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If you’re in need of cocktail inspiration for Thanksgiving weekend, you’ve come to the right place.
Here is a collection of some of my favorite cold weather cocktails.
If you’d like to batch a cocktail for a crowd here’s a tip: you can convert ounces to cups for 8 servings and add a cup of water and extra ice and serve in a pitcher or punch bowl.
I learned about this bourbon cocktail in Jeffrey Morgenthaler's excellent Bar Book. It comes from San Franciso bartender Jon Santer's time at Bourbon & Branch. It's a spirit forward cocktail for bourbon fans with subtle notes of coffee liqueur and garnished the oil from a flamed orange peel (which might be my favorite way to garnish a drink).
This drink is a pretty one featuring Prairie Organic Gin, sweet-tart grapefruit, orange liqueur, bubbles, and a layer of deep red Angostura bitters over the top. A light, bubbly, citrusy drink with some warm baking spice flavor from the bitters.
This low-alcohol cocktail was originally developed by Stephen Cole at Chicago’s Violet Hour. It is on the bitter side of the spectrum, but it’s not an exceptionally bitter drink. It’s herbaceous and complex. The bitter Cynar gets held in check by the sweetness from the vermouth and the sour from the lemon juice. Sanders calls for Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, but lately I’ve been making it with Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. I think Vya sweet vermouth would also be lovely here. For the orange bitters, I recommend Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 or Angostura Orange Bitters over Fee Brothers (if you have some other less common orange bitters you like, feel free to use those).
The Vieux Carré spirit-forward New Orleanian take on the Manhattan. It's a richer, more complex drink than classic the Manhattan. The base is split between rye whiskey and cognac, and in addition to sweet vermouth there is a splash of Benedictine and dashes of Peychaud's and Angostura bitters. This drink is especially nice with Pierre Ferrand cognac and Carpano Antica sweet vermouth (though some people think the vanilla notes in Carpano Antica are too overpowering and prefer a more straightforward sweet vermouth like Cocchi Vermouth di Torino). It's often garnished with a lemon twist. I usually skip that, but feel free to add it if you like.
Irish coffee is the classic cocktail with hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and a float of gently whipped cream on the top.
You can adjust the amount of sugar from 1 1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon, depending on how sweet you like your drink, but don't eliminate it entirely. It helps make the drink dense enough to prevent the cream from sinking.
While I won't tell anyone if you make this with bourbon or rye, if you want the classic experience, use an Irish whiskey here.
You can whip the cream ahead of time by pouring some into a mason jar, closing it tightly, and shaking for a few minutes.
Clarified milk punch is different from more common creamy milk drinks like eggnog. This is an English milk punch where the milk is curdled with citrus and strained to make a clear drink with a silky mouthfeel. I like to use a mix of rums here--a white rum, an aged dark rum, and a bit of Smith & Cross--but you can use a white rum or an aged dark rum for all of the rums in this recipe (Smith & Cross is too assertive to use on its own here). Don't break the bank on a cognac for this. And note that the Batavia Arrack is significantly mellowed in the clarification process. This is a drink that goes down easy. Please use whole milk here. Alternative milks won't produce the same results.
This cocktail with Cynar, Cognac, and Punt e Mes, is a riff on a Boulevardier, which itself is a riff on a classic Negroni. The herbal, bitter Cynar gets tamed by the rich Cognac and the sweetness of the Punt e Mes. It's a simple equal-parts cocktail for fans of amari. I like to use Maison Rouge VS for an easy to find, reasonably priced mixing Cognac (there are plenty of better sipping Cognacs but they get pricey).
This Mezcal Mule is a variation on the classic Moscow Mule, which is traditionally made with vodka. I love the smoky quality mezcal brings to the combination of ginger ale and lime, but you could certainly use another spirit here (honestly anything from gin to whiskey to rum will be good here) if you like. If you're interested in trying mezcal, Del Maguey Vida is a good affordable brand. Use any ginger ale or ginger beer you like (I'm a fan of Fever Tree, Fentiman's, and Q). Or, if you've made my homemade ginger syrup, use 1 1/2 ounces ginger syrup and 3 ounces of soda water. Please use fresh-squeezed lime juice and not the bottled stuff here. The mint is pretty and smells nice, but it's totally optional.
This is a fruity, citrusy, sweet-tart cocktail that tastes like fresh pears. It’s a lovely and elegant drink for fall happy hours and gatherings. Meehan calls for Clear Creek Pear Brandy, which is excellent and is what I used here, but I’ve made it with other pear brandies and have been equally pleased with the results.
This cocktail is a regular one around these parts. It is a spirit-forward drink that’s perfectly balanced. Old Tom gin is making a comeback for a good reason. It’s sweeter and more full-bodied than the popular London dry style gins like Beefeater. This isn’t a place for Plymouth or Bombay Sapphire. I recommend Ransom Old Tom gin, an Oregon gin that is aged in pinot noir barrels, but I’ve had the drink made with Hayman’s Old Tom gin and enjoyed it that way as well. (Michigan’s Journeyman Distillery’s Bilberry Black Hearts Barrel Aged gin is not technically an Old Tom style, but the barrel-aging makes it work well in a drink like this.) Use any sweet vermouth you like. A big-flavored vermouth like Carpano Antica or Vya is especially lovely in this drink.
This is a great spirit forward winter cocktail. Calvados is also known as apple brandy, and nocino is a walnut liqueur.