I do not reside in the land of Hallmark Holiday Cheer. Those in the industry like myself are always “on,” so the most pleasant parts of the holidays usually involve post-shift late-night indulgence with our work family as we bolster our spirits with spirits for extended family time.
Fortunately, Utah is laden with talented distillers partnering with Utah farmers for truly grain-to-glass Utah-rooted Spirits, which, incidentally, form the backbone of these holiday cocktails meant to fortify our souls for the coming dark and chilly season. When Christmas decorations start after Halloween, it’s okay if your holiday cheer comes in a glass.
Naturally, I consulted my boozy brain trust for holiday cocktail ideas. Utah is loaded with terrific bar talent which helped author this boozy holiday travelog.
Mackenzie Wallace of Oquirrh, amid sniffles and congestion, offered up a simple classic Toddy centered around Sugar House Distillery’s spicy spirited grain to glass Rye, 1/2 lemon, add cloves to the lemon and drop in glass, 1.5 (or more) rye, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbsp honey topped with about 8 oz of hot water.
Eli Hays, of SLC Eatery, sees winter cocktails, like the holidays, filled with excess, and his offering centers around cream citrus and rum in a classic Voodoo Grog. Dented Brick’s Antelope Island and aged rums work well, complemented by honey, lime, grapefruit, passion fruit, and a healthy dose of allspice dram liqueur giving it that holiday spike, accented by nutmeg grated atop frothy egg whites.
Jordan Strang of Handle Salt Lake finds holiday solace in bitter liqueurs, notably Waterpocket Distillers Notom in forming an Italian Toddy, Amaro Caldo, with a backbone of chestnut honey (1/2 oz) and hot water in proportion, 2 oz Waterpocket Notom with 4 oz piping hot water.
Ogden’s Own most original spirit, its Underground Herbal Spirit ― think of it as a boozier cousin to Jaegermeister ― does a good imitation of amaro, too, and can booze up amari based cocktails.
Melina Zissou, leader at the International, Salt Lake’s craftiest dive bar, loves Picon Punch, an homage to Nevada Basque culture. Picon Punch is a highball cocktail made here with the underground herbal, soda water, grenadine, a splash of lemon, and a bit of brandy floating on top.
As for me, winter cocktails are easy enough ― spike Ye Olde New England Eggnog with a wallop of Sugar House Rye, but some nights call for a silkier bit of winter sublimity, and I can’t stay far from the gin. Thus, I offer the late night dig called “Curiosity killed the Cat, you know,” which combines two of my favorite spirits: New World Distillery’s Gin, Dolin Genepy (a wonderful sub for spendy chartreuse), and a dessert wine like Sauterne or Vin Santo in equal proportion, a half-bar spoon of honey, and a couple of dashes of lemon juice, all washed in with no more than 3 oz of hot chamomile tea. It makes the perfect bedtime tipple.
Cheers to all, drink well, and happy holidays!
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