Ebenezer Scrooge isn't the only one of us to come in contact with some seriously distressing spirits around the holiday season. Don't let the Ghost of Poorly Constructed Cocktails Past taint your palate for seasonal sipping. If there's still hope for Old Scrooge, then there's also hope for finding holiday drinks that don't suck.
Snow Bunny (Dirty Habit's Brian Means)
Christmas Carol Pairing: "Let it Snow"
Inspired by the malty, piney notes of this year's Anchor Christmas Spirit — a white whiskey that is a distillation of the previous year's Anchor Christmas Ale — this traditional flip matches the flavors and aromas of the spirit with King's Ginger liqueur, Sleigher double alt ale, honey syrup, and a dash of aromatic allspice bitters. The drink smells of nutmeg and apples, but it's unexpectedly herbaceous, too. Plus that full inch of frothy egg white, reminiscent of a snow peak, provides a great texture.
Caffe Torino (Myriad Gastropub's Adam Clay and Stephen Swicher)
Christmas Carol Pairing: "Tu scendi dalle stele" ("From Starry Skies Descending")
Based on a long-lost iced coffee from a forgotten café in Turin, the Caffe Torino is made with Carpano Antica Formula, Keo St. John Commandaria (a fortified white wine from Cyprus), iced coffee, a splash of stout, and a dash of chocolate bitters — ingredients that don't seem like they should mix well, but do. Creamy and smooth with hints of chocolate, it's like a grown-up Frappuccino without all the sugar. With an alcohol content that is lower than your average cocktail, it's dangerously drinkable any time of day. Forget the red cups and go straight for this Christmas coffee concoction.
A Christmas Tale/Conte De Noël (Bon Marché's Eric Quilty)
Christmas Carol Pairing: "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"
Quilty grew up mulling wine in Jersey. His cool little cocktail, named for a French film and made with High West Double Rye, English Bishop (a house-mulled port), Averna, Amontillado Sherry, and cardamom bitters, could be described as a complex version of a chilled vin chaud. Hints of cardamom, allspice, and a nutty dry sherry balance the assertive whiskey base of what Quilty calls "a fireside sipper."
Bakko & Zengo (PABU's Nick Jones)
Christmas Carol Pairing: "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"
How do you work Japanese whisky into a holiday cocktail? Select a superior sweet grain whisky (in this case, Nikka Coffey) and slip it into a velvety eggnog. Made with house-made allspice dram, heavy cream, simple syrup, and a whole egg, this silky sipper is dusted with grated cinnamon and finishes clean.
Oaxacan Christmas (Wingtip's Brandon Bigalke)
Christmas Carol Pairing: "Feliz Navidad"
Like presents under the tree, this spirit-forward beverage offers one surprise after another, with topsy-turvy twists at every turn along the way. A citrus bouquet of orange and lemon blends to a bitter bite of Campari and then herbaceous notes of Green Chartreuse before ending in the distinctly and powerfully smoky flavors of Amarás Espadín mezcal. The opposite of a dangerously drinkable eggnog, this is a cocktail to sip and celebrate slowly.
Hot Butt Rum (Elixir's Jaime Jereb)
Christmas Carol Pairing: "We Wish You A Merry Christmas"
Leave it up to the second-oldest bar in San Francisco (1858) to have a honey of a classic that satisfies all of your senses. Inspired by the flavors that warm our homes during the holidays — butter, brown sugar, baking spices, and melted vanilla ice cream — it will warm you up, fill you up, and load you up all at once. With such indulgent ingredients going into the glass, you'll be glad for this beverage's booze (Appleton gold rum), as it's the only thing that will keep you from drinking it down too quickly.
Añogo (Elixir's Jaime Jereb)
Christmas Carol Pairing: "All I Want for Christmas is You"
I don't want a lot for Christmas, but I wouldn't turn down another of these damned good drinks. A twist on Elixir's tried and true eggnog — which is made simply with eggs, sugar, half and half, and nutmeg — the añogo adds a burnt-orange twist and replaces the traditional rum mix with an añejo tequila infusion that is finished in-house in sherry barrels. You'd never guess that it could be so easy to down distilled agave. Cheers to better drinking in the year to come!