Story by Pamela A. Keene
Cinnamon apple, maple syrup, crushed candy canes and tart dark cherry flavors rule the bar this holiday season. Two area restaurants have shared their signature seasonal cocktails to inspire joy and cheer this winter.
All can be made at home with items readily available at the local package store and grocery. Some as easy as combining ready-made ingredients. Others require a bit of prep to create such flavors as burnt-marshmallow infused bourbon or flavored vodka.
Tyler Francisco, bartender at Flowery Branch’s Antebellum, has crafted several holiday drinks that are sure to become seasonal favorites. Maple Twist features botanical gin, maple syrup, lemon juice and orange bitters. His Persian 75, a variation on a champagne cocktail called French 75, starts with black cherry vanilla vodka, sour cherry syrup and lemon juice. Tart cherry and saffron bitters add some punch.
“Bitters can be a good ingredient in many cocktails, kind of like salt on food,” Francisco says. “Just a dash or two can mellow the hotness of the alcohol. And bitters now are available in many flavors.”
Scott’s Downtown has created several holiday cocktails that capitalize on the season. Bartender Jan Truesdale’s Cinnamon Apple Martini has an apple cider base, laced with cinnamon-flavored tequila and triple sec. It can be served on the rocks or straight up. “People really like our Chocolate ‘Jandy’ Cane, a creamy drink that’s excellent for dessert,” she says. “We use whipped cream vodka, crème de cacao and bits of crushed candy cane.”
A popular drink anytime during cold weather, hot toddies have been known to have a certain healing affect for winter colds. It’s typically sipped in a warm coffee mug and begins with several squeezes of lemon and a tablespoon or so of honey.
“You can add your favorite brown liquor. Most people prefer bourbon or brandy,” Truesdale says. “Then top it off with hot water. You can cradle the cup in your hands and with one of these you’ll probably feel better soon.”
Garnishes add fun to cocktails. From serving a drink in a martini glass over a cinnamon stick, a slice of tart apple or an orange wedge, you can add a splash of color and a punctuation mark of flavor.
When making specialty cocktails the focus of a home party, Truesdale suggests keeping things simple. “The best approach is to offer fewer choices — two to three — and supplement with wine or a nice punch,” she says.
“Make the punch without alcohol and serve champagne or a flavored vodka or gin so that guests can add their own. Don’t go wild trying to please everyone. Just be sure to have a few non-alcoholic options for guests.”
Here are recipes from these experienced bartenders that can make your holiday entertaining sparkle:
Antebellum Maple Twist
Botanical gin – 1.5 ounces
Maple syrup (not pancake syrup) – 1 ounce
Lemon juice – 1 ounce
Orange bitters – dash
Cinnamon stick – two
Combine ingredients, setting aside one of the cinnamon sticks. Shake over crushed ice, strain and pour into a chilled martini glass. Serve over the reserved cinnamon stick.
Antebellum Burnt Marshmallow Bourbon
To make the marshmallow infused bourbon, toast six to eight marshmallows – over a campfire is best – and put into a container with a liter of Four Roses Bourbon. Let this sit for a week, then filter several times, using coffee filters or cheesecloth to remove any undissolved marshmallow bits. This will keep up to four weeks at room temperature.
For the cocktail:
Burnt marshmallow bourbon – 2 ounces (it will have the consistency of syrup)
Simple syrup – 1 ounce
Small skewer of toasted mini-marshmallow
Combine the bourbon and the simple syrup in a shaker over crushed ice. Strain and pour into a frosted old-fashioned glass. Garnish with the marshmallows across the top of the glass.
Cinnamon Apple Martini
Cinnamon tequila – 1.5 ounces
Triple sec – 2/3 ounce
Apple cider (not apple juice) – 3.5 to 4 ounces
Combine ingredients and shake over crushed ice. Serve straight up or on the rocks with a fresh-cut wedge of orange.
Chocolate “Jandy” Cane
Whipped cream vodka – 1 ounce
Dark creme de cacao – 1 ounce
Crushed peppermint candy cane – 1 teaspoon
Half and half – splash
Combine ingredients and shake over crushed ice. Serve straight up or on the rocks.
Scott’s Downtown Hot Toddy
Lemon juice – 2 to 3 squeezes
Honey – 1 tablespoon
Hot water – 2 tablespoons
1.5 ounces of brown liquor (bourbon or brandy or flavored bourbon)
Combine lemon juice, honey and hot water into a coffee mug and stir to dissolve. Pour in the bourbon or brandy. Top with additional hot water. Garnish with a lemon wedge or lemon twist.
Antebellum Persian 75
Black cherry vanilla vodka – 1.5 ounces
Sour cherry syrup – .5 ounces
Lemon juice – .25 ounces
Tart cherry and saffron billers – 3 dashes
Saffron sugar cube
Combine ingredients, setting aside the saffron sugar cube. Shake over crushed ice, strain and pour into a chilled martini glass. Drop in the saffron sugar cube. Top off with chilled champagne.
Cocktail glossary for amateur mixologists
When entertaining, hosts are sometimes called on to make and serve mixed drinks for guests.
Making drinks may seems as simple as throwing a few ingredients into a shaker and pouring the resulting mix into a fancy glass, but authentic cocktail creation requires a little more effort than that.
A cursory knowledge of common words and phrases can help you become a master mixologist in no time.
Bitters: Made from herbs and berries, bitters can add a diverse flavor profile to your cocktails and balance out sweeter drinks.
Boston shaker: Device used to make shaken drinks and chill them thoroughly.
Flute: A long, narrow glass used to serve champagne and sparkling wines. The shape of the flute ensures bubbles fizz for as long as possible.
Collins glass: A tall glass with a heavy base, quite similar to and often interchangeable with a highball glass.
Dirty: A word typically associated with martinis. Dirty refers to serving the drink with an olive and some vinegar-based brine.
Dry: Like wine, cocktails can be sweet or dry. Cocktails that are dry tend to include dry vermouth.
Frosted glasses: Glasses that are kept in the freezer so cocktails can be served very cold. This technique works well for martinis and drinks that include gin, vodka and/or vermouth.
Highball: A highball is a spirit served on ice with carbonated soda as a mixer.
Infusion: Spirits that have a special flavoring or ingredient added to them are known as infusions.
Mixers: Mixers are liquids added to hard drinks. They include fruit juices, sodas and tonic water.
Neat: In the world of cocktails, “neat” refers to a single spirit or liqueur served on its own without ice, water or any other ingredients.
Scott’s Downtown: 131 Bradford Street Northwest, Gainesville. 770-536-1111. scottsonthesquare.com
Antebellum: 5510 Church St., Flowery Branch. 770-965-8100. www.antebellumrestaurant.com