Instead of singing about “glad tidings of love, joy, peace, hope and good cheer” this year, why not craft a bit of cheer that you and your loved ones — ages 21 and older, of course — can imbibe?
Here’s what some of the talented bartenders in and around Schenectady are serving up this season to bring on those festive feelings. They’ve even shared their recipes so you can boost the “merry” in whatever it is you’re celebrating this year … even if it’s just the end of 2021!
Holiday Sangaree, courtesy The Nest
Recipe by Liam Scott, head bartender
1/2 oz. cognac
1/2 oz. sambuca
1/2 oz. simple syrup
3/4 oz. orange juice
4 oz. red blend wine
Candied cranberries or an orange slice, for garnish
Although they share similar inspirations (i.e. wine and citrus), sangaree is not the same as sangria. In fact, it’s far boozier, usually made with a sweet Spanish or Portuguese wine. Liam Scott, head bartender at the Nest, said he prefers to use a red blend instead, as it gives the cocktail what he calls a more rounded flavor profile.
“My recipe is a classic version, with the addition of Sambuca for that perfect holiday-season kick,” he said. “Place all contents in a shaker with ice, then shake and strain to consume without ice, or simply build in a wine glass with ice if you’ve had a particularly long day.”
Sage against the Machine, courtesy Daley’s on Yates
Recipe by Joe Boudreau, bartender
2 oz. Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Rye
1 oz. grapefruit juice
1/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. Sage Simple Syrup (see below for recipe)
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Sage leaf, for garnish
Sage Simple Syrup:
2 oz. hot water
2 oz. sugar
3-5 sage leaves
Stir to blend, then add a handful of sage leaves to the mixture. If prepping in advance, let the mixture sit in the fridge for two days or if you’re making it fresh, be sure to chill for three hours.
This one’s pure math and motion — mix all the ingredients, then shake and serve in a coupe glass with a sage leaf garnish and voilà! According to Sue Ross, bar manager, and Michael Anthony, general manager at Daley’s on Yates, this cocktail is the perfect holiday compliment.
“When you think of the holidays, you probably conjure up warm memories infused with aromatic experiences from family meals. Our cocktail combines the warmth of rye and the unique and savory flavor of sage, balanced by the sweetness and acidity of citrus.”
Although sage is available year-round, it comes to the forefront during the holiday season, they said.
“Its distinct flavor traditionally brings warmth and complexity to holiday meals, and in this instance, ultimately transforms this holiday libation.”
Holiday Rice Pudding Martini, courtesy Scotti’s
Recipe by Isabella Sementilli, bartender
2 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka
3/4 oz. Pisa Italian Liqueur
1 oz. eggnog
Dash of ground cinnamon,
sprinkled on top
3 cranberries, for garnish
Place a scoop of ice in your shaker, then add vodka, the Italian liqueur and the eggnog, and shake vigorously.
Strain before pouring into a chilled martini glass, and if you feel so inclined add a few pieces of “dirty ice” from your shaker to mimic floating rice.
Lastly, lightly sprinkle cinnamon on top and garnish with cranberries.
According to Isabella Sementilli, bartender at Scotti’s, this dessert martini is the “perfect ending” for any holiday celebration.
With Life of the Party, courtesy Innovo Kitchen
Recipe by Christine Bazicki, bartender
2.5 oz. One with Life tequila blanco
1/2 oz. orange honey simple syrup
Squeeze of lemon juice
Muddled cherry and orange
Charred orange zest and cherry, for garnish
In a shaker, muddle the orange and cherry with the simple syrup.
Add tequila, lemon and shake well.
Pour over a large ice cube and garnish as desired.
“Thanks to the warmth of the smoked agave tequila, the sweetness of the honey simple syrup and the freshness of the lemon juice, this is a perfect drink to keep the party going,” said Christine Bazicki.
Espresso Martini, courtesy Johnny’s
Recipe by Jackie Tralongo, bartender
1 oz. fresh espresso
1 oz. espresso vodka
1 oz. vanilla vodka
1/2 oz. Kahlua
1/2 oz. Baileys Irish Cream
2-3 espresso beans, for garnish
Add all ingredients with ice to a shaker. Shake vigorously.
Strain into a martini glass and garnish with espresso beans.
Johnny’s is known for its espresso martinis, said Jackie Tralongo, bartender. “We have regulars who come in just for this martini and we always recommend the drink to new guests who don’t know what to get.”
For a twist, Tralongo recommends swapping the vanilla vodka for caramel vodka or the Baileys for chocolate Godiva Liqueur.
Better than Mistletoe, courtesy Malcolm’s Restaurant
Recipe by Ciara Cullen, bartender
1.5 oz. rosemary-infused vodka
1 oz. pomegranate liqueur
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. simple syrup
3-5 small twigs of rosemary
Splash of club soda
Infuse your favorite vodka with 2-4 twigs of rosemary for at least 24 hours in advance. For a stronger flavor, infuse for longer.
When ready, combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.
Shake for 30 seconds and strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice. Top with a splash of club soda and garnish with a twig of rosemary.
Thanks to fresh rosemary, this cocktail feels all at once holiday-forward and unexpected.
“This refreshing winter cocktail is perfect for the holidays,” said Ciara Cullen, bartender at Malcolm’s Restaurant. “Whether you’re celebrating with loved ones or relaxing at home, this drink makes the perfect plus one.”
Santa’s Hat Martini, courtesy Waters Edge Lighthouse
Recipe by Gregory Ward, bartender
1.5 oz. Stoli vanilla vodka
1.5 oz. Malibu coconut rum
1 oz. cranberry juice
Ghirardelli white chocolate sauce, for the rim
Toasted coconut shreds for the rim
Pour all ingredients into a shaker, then shake.
Separately, toast some shredded coconut and add some Ghirardelli white chocolate sauce to a shallow bowl. Dip the martini glass into the sauce, tap off the excess and roll the glass in the toasted coconut.
Strain shaker, then serve.
This festive drink is a staple at The Waters Edge Lighthouse every holiday season, according to Taylor Wetsky, event and social media manager.
“Greg, our veteran bartender, came up with this one and it has stuck ever since. All you have to do is say the name of it and it brings a smile to our customers’ faces.”