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My name is Bryan Arri, and I’m the lead bartender at Sycamore restaurant. We make delicious craft cocktails, and we release special drink menus that reflect the flavors of the season. I know that hand-crafting a drink looks really fancy when a bartender does it, but it’s as simple as knowing which ingredients to put together. With the holidays upon us, you’re going to want to know what to drink while you’re at home, while you’re out on the town, and while you’re hosting a party. Here are three recipes to carry with you through the season:
While I’m in:
Nothing stirs Christmas up in me like seeing cranberries decorating everything during the winter. The little fruit can also easily be infused into spirits to add a slight bitterness and refreshing quality. So, I present a cranberry gin and tonic for your time inside.
To begin, take a bottle of fairly approachable gin, like Hendrick’s or New Amsterdam. Buy a bag of fresh cranberries and wash them. Empty the gin into an airtight glass container. Now, take a few cups of those cranberries and stab them with toothpicks. This will help release more flavor into the gin. Let the gin infuse for a week to two weeks, strain the cranberries out, and rebottle your newly infused gin. Taste every few days while you’re drawing flavor out of the cranberries to make sure the cranberries aren’t overpowering the gin.
Take two ounces of your newly infused cranberry gin and pour into a rocks glass (what you’d normally drink out of if you ordered a G&T). Add ice, top with tonic water, and garnish with a lime wedge. It’s so easy! Have a couple and enjoy your evening in.
2 ounces cranberry gin
While I’m Out:
Around the holidays, I love to go out shopping for presents. Unfortunately, the weather usually chills me to the bone. So, when I’m out, I swing into my bar for a delicious hot toddy.
In our version of a hot toddy, we’ve got a spice-infused honey syrup, great for boosting the immune system and warming the body. We take Irish whiskey and spiced honey syrup and then add hot water to top. We’re garnishing with a beautiful lemon peel and serving it hot to you.
2 ounces Irish whiskey
1 ounce spiced honey syrup
While I’m hosting:
As a bartender, I love crafting each drink by hand for my guests. It’s a way to tell them that they’re valued and to make them feel accepted at the bar. But when I’m at home, hosting a party, I’m usually not up to the task of mixing every drink individually — I want to party too! Here enters the beautiful world of punches.
Punches are comprised of more than cheap handles of alcohol and fizzy syrups (oh, college). Here’s a classic recipe for Charles Dickens’ punch, adapted from the book “Punch,” by David Wondrich.
In the basin of an enameled cast iron pot or heat-proof bowl, add sugar and the peels of three lemons. Rub the lemon peels and sugar together to release citrus oils. For a better infusion, let the peels sit in the sugar for 30 minutes.
Add the rum and cognac to the sugar and citrus.
Light a match, and, using a heatproof spoon, pick up a spoonful of the spirit mix. Carefully ignite the mix in the spoon.
Bring the lit spoon to the spirits in the bowl, igniting them. Let the spirits burn for about three minutes, melting the sugar and extracting the oil from the lemon peels.
Extinguish the bowl by covering it with a heatproof pan or tray. Remove the lemon peels, as they can add too much bitterness if left in any longer.
Squeeze in the juice of the three peeled lemons, and then add hot tea or water. If serving the punch hot, skip to the next step. If serving cold, cool punch in the refrigerator and, when chilled, add ice.
Garnish with citrus wheels and grated nutmeg, and serve with a ladle into small glasses.
3/4 cup sugar (preferably Demerara)
2 cups rum (preferably Smith & Cross)
1 1/4 cups cognac (preferably Courvoisier VSOP)
5 cups black tea (or hot water)
A heat-proof bowl or enameled cast iron pot