Cocktails with a festive twist

By Brandy Centolanza

Everyone knows that one of the best aspects of the holiday season is indulging in all of the food and drinks, especially adult beverages. Local bartenders spill what some of their favorite cocktails are this time of year.

“This year we are going chocolate,” shares Matthew Black, co-owner and general manager of Triangle.

The restaurant’s head chef Daniel Gill concocted what he’s dubbed Feliz Navidad, a mixture of homemade chocolate ganache, tequila, heavy cream, and spices, served warm with whipped cream and cinnamon on top.

“It’s like a tequila hot cocoa,” he says.

Creamy drinks and variations on the traditional eggnog are trendy this year.

At Copper Fox Distillery, bar manager Maggie Holden created a holiday cocktail using egg white, half and half, cinnamon, whipping cream, lemon juice, homemade cinnamon syrup, homemade anise syrup, and the distillery’s Peachwood Single Malt whisky, garnished with a cinnamon stick.

“I have fun experimenting,” she says. “Start out at home, and try things that you know go well together, like pumpkin and apple, or fig and raisins. When I add something to a drink, I like to add just a little so as not to overpower the spirit.”

Adds Rick Wasmund, founder and owner of Copper Fox Distillery: “A Manhattan is also a nice drink to have around Christmastime. When it is the holiday season, you want something special. If you are having a party, focus on just one or two drinks. If you can master those, that will elevate everyone’s level of satisfaction.”

David Ricker, lead bartender at Fat Canary, prefers holiday drinks that are “boozy, creamy, smooth, and festive.”

“Colors are also fun,” he says.

When it comes to holiday cocktails, think seasonal colors like red and green as well as seasonal garnishes such as cherries, starfruit, orange slices, candy canes, gingerbread, graham crackers, or cinnamon and brown sugar. Ricker serves a specialty drink called Holiday Cheer, a combination of Godiva chocolate liqueur, Bailey’s Irish cream, Tia Maria liqueur, and vodka in a martini glass with a snowflake sugar cookie as a garnish.

“Pomegranate is also used a lot in seasonal drinks,” says Diane Wade, bar manager at The Hound’s Tale. “I also love using herbs in drinks.”

One of Wade’s creations is called a Humbug, a cocktail with dark rum, pomegranate liqueur, Cointreau (an orange-flavored French liqueur), and cider garnished with a clementine wheel in a glass with pomegranate seeds in the center.

“Orange blends well with a lot of things,” Wade says. “I like to do simple drinks with a twist. I also think names are really important in a drink. It’s more interesting to have a special name for it.”

Ricker also suggests searching the Internet for cocktail ideas and giving them your own twist.

“There are just so many options,” he says.

No matter what you serve at your holiday gathering, “Keep it as simple as possible,” says Wade. “During the holidays, spending time with family is the most important thing.”

Sidebar recipe


Courtesy of Diane Wade, The Hound’s Tale

In a cocktail shaker with ice, pour 1 ½ oz. of Myer’s dark rum, 1 oz. Pama pomegranate liqueur, a splash of Cointreau, and 1 ½ oz. of cider. Shake and strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a clementine wheel in the glass with pomegranate seeds in the middle.

Copyright © 2019, Williamsburg Magazine