Six winter cocktail favourites - recipes from some top New York bartenders
Half a dozen drinks you can make at home to warm the cockles of your heart this Christmas, including pumpkin bourbon eggnog and mulled wine
Holiday cocktails are perhaps the most polarising of adult beverages – especially when it comes to eggnog and mulled wine, which are loved and reviled in equal measure. To clear up some of the confusion, we asked six top New York bartenders to give us their favourite seasonal cocktail recipes.
But remember: “The best parties are where the host has minimal work to do,” says Giuseppe Gonzalez, owner of Suffolk Arms, “and can actually participate and enjoy their own party – they’ve dialled back the hors d’oeuvres, made a punch.”
The recipes range from riffs on the classic Negroni to an update on Irish coffee. If you’re feeling more adventurous, there’s even one with sweet potato juice.
Red Right Hand
Sam Anderson, beverage director of Mission Chinese Food, suggests putting a Christmas tree spin on the popular Negroni by switching out gin for rum. Then, instead of vermouth, swap in the floral, resinous Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur, made from cones of the Arolla pine harvested in Austria every July. Add some lemony, mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorn oil and you’ve got what he calls the Red Right Hand, a further riff on the restaurant’s own Tingling Negroni.
1 oz Caña Brava 7 Year Rum
1 oz Aperol
1 oz Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur
3 dashes Sichuan peppercorn oil
Stir in rocks glass with ice and garnish with a sprig of rosemary or shiso leaf, lemon and orange peel.
The ever-popular French 75 cocktail has a classic structure that’s extremely versatile, says Gates Otsuji, regional chef de bar of the Standard’s properties in New York. “It’s got plenty of entry points for layering many types of flavour.” Lately, he’s been serving one with the new Bache Gabrielsen cognac, the first to be aged in American Oak barrels, while swapping out the simple syrup for a honey tangerine cordial because “citrus is in season in the winter months, and honey tangerines are really good this year”. Then top it off with a crisp Prosecco. “It’s a nice, bright spot in the middle of all this cold weather,” Otsuji says. He calls this the Hey, Sunshine!
1 oz Bache Gabrielsen American Oak Cognac
½ oz honey tangerine cordial
½ oz lemon juice
To make the honey tangerine cordial, combine one part honey tangerine juice with one part water, and two parts sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar completely; regular tangerines or mandarin oranges also work if honey tangerines aren’t available. You can add dried spices such as cardamom or cloves if you have a few hours to let it rest; strain them out before serving.
For the cocktail, shake the first three ingredients together briefly with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass, then top with Prosecco. Garnish with an edible flower.
The Kid Creole
For fans of the sweet potato, there’s an entry on the menu at Solomon & Kuff, Karl Franz Williams’s “Rum Hall and Caribbean Gastro-Pub” in Harlem. “It has both sweet potato and spice, which are very relevant this time of year,” says Williams.
2 oz. Blackwell Rum
1 oz. sweet potato juice
¾ oz. lime juice
½ oz. Demerara syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Be forewarned: you’ll need a juicer to make the sweet potato juice. Combine ingredients, shake well with ice, and serve in a coupe. Garnish with a sweet potato chip.
Warm spiced wine
The classic cold-weather quaff. “I love the smell of mulled wine,” says Gonzalez of Suffolk Arms. “I make it in my bar because I want the room to smell like it. It fills up your lungs.” Yusef Austin, owner of the Cocktail Architect, agrees. “There’s something comforting about the warmth of the wine in the glass in your hand on a cold night.” Austin’s recipe goes like this:
1 bottle of Rioja or Pinot noir
1 oz. allspice
½ oz. clove
½ oz. star anise
1 cup of sugar
2 oranges, peeled
1 oz. cardamom pods
Combine all ingredients and lightly warm them on a simmer. Do not let the mixture boil. Pour into an old-school tea cup (or mug) and garnish with a a cinnamon stick and orange twist.
Duke of Suffolk
Gonzalez has an additional favourite that’s worth experimenting with, a signature drink in his Lower East Side Manhattan bar. The Duke of Suffolk, as he calls it, is a riff on an Irish coffee: it’s served hot but swaps in a blend of Earl Grey and English breakfast teas for the coffee.
1¼ oz. Hendrick’s or Ford’s gin
Earl Grey and English breakfast tea blend (equal parts)
Simple syrup cream
Brew tea and sweeten in 3:1 ratio with simple syrup. Pour into an Irish coffee mug. Add gin and a dollop of cream.
Pumpkin bourbon eggnog
For a cocktail that’s always a hit at holiday parties, create an eggnog that’s been perfected by Sharif Thomas, beverage director at Bill’s Townhouse in Manhattan. This take on the classic is a mix of bourbon, brandy, cognac, pumpkin puree, cinnamon and heavy cream. “It’s pretty damn good if you ask me,” says Thomas. You can serve it warm or cold.
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1½ cups bourbon
½ cup brandy or cognac
8 large eggs, separated
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Melt butter over medium heat. Add pumpkin and cinnamon and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Whisk in cream, milk, bourbon, and brandy or cognac and raise to a simmer. Remove immediately from heat and cover to keep warm.
In a large bowl, whisk brown sugar and vanilla with egg yolks until thickened. Gradually pour the pumpkin mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and cover to keep warm.
In a separate large bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Then gradually add granulated sugar and continue whipping until you have firm, glossy peaks.
Transfer pumpkin mixture to a punch bowl or serving bowl. Fold in egg whites and ladle portions into warmed heat-proof glasses or mugs. If serving cold, allow the pumpkin base to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until well-chilled. Fold in egg whites and ladle into chilled glasses. Makes 12 servings.