Seasonal sips such as mulled wine, spiked eggnog, pumpkin-pie- and candy-cane-flavored Martinis can be fun, festive and decadent. But many bars and restaurants have raised the level of their holiday drink offerings with savory and sophisticated offerings. Here are a few cocktail trends for the season.
Ethnic Yule Nogs
Traditional nog, the creamy, go-to holiday punch-bowl potable, gets an update at Pisco y Nazca, a 200-seat Peruvian ceviche gastrobar in Kendall, FL. “A typical Algarrobina is a sweet dessert drink made with pisco, egg white, evaporated milk and carob syrup, which is similar to molasses,” explains managing partner Tim Truschel.
He makes a version of the blended Peruvian cocktail, adding a brown sugar/sweet potato reduction and fresh nutmeg garnish. “Although we are always leaning towards authentic Peruvian cuisine, we bring traditional holiday flavors to the menu,” Truschel says.
Et Voila!, a 49-seat French and Belgian restaurant in Washington, D.C., uses Advocaat, a creamy, traditional alcoholic beverage from the Netherlands for its Advocaat cocktail ($12.50). The drink mixes Advocaat with Bacardi light rum, Cointreau and lime juice; it’s shaken and topped with Belgian peach lambic beer.
“Advocaat is a Dutch product, but we use it a lot in Belgium for cocktails, pastries and as an after-dinner drink,” says Et Voila! owner/chef Claudio Pirollo. “I like it because of its creamy consistency and subtle sweetness.”
Suds make an appearance in another eggnog in D.C. The Beer Nog ($12) at all nine restaurants of the RW Restaurant Group uses Nitro Vanilla Porter from Breckenridge Brewery, along with cream, whole milk, sugar, eggs and freshly ground nutmeg.
The decadent drink gets its silky luxuriance from the nitrogen in the beer. “For the holidays, our drinks reflect the culinary changes of the menu both in heaviness and spice levels,” says corporate beverage director Ramon Narvaez.
The 100-seat Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery in Lafayette, PA, has a seasonal sip called the Gingerbread Jesus Flip ($12), with spiced rum, egg, ginger, simple syrup and nutmeg. It’s made with Gingerbread Jesus, a Belgian Dubbel beer brewed with molasses, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Barren Hill owner Erin Wallace collaborated on the beer with a friend who also happens to be an Episcopal priest.
Although beertails are often thought of as summer drinks, like the Shandy, they can be just as appealing during the winter months, says Wallace. The Gingerbread Jesus Flip in particular is fitting for the space because “Barren Hill is housed in a Colonial-era inn,” she notes. “It lends well to winter, holidays and has multiple fireplaces.”
As the weather cools and the holidays approach, “we focus on what’s in season and flavors and ingredients that call out wintertime,” says beverage director Julia McElroy of the 304-seat Grand Isle Restaurant in New Orleans. She mixes Patron Incendio Chocolate-Chili tequila, “the perfect balance of sweet and spicy,” with the Canebreak Wheat Ale for the Negro y Oro hoptail ($12).