Holiday tips for home bartenders, plus 4 celebratory cocktails

LONDON (AP) – Want to inject a bit of winter luxury while tending the bar at home this holiday season? London’s best cocktail makers have some tips.

“Christmas is a special time when you want to get together with friends and family. And sometimes a good drink is at the heart of all happiness,” says Salvatore Calabrese, an Italian-born beverage expert and author who has been crafting cocktails in world-class hotels, bars and private clubs for over 40 years.

Calabrese is currently nicknamed “The Maestro” at the Velvet cocktail bar in London’s five-star Corinthia Hotel.

And the Maestro’s advice?

First choose the right glasses.

“The glass is the star. It’s the canvas of the drink,” he says. So if it looks elegantit already feels festive.

Next, think about the quality of the ice and how it will dilute the drink.

“Remember, ice cream is like the heat for the chef when he’s cooking,” says Calabrese.

Cracked ice cubes that crumble in the palm of your hand are a no-go, as is crushed ice at Christmas. “It’s not tiki night,” he jokes. “It’s going to be an elegant night, so make the effort and maybe you can make your own homemade ice cream.”

He also advises planning. Even prepare your cocktail in advance. Especially when a drink is a bit complicated.

“Put it in the freezer or in the fridge so it’s nice and cold, so all you have to do is put it in a mixing glass or, to show off, put it in the shaker and shake it,” says Calabrese.

Jake Burger, co-owner of The Distillery, a 19th-century pub and gin distillery in London’s Notting Hill, says many house mixologists get it wrong when they know when to shake and when to stir.

“It’s fun to use a cocktail shaker, so people think we should shake everything,” he jokes. But it’s only really needed if you’re using fruit juices, egg whites or cream, he says. Otherwise, stirring is best.

“If all of the ingredients are alcoholic, you probably don’t need to shake it,” says Burger. “As an Englishman, it pains me to say it, but James Bond got it wrong. A martini should definitely be stirred, not shaken.”

Liana Oster, Bar Manager at The NoMad Hotel London, suggests adding some seasonal luxury by decorating your glasses. She makes a peppermint bark tint by melting equal parts cocoa butter and white chocolate and adding a few drops of peppermint essence. Then she draws a swirl on the side of a cold glass, sprinkles some crushed candy cane on top, and then puts it in the fridge until needed.

This works particularly well with a heavier, full-bodied cocktail that “leaves” on the palate at will, says Oster.

Masons of Yorkshire brand ambassador Alex Girvan has more ideas for toppings. For his Chocolate Orange Martini, Girvan explains how he creates simple yet delicious candied fruit coated in chocolate chocolate.

First, dehydrate the orange slices by placing them on a baking sheet, sprinkling them with a little brown or fine granulated sugar (known as icing sugar in the UK), then place in the oven over low heat for about an hour, until dried out. Then melt some dark chocolate and dip the slices in. Place them in the fridge until hard.

To serve, balance them on the side of the glass.

Girvan also suggests a shared platter of side dishes, “almost like a sausage board.” By laying out rosemary, orange zest, and lemon zest on chopsticks, “anybody can just pick what they like and put it in their drink, and they might try something they’ve never had before,” he says.

“Just put in a little effort,” summarizes Calabrese, “because really, a great cocktail is a great journey from the start.

“And when you taste something beautiful and delicious, the world seems a better place.”

Four cocktail recipes:

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WINTERTIME NEGRONI, by The Distillery

1 ounce London Dry Gin

1 ounce Campari

0.5 ounces of sweet vermouth

0.5 ounce sloe gin

Mix and stir ingredients over ice. Serve over fresh ice and garnish with a slice of orange studded with cloves.

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SCROOGE SOUR, from Common Decency, at The NoMad Hotel London

1 egg white

0.75 ounces of simple syrup

0.75 ounces lemon juice

2 ounces of Irish whiskey

Pour the egg whites into the larger jar of your shaker and the simple syrup and lemon juice into the smaller jar. Shake dry together in the shaker to emulsify the egg and alcohol.

Then shake vigorously with ice and pour into the glass through a sieve.

Slowly add 0.75 ounces of mulled wine to the corner of the glass, then sprinkle edible gold dust over half the surface to cover and garnish.

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TRUFFLE SAZERAC, by Velvet, at Corinthia London

0.8 ounces of bourbon

1 ounce of cognac

Homemade Truffle Syrup (you can make your own by heating a few drops of truffle oil with a teaspoon of sugar)

A few drops of orange bitters

Mix and stir ingredients over ice. Serve over fresh ice and garnish with a slice of fresh truffle.

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MASON’S CHOCOLATE ORANGE MARTINI

2 ounces chocolate vodka

1 ounce triple sec

Mix and stir ingredients over ice. Serve in a martini glass and garnish with a chocolate dipped candied orange wedge.

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For more AP stories on food and drink, visit https://apnews.com/hub/lifestyle and https://apnews.com/hub/cocktails.

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