During the holiday season, many people like to throw parties. For some, a holiday party can mean re-creating traditional beverages. For others, it can be an opportunity to surprise guests with an unexpected liquid concoction. Here are a number of ways for marking the perfect warm drink to welcome your guests and warm them up.
Traditional holiday drinks focus on flavors such as chocolate, apple cider and spices. During the holiday season, Chef David Guas, owner of Bayou Bakery, serves his customers a rich hot chocolate, composed of 64 percent Valrhona Manjari chocolate, heavy cream, whole milk, vanilla bean, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. "The ratio of heavy cream to whole milk gives it the right viscosity, the right body," Guas says. "If you're going to indulge in a true hot chocolate, it should be something with substance." Guas' head barista, Kyle Pool, created a "cinnamon bun latte," which mixes espresso with a Canela cinnamon stick and simple syrup, as well as a "Red Hots latte," which uses a cinnamon and cayenne syrup to match the candy's taste. Guas also serves a local cloudy apple cider that is heated and steeped with spices for that holiday feel.
Or, if you prefer, you can incorporate alcohol into each of these traditional holiday drinks. For example, Guas serves a "Cajun latte," which has bourbon in it and a "captain chai," which adds spiced rum to Marsala chai. Guas likes to add Calvados, a French apple brandy, to cider.
Todd Thrasher, an award-winning cocktail mastermind for more than a half-dozen restaurants and bars, prefers a classic Irish coffee, mixing black coffee, brown sugar, Irish whiskey and heavy cream.
Another option for a party is a hot punch. Thrasher suggests making glogg, a Swedish spiced punch served warm. Mix red wine, brandy, sugar cubes, orange zest, cardamom, cloves, almonds and raisins; and let it simmer on low all evening. "Guests will come to your house, and it will smell like winter goodness," Thrasher says. Thrasher also plans to offer hot royal oil, a mix of Maker's Mark bourbon, Cruzan Black Strap rum, blackberry bitters and diluted maple syrup (four parts water to one part maple syrup), served hot with a squeeze of lemon.
Both Thrasher and Guas suggest experimenting with cocktail recipes to achieve a desired flavor. Guas suggests people play around with winter spices, such as star anise, toasted coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves or "whatever has a little heat to it." He advises, "Start with flavors you like. Sometimes people are too robotic in the kitchen. If it calls for lemon peel but you like orange peel, use orange peel." For example, Thrasher suggests substituting maple syrup for honey in a hot toddy (traditionally, honey, hot water, cloves and bourbon). Similarly, Thrasher suggests making spiced rum, either to enjoy at a party or as gifts. "Buy a really nice bottle of white rum; add winter spices, such as cloves, allspice, cinnamon, vanilla or cardamom; let it sit in the sun for three to four days; strain it and rebottle it." Thrasher suggests keeping track of what spices you add and how much so that you can perfect your recipe.
Lastly, if you really want to show off to your guests, Thrasher suggests making your guests a Tom and Jerry, a winter cocktail originally developed in the early 19th century, saying, "It's a little bit of a pain in the butt to make, but in the wintertime, there isn't a more underrated cocktail." In one bowl, you whisk together egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and rum. Add winter spices such as allspice, clove and cinnamon, and then whisk again. In a second bowl, beat the separated egg whites until they have almost formed a stiff peak. In a pot, heat milk. Before it reaches a simmer, fold in the egg mixtures. Serve in a mug, with a pinch of nutmeg on top. "It's really fun to make for party guests," Thrasher says.
And that is the key to throwing a party: Have fun. Close friends and family gathered together to celebrate the holidays is almost always a recipe for a successful party. But if your party should start to falter, Chef Guas reminded me, "Everything is better with booze."