine, Fee Bros. Aromatic is better)
Combine all ingredients over ice in a shaker. Shake hard and strain into cocktail coupes. Serve with a cherry on a pick and a lot of cheer!
The Widow’s Kiss:
Despite the somewhat macabre name, there is nothing deadly about this cocktail but its proof – it is an unparalleled fireside sipper. The base is Calvados, the rare, ancient, and rather wild apple brandy of Normandy, which achieves such character as it rests in barrels of beautiful Limousin oak. Then two liqueurs are added. The first, Benedictine, is the slightly herbal but very spicy liqueur of the Benedictine monks. It was developed in the 16th Century and every bottle is consecrated to "Deo Optimo Maximo" -- the best and greatest God. To taste Benedictine is to know that the monks are, indeed, doing God's work. Monks of the Carpathian order provide the second liqueur: Yellow Chartreuse, which, apart from being incredibly sweet is violently vegetal. To mix Chartreuse with Benedictine is almost unthinkable, yet the spiciness and warmth of Benedictine meet perfectly with the herbal edge of Chartreuse. Last, several drops of bitters are the final touch, bringing warm spicy notes that unite the disparate ingredients of the Widow’s Kiss together into a surprisingly perfect holiday cocktail.
2 oz. Calvados (Busnell VSOP)
¾ oz. Benedictine
¾ oz. Yellow Chartreuse
5 dashes aromatic bitters
Stir all the ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Serve either up in a chilled cocktail glass or, if you prefer a longer sipper, over a large ice cube in a double old-fashioned glass.
While modern egg nog likely descended from an English drink called posset, many cultures have a cold drink made largely of eggs, milk, and booze. No matter what it was called, in every culture this combination was a festive drink because each ingredient was expensive and a sign of prosperity. While you can buy packaged eggnog at any supermarket, making it fresh is revelatory – serve it in a punch bowl with ice and you have a party! The below recipe makes Egg Nog for two – assume one egg per person if you want to scale it up.
2 Eggs (pasteurized)
3.5 Tablespoons Sugar
3 drops Vanilla Extract
1 ounce brandy
1 ounce dark rum (Gosling’s is good)
2 oz Half-and-Half
Whisk the eggs with the sugar, then whisk in the spirits. Pour the egg mixture into a cocktail shaker and add the remaining ingredients. Shake hard and strain into teacups. Garnish with nutmeg. If making multiple batches, assemble in a blender, adding ice at the end. Serve in a punchbowl with large ice cubes (Tovolo makes an excellent large cube mold called the King Cube).