Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Cocktails

With the onset of holiday head, I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with the idea of hosting a gathering to showcase a series of perfect holiday cocktails.  I don’t know exactly what it is that so attracts me toward the mixing and sipping of cocktails as a form of celebration, but I suspect it has far less to do with the actual drinking than with the beauty, flash, splash, and presentation of the kaleidoscope of colors the liquid libations offer in the vast variety of gorgeous glass cocktail containers.  Each cocktail is like a beautiful little feast for the eyes, a substantive (and sometimes challenging) presence in the hand, and a thrilling chill on the tongue.  During the winter holidays, cocktails seem to be accompanied by the smell of a warm fire and earthy evergreens as well as surrounded by the sounds of smooth jazz and happy chatter.  At least that’s the scene that causes the preoccupation in my mind.
In light of this, when I saw this book at the library yesterday, I scooped it up. 

From Publishers Weekly, here is part of its review on Amazon:
Meyer has long been a hero to New York City restaurant goers via his eclectic and acclaimed eateries—the upscale Gramercy Tavern, exotic Tabla and low-down Blue Smoke and Shake Shack. Now, perhaps in a nod to the economic climate, Meyer befriends the stay-at-home crowd with an excellent guide to the affordable luxury known as the artisanal cocktail.
I so enjoyed simply touching the lush pictures of the artisanal cocktails in the book that I concocted my imaginary party right away. 

In an effort to branch out from my vodka-as-the-only-tolerated-spirit rigidity, yet maintain the festivity of the sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch orgy that is the holiday cocktail, I decided to choose at least four of the following:
Venetian Spritz – Prosecco, Aperol (a bittersweet aperitif with rosy color), and a sugar cube to boost up the effervescence?  Festive? Hell ya!
Adonis – No questions, please. (Sherry, vermouth, bitters in a martini glass.)
Blue Smoke Martini – If I were of a mind to stuff my own olives with bleu cheese, this would be my signature drink: a vodka martini with a splash of Scotch for the smoke.  Well, half of one probably followed up by many glasses of water would be my drink.
Ginger Tonic – Ginger-lime infused gin. This one is touted as the “gin drink for the non-gin drinker.” It looks gorgeous and refreshing in its tulip-shaped glass and ginger smells like the holidays to me.
Pomegranate Gimlet – Gin drink garnished with lime and pomegranate seeds – how festive! I’m not usually a fan of the sweet drinks, but this one looks so pretty I may have to try it.

Cranberry Daiquiri  - Drunken cranberries (recipe pg. 219 in the book) are an essential item in this visually stunning rum drink.

Winter Vacation – With sprigs of lavender, scotch, and lavender syrup, it sounds like vacation to me.

Honorable Mentions
The Guilty Kilt – Really? With a name like that, how can a Scotch drink go wrong?
Pink Lady – Gin, brandy, some pretty layering action, and we have egg whites! Plus I love Stockard Channing in Grease.

Pure to be Pink sound bite
23 Skidoo – Slang used during prohibition to get out quick probably derived from the area (23rd Street) of the Flatiron Building area of NYC. The perfect name for any drink including this gin, elderflower liqueur, and thyme treat.
Hang Thyme – Vodka drink. I just love thyme.
Winter Solstice –Pretty name for a brandy drink with Grand Marnier and a rosemary garnish. Mmmm...rosemary.

I would recommend this beautiful book for its stunning pictures alone, but the fun and informative commentary on the drink recipes makes it a real treat.  And it would make a great hostess gift!   If you know someone who might appreciate this book but the $30 cover price seems a bit too much, how about giving a $15 magazine with a similar intent? Or, if you plan to drink only seltzer water, why not bring your own pretty stemware and leave it behind so you too can contribute to the festive feel?
But most importantly, which of the drinks above (or share one of your own favorites) would you like to try if, say for instance, I invited you over for a holiday cocktail?


Amy said...

I love cocktail glasses but we rarely make fancy drinks at home so I usually content myself with photos. Our Thanksgiving host made me something he called a "bijou" and it was lovely in a simple martini glass. (

The ginger tonic and pomegranate gimlet sound wonderful. We're having Christmas at home this year so maybe I'll plan a special cocktail.

Jenn Casey said...

My votes: Ginger Tonic (for I am NOT a gin drinker and I'm curious), Venetian Spritz (lots of bubbles = holiday fun!), Cranberry Daquiri (yum), and Winter Solstice (because, rosemary).

Are you really going to have your cocktail party? How fancy and fun! Tell us which drinks you decided on!

Lynne said...

The pretty glasses are really half of the enjoyment, but there are just a few essential cocktail glasses that we started collecting last year. Sadly, no tulip-shaped and I'm with you both on including the Ginger Tonic as one of the cocktails, so I have have to get some of those.

The "bijou" sounds good, Amy - the bitters cut the sweet - I'd probably like that.

Because a bubbly drink is a must have for the holidays, the Venetian Spritz might be the second. Since I usually have pomegranates and champagne on hand for the holidays (because, after all, what's a holiday without champagne and pomegranates?), I'll probably make the Pomegranate Gimlet. Truthfully, it's mostly because I want to say, 'I'll have a Gimlet" and sort of know what I'm talking about. At least I know it doesn't have the pearl onions (that's the Gibson).

As far as a fancy cocktail party goes, while I do expect everyone to dress up whenever they come to my house around the holidays (fur accessories optional, but always welcomed), I'll probably just offer the cocktails at one of my wrapping parties, or book club meetings, and on Christmas Eve when we'll be hosting family.

Otherwise, I might have to clean - the whole house - and that's no holiday for me!

Lynne said...

Update 1 on the cocktails:

No wonder I don't normally drink cocktails - those spirits are expensive! $$$ And I'm having a hell of a time finding the more exotic add-ins (didn't know that apple brandy would be so exotic).

Last night I managed to make a cheap version (couldn't find Laphroaig Scotch) of the Blue Smoke Martini, and if it weren't for the bleu cheese stuffed olives at the bottom of the drink (courtesy of my personal food guy), I would liken the taste experience to drinking jet fuel. (Getting to the olives was a lot like getting to the bottom of a screwball orange sherbert ice cream treat for the gumball - kind of fun.) I drank it while watching the President address the nation and found myself agreeing with him in a few places. 'Nuff said.

We're working on the ginger-lime infused gin now so I can hopefully give you an update on the Ginger-Tonic by the weekend!

Amy said...

We like olives in our gin and tonics. Usually about 7 olives in a small drink is about right!

Lynne said...

You bring up a good point about size. The cocktails you get out are GIGANTIC! The home bar cocktails are nice and small. When stuffed with bleu cheese, six small olives works for me.

Lynne said...

Holiday cocktail update #2: Last night I tried an Adonis. After a few twisted-face-post-taste sips, I got used to the taste of the sherry and sweet vermouth. I'd even say I liked it. I'm not sure if I used the right bitters (none I found said "orange bitters") but the liquor soaked orange crescent at the end was lovely.

That I enjoyed the garnish best seems to be a trend.

Still working on the ginger-lime infused gin and all I have to say is my zesting arm hurts! I didn't realize that creating cocktails would have a physical component.

Jenn Casey said...

By the way, I would like to thank you for your courage and dedication in this matter. It is an honor to e-know you. :o)

Lynne said...

You are very welcome, Jenn.

We flagged in our efforts a little this weekend, but tonight, we're back on the case.

It's time for a new post to update.