Holiday Spirits: Past, Present and Future

Holiday cocktails complement dinner or a festive party. Each year, I host a holiday party and this year is an ode to Italian cuisine. Italian cocktails will prevail at the dinner table including Negroni’s.

Created in 1919 by Count Camillo Negroni in Florence, it can be found on cocktail menus around the globe. While gin is generally a summer spirit in my mind, I do love the occasional Negroni in the winter. I’ll be mixing the 1920’s-era Boulevardier, a riff on the Negroni made with bourbon or rye.

When mixing cocktails, I generally lean into whiskey and bourbon in the winter months.

Inspiration from the past
I like to look to cocktails of the past for inspiration. The classic hot toddy dating back to the 18th Century is one of my favorite winter drinks. Manhattans and the Old-Fashioned are both classic cocktails that I enjoy. My grandparents made whiskey sours (which dates to the 19th Century) every holiday dinner. My grandfather’s whiskey sour was not traditional but was very good.

Creating new cocktails
Current trends are often built from the past. Still, mixologists such as Ryan Dierks of Truckee Tavern & Grill, Como and Cottonwood Restaurant and his team constantly create new cocktails with unique flavors.

“Everyone is leaning toward savory cocktails,” says Dierks.

Annie Carr, bar manager for Tahoe Tavern, has recently created a shitake mushroom-infused cocktail. August Wonderlich is mixing up a cocktail inspired by his love of a Caprese Salad, made with clarified tomato juice and gin.

“We are putting hospitality back into the cocktail,” says Dierks.

Holiday flavors
Cranberry is popular in holiday drinks. For this holiday morning, consider a Cranberry Mimosa. Try Cranberry Martini or Spiced Cranberry Moscow Mule; add a little Christmas to the cup. If cranberry isn’t calling, try a Peppermint Martini.

Mulled wine is a traditional holiday drink, spicy and warm and it seems like the holidays to me.

Mocktails for the kids
Kids love fancy drinks. Creating mocktails for special occasions makes them feel included and is always a hit. Hand the kids the reins to make their own fun drink. Sparking water, fruit juice and fresh or frozen fruit lend the base for non-alcoholic beverages.

Berry juice blended with ice makes a great frozen drink. A cherry or strawberry no-booze daiquiri made with frozen cherries and a touch of lime juice can be served over ice or frozen. A nonalcoholic blood-orange mimosa is delicious. Add the juice of two blood oranges to sparkling water and ice along with a cherry on top and enjoy.

Future trends
What do future trends in cocktails look like? Look to CBD-infused cocktails, low-alcohol cocktails, mocktails and healthier drink choices that boast bold and unique flavors. Creative mixologists will rule the bar. I look forward to 2023.

Happy holidays.

Traditional Whiskey Sour
From the bar of Priya Hutner

2 oz. whiskey
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
2 t fine sugar
Orange slice and cherry for garnish

Pack ice into a cocktail shaker, add ingredients and shake. Strain into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with orange and cherry.

Grandpop Wagner’s Frozen Whiskey Sour
From the bar of Priya Hutner

1 12 oz. can lemonade concentrate, frozen
1 12 oz. can orange juice concentrate, frozen
12 oz. whiskey, add more if you like it stronger
Fill the blender with ice and blend.

From the bar of Priya Hutner

1 oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet red vermouth
1 oz. gin
Add ice and stir. Garnish with an orange twist.

Boulevardier Cocktail
From the bar of Priya Hutner

1½ oz. bourbon or rye
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
Orange peels, for garnish
Stir and serve on the rocks. Garnish with an orange peel.

Peppermint Martini
From the bar of Priya Hutner

1½ oz. vodka
½ oz. Peppermint Schnapps
Crushed candy canes for rim

Mix all ingredients with ice in a shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with crushed candy canes.

Nonalcoholic Blood Orange Mimosa
From the bar of Priya Hutner

Sparkling Water
2 blood oranges
Cherry to garnish

Add the juice of two blood oranges to sparkling water and ice. Top with a cherry and enjoy.

Spiced Holiday Martini
From the bar of Priya Hutner

2 oz. vodka
¼ oz. sweet vermouth
1/8 oz. Simple Spiced Syrup
Twist of orange peel

Simple Spiced Syrup

2 cinnamon sticks
1 knob fresh ginger
5 whole cloves
3 whole cardamon pods
1/8 t ground nutmeg
½ C sugar

Heat water in a small saucepan. Add 1 cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom and sliced ginger to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add sugar and nutmeg and bring to a boil. When the sugar is dissolved, remove it from heat and cool. Strain spices.

Mix vodka, vermouth and 1/8 oz. of simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Strain into chilled martini glass and serve straight up. Rub orange peel on the rim and add to the cocktail with a cinnamon stick.