The Cool Material team sipped and suggested plenty of weekend cocktails this year. Many were seasonally appropriate, and ranged from classics to modern takes on classics. A handful are also the perfect addition to any holiday get-together, large or small, family or friends.
When it comes to holiday drinks, there are some bartender-approved go-tos. Jason Asher, founding partner Barter & Shake Cocktail Entertainment, which runs World’s 50 Best Discovery bar UnderTow in Phoenix, rum, Cognac, and American whiskey highlight the spirits of the season. Chairman’s Reserve Spice Rum, for example, is perfect for a Toddy, mulled wine, or Hot Buttered Rum, while Remy 1738 works well in Eggnog, a Tom & Jerry, or a Cognac-based Old Fashioned. Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon, on the other hand, brings the flavors for holiday themed Whiskey Sours (or to just drink neat).
Whatever spirit you choose, from refreshing drinks that open up the palate, to boozy pre-dinner drinks, to after-dinner sippers, these are the cocktails we suggested this year that are also perfect for the holiday season.
Aperitivo Del Nonno
Aperitivo Del Nonno is a mixed drink from Milan that combines Amaro Lucano, Aperol, orange bitters, and sparkling rosé to create a well-balanced, sparkling cocktail suitable for any season. Its flavors include bitterness from the Amaro Lucano, sweetness from the Aperol, a hint of citrus from the orange bitters, and dryness and carbonation from the bubbly (La Marca Prosecco Rosé, Veuve Clicquot Rose Champagne, and Billecart Salmon Brut Rose Champagne all work well). A topper of seltzer and garnish finishes the drink.
Call Me Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail suitable for any season, in part because it’s so adaptable with many variations. The Call Me Old Fashioned, which adds Amaro Montenegro to the brandy-based Wisconsin Old Fashioned, has a spiciness that’s well-suited for the colder months. It’s made with brandy (either an American brandy or a cognac like Hennessy or Rémy Martin), Amaro Montenegro, simple syrup, and a combination of Angostura bitters and orange bitters. Any amaro with a strong, wintry flavor profile can be used in place of Amaro Montenegro, such as Braulio or Averna. A traditional garnish of an orange peel and an amaro-soaked cherry ties it all together.
The Scofflaw is a cocktail made with rye whiskey, dry vermouth, lemon juice, and grenadine. It was created during Prohibition at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris and was named after the word “scofflaw,” which refers to someone who disregards the law. It is important to use a rye whiskey that can stand on its own, such as Rittenhouse Rye, Redemption, or Sazerac. Any dry vermouth can be used (Dolin is a favorite. Store-bought grenadine syrup can be used, but making your own or using a high-quality brand like Liber & Co. will result in a richer cocktail experience.
The Slope is a variation on the classic Manhattan that adds a fruit liqueur to create a cozy, fall-appropriate drink. It calls for rye whiskey, sweet red vermouth, a fruit liqueur, and Angostura bitters. Any rye whiskey can be used, such as WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye or Rittenhouse Rye, and any sweet red vermouth can be used, such as Punt e Mes, Martini & Rossi, or Cocchi. The recommended fruit liqueur for The Slope is Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur, but other options like spiced pear liqueur or a fortified cider would also work.
The Warthog features spiced pear liqueur as its main ingredient, combined with gin, lemon juice, and honey. It is a vibrant, botanical drink that is also cozy and inviting, and is suitable for any season. It’s a lighter, refreshing take from the typical whiskey- or brandy- based winter cocktail. The recommended gin for The Warthog is a light, refreshing variety such as Tanqueray London Dry Gin, Plymouth Gin, or Barr Hill. St. George Spirits makes a high-quality spiced pear liqueur.
The White Negroni is a modern classic that was created in 2001 by British bartender Wayne Collins at a beverage trade show in Bordeaux, France. It’s a variation on the classic Negroni that takes out the Campari and instead uses gin (Plymouth Gin is the gin used in the original recipe, but any quality gin can be used), Suze, a gentian aperitif, and Lillet Blanc (a wine-based aperitif). These ingredients mimic the flavor characteristics of the original Negroni but result in a clear cocktail. The White Negroni is a refreshing, bitter drink that is suitable as a pre-dinner aperitif and has become a popular choice at cocktail bars around the world.
The Paloma is a simple drink made right in the glass that’s easy to customize with additional ingredients, although grapefruit is essential. And while the drink is lovely in the summer, fresh grapefruits are most available in the United States in the winter. A little fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice goes a long way. You’ll need blanco tequila, freshly squeezed lime juice, grapefruit, and grapefruit soda or juice like Jarritos, Squirt, or Fresca. Or you can opt for a fully fresh Paloma by foregoing the soda altogether and using fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice with soda or seltzer.
The Americano is a subtle twist on the classic Negroni, replacing gin with soda water for a refreshing, bitter aperitivo that’s lighter in alcohol. It originated in Milan in the mid-1800s as a variation of the Milano-Torino, a 50-50 mix of Campari and Punt e Mes vermouth, and was named after its popularity among American tourists. To make an Americano, you need Campari, sweet red vermouth, and soda water. The Americano is a simple, well-balanced cocktail that is perfect for enjoying during the holiday season.
Martinis are classic and elegant, and there are seemingly endless variations. But when it comes to classy holiday drinking, few variations best the classic gin Martini served straight up in a chilled coupe with a garnish of your choice. Choose a high-quality gin and a high-quality dry vermouth, such as Dolin or Lo-Fi. Optionally, add a dash of orange bitters or Angostura bitters.
The Sazerac is a classic American cocktail that originated in New Orleans in the mid-1800s, and is named for a particular brand of cognac: Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. It’s a close relative of the Old Fashioned and is made with rye whiskey, cognac, bitters, and absinthe, and is known for its herbal, bracing flavor. While originally made with French brandy, the rise of rye whiskey in America led to its incorporation into the cocktail. Today, bartenders may use either whiskey or brandy, or a combination of both, in their Sazeracs. Absinthe is also an important component of the cocktail, but it is used as a rinse in the glass rather than being added to the final drink.
Corpse Reviver #1
The Corpse Reviver #1 is a pre-Prohibition cocktail that was considered a hangover remedy and revitalizing drink. It’s made with cognac, Calvados (apple brandy from Normandy, France), and sweet vermouth. It was originally published in The Savoy Cocktail Book in the 1930s and was popular into the 1950s, but has since been overshadowed by its sibling, the Corpse Reviver #2. The original recipe calls for cognac, but other brandies or Armagnac can be used, and any apple brandy (or even Laird’s Applejack Brandy) can be used in place of Calvados. Punt E Mes or Lo-Fi sweet vermouth are good options for the third ingredient.