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Hosts Guide Holiday 2013: Something Old, Something New

  • Paul Clarke

Ever since a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge invited Bob Cratchit to discuss their affairs “over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop,” it has been a seasonal tradition to artfully apply a little holiday spirit to one’s guests. Sometimes these drinks are tailor-made for winter festivities. Scrooge’s bowl of bishop, for example, is a hot punch aromatic with baked oranges and winter spice, and a descendent of the sherry-fueled wassail that dates from the Middle Ages. Other libations, such as the familiar eggnog, began as year-round refreshments and over time became associated with the season. And of course, the holiday-drink catalog is continually expanding, as today’s creative bartenders add their own contributions to the canon.

This year, we are offering the thoughtful host a taste of the old and the new. First, we looked back in history, dusting off classic holiday drinks and sprucing them up for modern tastes. Then we asked some of the most inspired mixologists in the United States for their best original holiday cocktail. We rediscovered drinks such as a classic stinger—modernized by replacing heavy crème de menthe with the dry chill of Giffard’s Menthe-Pastille, a premium mint liqueur newly imported from France—and eggnog, roused from its long winter slumber by añejo tequila and amontillado sherry. Sam Ross, the renowned New York bartender behind Milk & Honey and Attaboy, led the contemporary category by spiking a punch with juniper-scented gin and Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur of the Alps and creating a drink with the bracing energy of a snowy walk through the woods.

There is also an art to choosing the right cocktail for the moment. Consider your holiday gathering—a merry houseful of guests, an intimate dinner party, or a quiet night by the fire—and then select one of the distinctive, delicious cocktails on these pages. As even Scrooge knew, a well-made cup of cheer is the essential start to the most memorable celebrations.

SIMPLY SHIMMERING
THE CLASSIC
Dixie Stinger
The stinger is nearly a century old, and for decades it served as such an ideal nightcap that it appeared in the glasses of such tipplers as Cary Grant as Andy Crewson in 1957’s Kiss Them for Me and Sean Connery as James Bond, first in Thunderball, followed by a second round in Diamonds Are Forever. The 1970s era of excess led to an unfortunate overapplication of green crème de menthe and drove the stinger from grace. But the simple concoction is finding redemption among today’s mixologists. The standard model is based on Cognac, but this southern-style interpretation uses the soft, warm flavor of wheated bourbon in its place. The typical crème de menthe can make this drink too heavy, but the dry, austere character of Giffard’s Menthe-Pastille brings a wisp of minty chill to the drink.

2 ounces W.L. Weller 12 Year Old Straight Bourbon
¼ ounce Giffard’s Menthe-Pastille liqueur
Mint leaf, for garnish

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake well until chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh mint leaf.

Continued...

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