PHOTOS COURTESY OF HERITAGE DISTILLING
MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT
Make your celebrations even more festive with these make-at-home cocktails
BY ANTHONY ST. CLAIR
There’s no place like home for mixing up your own holiday spirits. Whether you’re hosting a holiday get-together at your place or just want a December drink to help you unwind from the rush of the season, it’s easier than you might think to fire up a few festive cocktails.
Holiday cocktails are all about bringing the cheer to what can also be a stressful season — and a gray, dreary time of year in the Northwest. That’s why holiday cocktails often feature rich colors, such as Christmas reds and holiday flavors like candy-cane peppermint. Warming spices and aromas lift the spirits, perfect for when you want to foster togetherness at a gathering, or bring a little personal holiday cheer to your busy day.
Popular holiday spirits and liqueurs include white creme de cacao, peppermint or cinnamon schnapps, cherry- or chili-infused vodkas, orange liqueur and warming brown spirits such as rums and bourbons. However, your holiday bar doesn’t have to rival your favorite mixologist’s. Even a couple of well-chosen bottles can have you well on your way to crafting holiday cocktails that will make you the toast of the season.
For Heritage Distilling, based in Washington and Oregon, the most popular spirits for holiday cocktails include their award-winning BSB (Brown Sugar Bourbon), overproof BSB 103 and Coffee Vodka. And already commanding a presence at home bars is their new Commander’s Spiced Rum, which officially launches December 7 at Heritage’s Eugene distillery. It’s the fine touches, though, that really bring out the festive warmth in home holiday cocktails.
“For classic holiday spices such as cinnamon, star anise, clove and allspice, you can infuse vodkas, or shake whole spices with each individual drink,” says Philip Robbins, Eugene-based head of mixology for Heritage Distilling. “My favorite easy and fun way to spice up a drink is to make an infused simple syrup.”
In a highball glass with ice add:
2 oz. spiced rum, such as Heritage Distilling’s Commander’s Spiced Rum
Top with unfiltered apple cider
Add 2 dashes Angostura Bitters and
stir. Garnish with a mint sprig.
A simple syrup is an affordable, fast way to bring a home-blended taste to your holiday cocktails: All you need is equal parts water and sugar, plus whole spices. It’s also easy to make large amounts of simple syrup to pack up in small bottles — perfect for stocking stuffers, hostess gifts, party favors and little surprise holiday presents that truly give a homemade personal touch.
In a sauce pan, Robbins pours two cups of water and adds his choice of whole spices such as six cinnamon sticks, five star anise pods, ten cardamom pods, eight whole cloves, a dozen allspice berries, six sliced rounds of fresh ginger or three-inch strips of orange peel. (Or mix and match spices for your own custom house holiday spice blend.)
Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, then strain out the whole spices. Add two cups sugar and whisk until fully dissolved. Infused syrups can keep for up to two weeks in the fridge. Want to make a larger batch? Just remember to keep an equal one-to-one ratio of water and sugar, and scale up your spices to taste.
In addition to syrups and spirits, bitters and glassware are other easy ways to add pizzazz to your holidays. While a basic Angostura never goes out of style, today’s bitters are nearly as diverse as craft spirits. Bitters can be infused with various botanicals and produce to bring out a range of flavors and aromas, including pear, vanilla, orange, cherry, lime, rhubarb, lemon, peach or even celery.
Special-occasion glassware — or festive garnishes such as small candy canes — can be another way to use presentation to warm up your winter occasions. Glasses that are red or use holiday designs can complement the drink inside, from specialty chiseled tumblers to Santa-red cocktail glasses.
ORANGE GINGER TODDY
In a heated mug add:
2 oz. rye whiskey, such as Heritage Distilling’s Dual Barrel Orange Rye
.5 oz RAFT Ginger
One whole cinnamon stick
One orange slice pierced with cloves
Mix all ingredients together, then top with hot water and stir to combine and infuse.
From the rich reds of sugar-coated cranberries to a winter-welcome bright pop of green from fresh mint leaves, garnishes are another way to spice up both the presentation and the aroma of your cocktails. With a piney scent and Christmas tree-evoking shape, sprigs of hearty herbs such as rosemary are naturally soothing and warming. Candy cane straws, star-shaped sugar cookies or whole cinnamon sticks enhance aroma and flavor, adding a fun, whimsical touch to the glass. Or, make a festive rim with salts, sugars, cocoa powder, powdered spices or even crumbled cookies.
A secret weapon to your cocktail making? It’s all in how you shake — and for how long. Making sure your cocktail shaker is sealed well, hold it horizontally and shake for 30 seconds. The additional mixing and chilling will help you pour out perfect cocktails every time.
Last but not least, make sure you are choosing quality spirits. You don’t have to blow your holiday budget to stock your home bar, but look for quality regional craft spirits from area distilleries. They’ll impress your guests and anyone visiting from out of town — and you’ll get a warm holiday glow from knowing you’re supporting the Northwest’s growing craft distilleries.
Home cocktails are a great way to bring holiday cheer to all your season’s gatherings and occasions. Try out these three featured holiday cocktail recipes from Heritage Distilling. Enjoy, and happy holidays!
In a cocktail shaker add:
1.5 oz. bourbon, such as Heritage Distilling’s BSB 103
.5 oz. Allspice Dram
.5 oz. fresh lime juice
4 dashes Angostura Bitters
Add ice and shake. Double strain into a cocktail goblet. Garnish with an orange peel. Bonus points: Flame the orange peel. Light a match and wait for the sulfurous smell to subside. Holding the orange with the skin side toward the flame, squeeze your index finger and thumb toward each other. This will add expressed citrus oils to the cocktail, and you can then add the peel as an optional garnish.