The holiday season has always been my favorite time of the year. As a kid, there was nothing more fun than decorating the house, seeing family and best of all, opening presents. These days, I’ve added the joys of planning a holiday meal—and a cocktail list that captures the soul of the season.
This year, I asked some of the top mixologist minds in Charlotte. Here’s what they suggested—and some recommended pairings:
Cocktail: ‘Orchard Avenue’
From: Sean McCreedy, Kindred
If you haven’t yet made the trip up to Davidson to visit Joe and Kady Kindred’s one-of-a-kind restaurant, you are missing out. McCreedy put together three of my favorite ingredients—apple cider, apple brandy, and honey—and turned out a velvety cocktail worthy of every Christmas dinner table.
1.75 oz. Carriage House Apple Brandy
1 oz. Apple Cider
1 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
.75 oz. Egg Whites
.50 oz. Honey
1 whole Nutmeg
Method: Combine apple brandy, fresh lemon juice, egg whites, honey and apple cider in a shaker tin. Shake vigorously for 20 second to froth the egg whites. Add ice and shake vigorously for another 20 seconds. Double strain into a coupe glass. Make sure you have at least a quarter inch of froth on top. Micro plane fresh nutmeg on half of foam.
Recommended pairing: turkey or Cornish game hen
Cocktail: Royal Apple Mule
From: Bretlee Blair, The Imperial
This cocktail comes from uptown’s newest cocktail bar, The Imperial, located in NorthEnd Station and made by mixologist Bretlee Blair. His take on the traditional mule and adds a literal flare to the classic cocktail. If you want to sprinkle a little bit of theatrics into your evening then this is the cocktail for you. This isn’t a one-dimensional cocktail, however. With the refreshing citrus of the lime and the ginger beer, mixed with the crown apple, this cocktail is sneaky good and literally explodes with flavor.
2 oz. Crown apple
1 oz. agave simple syrup
orange extract oil
lime wedge/half a lime depending on chosen method
Method: Fill Moscow mule cup with ice. Over the ice, pour crown apple, agave simple syrup, splash of lime juice, and then add ginger beer. The next step has two options:
Option 1: Cut lime in half hollow out inside, set boat fill with 1/4 oz of orange extract oil light on fire. Hocus pocus cinnamon sprinkle. Extinguish with cinnamon stick and use to stir ingredients then serve.
Option 2 (an easier alternative): Add ¼ oz pure orange citrus extract oil. Add dash of cinnamon and garnish and stir with cinnamon stick and lime wedge.
Recommended pairing: A sense of adventure and showmanship
Cocktail: ‘Vacation to Oaxaca’
From: DiSean Burns, Stoke
The next cocktail contribution comes from Burns, who recently moved from 204 North to Stoke to become their new manager of drink. He and I share a passion for Mescal (don’t confuse it with tequila), a smoky agave spirit, that I think will take the cocktail world by storm in 2017. Think of this cocktail as the Mexican countryside version of the old fashioned, but with a extra earthy spicy and chocolaty zip from the Xocoatl.
1 oz Casamigos Reposado Tequila
Los Amantes Reposado Mezcal
1/4 oz. of 2:1 Agave syrup
2 dashes of Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Orange twist and cinnamon stick for garnishes
Method: Stirred on ice as you would a classic Old Fashioned.
Recommended Pairing: Prime rib
Cocktail: Bourbon and Byrrh (pronounced BEER)
From: Bob Peters, The Punch Room
The next cocktail comes from the venerable Bob Peters from the Punch Room on the 15th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte in Uptown. To me bourbon is a staple holiday spirit, and when you add in the sweet and spicy elements of the Jager Spice and the Byrrh Wine further adds onto the spice, and brings in a rich botanical element.
2 oz of 1792 Small Batch Bourbon
0.75 oz of Jager Spice Liqueur (this is not the same Jager you are thinking of)
0.75 oz of Byrrh Wine (available at Earl’s Grocery in the cocktail section)
Method: Stir with ice, strain, garnish with thinly cut fresh lemon wheel
Recommended pairing: ham or pork roast
Cocktail: ‘Christmas Alexander’
From: Matt Marenna, The Cottom Room
The Cotton Room, located in Brevard Court above Belfast Mill, is one of my favorite spots to frequent whenever I’m in town. This cocktail from mixologist Matt Marenna is a variation on a classic eggnog and is the perfect after-dinner/dessert cocktail.
1 oz creme de cacao white
1 oz real eggnog
Cinnamon syrup and nutmeg for garnishing
Method: Add cognac, creme de cacao white, and eggnog to shaker with ice and shake between 15-30 seconds depending on consistency. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. To garnish, place droplets of cinnamon syrup (see instructions for making your own below) around foam in a twister circle and pull thru with a toothpick. Add sprinkle of nutmeg to complete and enjoy!
Add 4 cinnamon sticks to 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes and remove cinnamon sticks. Add 1.5 cups of sugar, bring back to a boil, and stir frequently until sugar is dissolved.
Recommended pairing: chocolate dessert
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