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To be jolly

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the holidays approach, many people plan to host parties, from intimate gatherings to large soirees. Wouldn't it be fun if you could wow your guests with some easy and interesting new drink concoctions?

The WV Style Team, in collaboration with the staff of the Bridge Road Bistro, has gathered up some of their new holiday favorites to provide you with the easiest ways to get your guests to sit up and take notice.

Brian Hutchison, bartender at Bridge Road Bistro, knows that everyone likes to try something new, especially around the holidays. He said the restaurant likes to change its drink specials four times a year to match the offerings to the seasons.

Hutchison also said you shouldn't be afraid to tweak your favorite holiday cocktail with flavored liquors and liqueurs.

"You can make almost anything with Bailey's Irish Cream. It is so delicious," Hutchison said. He also suggested modifying a cocktail with seasonal flavored vodkas. "Vanilla vodka and Grand Marnier are great for spicing up holiday drinks."

Bistro bartender Derek Palmer said his favorite holiday drink is traditional. "I like eggnog. You can always put brandy in it."

Your holiday drinks don't have to be complicated. You can stick with tradition, or you can mix up your favorite drink by adding holiday flavor.

Here are a few of the favorites from the WV Style Team and the bartenders at the Bridge Road Bistro:

Rosemary Champagne Cocktail

Submitted by Sarah Francke. "Here's a four-ingredient holiday drink recipe that is the simplest way to spruce up your favorite type of Champagne," Francke says. "Bonus: Most of these ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen." Serves 4 to 6.

1 ounce rosemary simple syrup per serving

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 large rosemary sprig

1 large bottle of Champagne

Small pitcher

BRING the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan.

STIR until the sugar completely dissolves.

REMOVE from heat and add rosemary sprig. Let steep for two hours. Remove sprig.

COMBINE simple syrup and Champagne in the small pitcher (a large Mason jar also works).

ADD sprigs of fresh rosemary for garnish.

Persephone

Submitted by Dennise Smith. "This is a Champagne-based cocktail that tweaks a classic Christmas drink, the Poinsettia," Smith says. "It uses pomegranate juice in lieu of cranberry, giving it a more intense ruby color and bigger fruit flavor. You can substitute pomegranate liquor for a bolder version, but reduce the quantity by 1/2 ounce or so to avoid making the drink too bitter from the alcohol." Serves 1.

1 to 2 ounces pomegranate juice

1/2 ounce Grand Marnier

Cava, Prosecco or other sparking wine

Orange twist and pomegranate seeds for garnish

POUR the pomegranate juice and Grand Marnier into a champagne flute.

TOP with sparkling wine and add a few pomegranate seeds and an orange twist for garnish.

Candy Cane Martini

Submitted by Dennise Smith, originally published by William-Sonoma Kitchen. "This is a great holiday drink if you find too many of your other recipes are pink or bubbly," Smith says. "Skip the dessert and serve this cocktail with chocolate biscotti! Yum!" Serves 1.

1 ounce Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur

1/2 ounce vanilla vodka

1/2 ounce peppermint schnapps

1 ounce half and half

Crushed candy canes for garnish

RIM a martini glass with crushed candy canes.

POUR all other ingredients into a shaker with ice.

SHAKE until cold and strain liquid into prepared glass.

Mulled Wine

Submitted by Jen Wood Cunningham. "This is a great recipe to put in the Crock-Pot when guests are coming over," Cunningham says. "It frees you up from bartending duties and has the added bonus of scenting your house with a wonderful holiday aroma." Serves 4 to 6.

1 bottle (750 milliliters) of red wine (Cunningham suggests cabernet sauvignon)

1 peeled and sliced orange (you can zest the peel into the Crock-Pot at your discretion)

1/4 cup of brandy

8 to 10 cloves

1 tablespoon of honey

3 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon fresh or 2 teaspoons ground ginger (allspice may be substituted)

COMBINE all ingredients in either a large pot or a slow cooker/Crock-Pot. Gently warm the ingredients on low to medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes (avoid boiling).

STIR occasionally to make sure the honey is dissolved. When the wine is fragrant and the ingredients are well-blended, ladle into mugs. Be sure to leave the seasonings behind in the pot and serve only the liquid.

Mexican Hot Chocolate for Everyone

Submitted by Autumn D.F. Hopkins. "Often, holiday parties involve whole families, including children and adults who abstain from alcohol. This recipe is great because it can be served as is," Hopkins says. "Or, if your guest imbibes, you can add a splash of rum to their mug. I like to make this with almond milk and vegan chocolate, but you can use whole milk and your favorite high-end chocolate."

1 carton of vanilla almond milk

4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 to 3 pinches of cayenne pepper (depending on the desired heat)

2 bars of high-end chocolate

1 can of coconut milk, refrigerated overnight (reserve 1 to 2 tablespoons)

COMBINE the almond milk and spices in a slow cooker set on low to medium. If you like a thicker hot chocolate, add the 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and whisk thoroughly.

BREAK the chocolate bars into pieces. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler on the stove, or in a metal bowl over a saucepan of water. Once the chocolate is melted, add it to the Crock-Pot and whisk to combine. It is important that the almond milk be warmed at this point to prevent the chocolate from solidifying.

COOK on low for 1 to 2 hours to combine the flavors. Watch closely and whisk occasionally to prevent boiling.

MEANWHILE, use a hand mixer to whip the chilled coconut milk to provide a whipped-cream-like topping. (Note: Only use the solid portion of the refrigerated coconut milk; pour off the liquid.)

LADLE the hot chocolate into mugs and top with a dollop of whipped coconut milk. Sprinkle with cinnamon for a garnish or a dried hot pepper (if you're feeling brave).

Apple Cinnamon Old-Fashioned

This recipe is courtesy of Bridge Road Bistro and is one of the holiday seasonal specials on their current menu.

2 ounces rye whiskey

1.5 ounces cinnamon simple syrup

Cinnamon apples

Cherries

MUDDLE cherries and cinnamon apples.

ADD rye and cinnamon simple syrup. Shake.

GARNISH with cherries and apples.

Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopkins@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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