Worried about what to serve your holiday guests? Need some new ideas to toast at your party? Start the cocktail-making process by scouring your kitchen staples. Ingredients like cranberries, maple syrup, orange, ginger and cinnamon can be the basis for a fun new winter cocktail. Second, look at your menu, what kind of flavor profiles could you embody in a drink?
Northern New Hampshire native and Culinary Institute of America graduate Spenser McKenna knows a thing or two about creating a good winter cocktail. As Lansdowne Resort’s Food and Beverage Manager for both On the Potomac and Stonewalls, McKenna suggests working in layers when crafting cocktails, for complex, “two dimensional” drinks.
“I like to think of our signature drinks as good wine that lasts a long time, from beginning to end,” Mckenna said.
Mckenna starts with a flow chart, encapsulating everything that comes to mind – beginning with the particular season and considering the flavor profiles of the food menu.
“I’ll use different flavor profiles for different crowds,” McKenna said. “Consider what your guests like to drink at home.”
Starting with these ideas as a base, McKenna says you can create something to amplify your guests’ experience. Start with your liquor, whether its tequila or your favorite whiskey, and then put your spin on it – think about what flavors go with the liquor.
“One expressive way to show the season is through simple syrups,” McKenna said. “Simple syrups are like your salt and pepper in a cocktail, whether its agave, maple syrup or infused flavors.”
For the AAA Four Diamond resort’s winter cocktail menus, which debut Dec. 21 at On the Potomac and Stonewalls Tavern, McKenna decided to roast some cranberries and play with maple syrup. Both ingredients tend to be a kitchen staple during the winter holidays and more often than not, there are plenty of leftovers to play with.
If you’re feeling like a mixologist this season and need some new party drink ideas, McKenna shares his recipes – a roasted “Cranberry Harvest” cocktail made with whiskey and an orange and tequila “Old Fashioned.”
.75 ounce Jack Daniels
.75 ounce vanilla vodka
Splash of agave nectar
Tablespoon of roasted frozen/fresh cranberries
Splash cranberry juice
To roast cranberries, place in oven with brown sugar, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon until juices start to flow and become bubbly. Mix some seasonal spices with brown sugar to create a rim for the glass, shake and strain cocktail into glass over ice. Garnish with roasted cranberries.
Old Fashioned Feliz Navidad
1.5 ounce Anejo Herradura tequila
1 ounce maple syrup
Slice of orange
Muddle liquor and fruit with syrup, shake with ice and strain over ice. Add soda to fill and garnish with slice of orange and whole cherry.
Rebekah Pizana is a professional food writer and pastry chef. Her pastry work through Gourmet Amore has been published in Brides Maryland and Brides Washington, D.C., and by the online wedding magazine, Style Me Pretty.
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