Regardless if the weather outside is frightful or not, there is nothing more delightful than a gathering of your friends and family during the holidays. Instead of going out to an over-crowded and over-priced bar or restaurant, why not impress your loved ones this year with a Christmas cocktail happy hour at home? Hosting a merry shindig is a lot easier than you might think, and creating memories, not just cocktails, is something that will bring tidings of joy.
KITTY GRAY | A PROPER COCKTAIL
If you are looking for some assistance taking your libations to the next level, Gray is the “it” girl in San Antonio. She is the founder of A Proper Cocktail, which offers cocktail classes, consulting, and cocktail party hosting services. Gray has plenty of incredible holiday cocktail recipes up her sleeve, but happily share one of her favorites for Christmas. Learn more about Kitty Gray in Texasliving’s December 2019 issue.
Santa Pants Cordial
This one is a quick and charming way to wrap up the evening. “I love a cordial,” Gray said. “It is to cocktail parties what coffee is to a dinner. A friend of mine used to say coffee was the signal to wrap it up, so while I wouldn’t be saying ‘get the heck out’ with a cordial, I would be saying that’s the end of the alcohol for the night.”
- 1 ounce grenadine
- ½ ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream
Add grenadine to a prepared cordial then use a spoon back to float Bailey’s on top. This creates a layered effect.
JARED RUTHERFORD | HALF STEP
Jared with Half Step, a popular bar in Austin, recommended his favorite winter drink, Feuerzangenbowle, for a special holiday cocktail party. This almost-impossible-to-pronounce, German-style punch translates to “fire tongs punch” and is more than just yummy; it is a show-stopper.
“So the reason I really like this drink is that it kind of embodies everything I like to have in winter,” Rutherford said. Traditionally, you stack sugar cubes, soak them in rum, and light them on fire so that the caramelizing sugar drips into the punch, but Rutherford likes to put a Texas spin on it by using piloncillo sugar, which you can find at just about any local Mexican market.
Even aside from the number of ingredients, it is an easy drink to pull off and gives you that dramatic effect that is perfect for a Christmas event. “It draws attention when you’re ready to start the party,” he said.
Rutherford’s philosophy comes from an Italian phrase, “sprezzatura,” meaning to accomplish much without appearing to struggle or put a ton of effort into something. “That’s why I say keep it simple,” Rutherford said. “All the work for this punch goes on behind the scenes. No one sees anything besides the cone of fire. People won’t remember the details of the drink so much as the emotions of sharing the drinks. At the end of the day, the more time you actually spend hanging out with your guests, the more everyone is going to enjoy it.”
There is little doubt, however, that your friends will not soon forget that Christmas cocktail hour with the cone of fire.
Texas Feuerzangenbowle (Fire Tongs Punch)
- 2 liters dry, fruity red wine
- 350 milliliters overproof rum (Rutherford likes Lemon Hart 151-proof demerara rum)
- 150 milliliters German-style cherry brandy (Rutherford used Clear Creek Kirschwasser)
- 15 whole cloves
- 3 star anise pods
- 12 juniper berries
- 1 ½ ounces strained fresh orange juice
- ¾ ounce strained fresh lemon juice
- peel of one orange
- peel of one lemon
- tablespoon fresh chopped ginger
- piloncillo cone of approximately 8 ounces
- Assemble all the aromatics (everything but the wine, brandy, rum, and fruit juice) into a cheesecloth or large tea infuser.
- Set the rum aside in a glass, heat-resistant pitcher or other container that is easy when it comes to pouring.
- Pour the wine, brandy, and fruit juice into a stockpot and set heat to 150°F.
- Place the aromatic bundle into the liquid, let steep for 20 minutes.
- While aromatics are steeping, soak piloncillo cone in some of the rum. It should be well saturated and softer to the touch, but not falling apart, and you should still have most of the rum left.
- After 20 minutes, turn the heat off, and let the liquid in the pot cool slightly.
- Suspend the piloncillo cone above the liquid in the pot on a large knife (big enough that only metal touches the pot). If you like to live dangerously, on a large, sturdy grater for greater ease, or on a specially made German sugar tong if you want to look good.
- Light it on fire, and draw everyone to the table to watch as the sugar caramelizes and drops into the liquid.
- Pour remaining rum over the sugar and into the pot very, very carefully (the flame can follow the rum up into the pitcher but is easy to put out, you just do not want it splashing everywhere)
- After all, flames are extinguished, stir caramelized sugar into mixture.
- Decant into a punch bowl to serve, or scoop it directly from the pot.
- Optionally, garnish each glass with an orange swath studded with cloves.
- Use fresh herbs and flowers to elevate the experience without breaking the bank.
- Try making a custom sugar rim.
- For a two-hour-long happy hour, plan on enough ingredients for 2 ½ drinks per person.
- Make sure to buy napkins, holiday swizzle sticks, and cute paper straws.
- Twinkle lights, greenery, candles, and a Christmas tree are all you will need for decoration.
- Provide a variety of nibbles, such as homemade cut-out sugar cookies with royal icing, a protein, a fruit and veggie plate, and a great bread to soak up the alcohol.