The holiday season is about togetherness and merriment, festivity and family, generosity and gratitude, and definitely some frivolity. Yes, we reflect on how we really do need human companionship despite our misanthropic grumbles on social media, and we decide that next year, we’re going to exhibit less road rage, floss for more than two days in a row, and sleep with fewer losers.
But these weeks of lights and cinnamons and sweaters are also about survival.
This is the time of year when we must convene for days—or at least meals—on end with the people in our lives who we love not because of our personal tastes, but because of our shared genetic material. And to make it through seven hours of cheek-pinching from Great-Aunt Mildred and small talk with your cousin’s inappropriately dressed stepsister Bambi, you’re gonna need alcohol.
Wine’s a given, but sometimes you need a stiff cocktail (or six) to boost your social endurance. And we’ve got some recommendations—from the experts.
When you’re first dragged out of your childhood bedroom and obligated to catch up with a kitchen full of people you haven’t seen since you were nine, you’ll need something to both put you in the holiday spirit and get you buzzed on the low. The Bon Vivants—a.k.a. the cocktail team behind San Francisco’s Trick Dog—devised the Ancho in Cider specifically for this purpose. The cider and spice might give you the warm fuzzies, and it looks innocent enough to glug around Grandma, but don’t be fooled: there’s booze in there.
While you’re in the awkward phase of dinner being not quite ready while the room fills with the heady scent of roasted bird, mix up a couple Fifth Pews with your mixologically nerdy older cousin. You can coo that this potent mix of brandy, Ancho Reyes, and maple syrup was devised by none other than Leyenda‘s Ivy Mix, who won Bartender of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail this year.
Mom’s busy mingling, which means she’s not drinking nearly enough. Slip her a Light and Day, a take on the classic Last Word by the good people at Death & Co. that incorporates orange juice for a bit of citrusy sweetness. Mom’ll never know what hit her.
At this point, take a look around the room: Who needs a little refresher on their drink? Most likely it’s your booze-hound uncle, who is sure to love a classic Negroni. The good news? Even if you’re completely blasted by this point, the drink is so easy that it’s near-impossible to fuck up.
After you’ve had your fill of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, it’s time to move on to pumpkin pie. The perfect accompaniment is the Sam Hain, courtesy of Al Sotack of Philadelphia’s The Franklin Bar. A mix of premium applejack, fruit-forward brandy, and pumpkin syrup, this cocktail could practically replace pie—but that would be heresy, wouldn’t it?
Holy hell—you’re still awake at this point? If you’re really craving a nightcap, entreat Dad to kick back by the fireplace (or a laptop with one of those fire videos on loop) with a couple of mugs of the Tom and Jerry, eggnog’s alcoholic cousin. In it, rum, Cognac, and even more rum tangle with a “batter” of eggs, sugar, and warm spices.
This first appeared on MUNCHIES in November 2015.
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