CUP OF GOOD CHEER: Experts offer tips for tasty holiday cocktails | News

CUP OF GOOD CHEER: Experts offer tips for tasty holiday cocktails | News

For Okies looking to warm up this winter with holiday cocktails, a local bartender and liquor store employee have some recommendations for drinks that are sure to boost the festive spirit.

Behind the bar at The Branch, Nate Jones has been serving up warmer drinks lately to ward off frigid temperatures. Adding some Jamison and Baileys Irish Cream to a cup of coffee will get the blood flowing for those who show up to Wednesday Open Mic Nights. While the bar aims to start offering an array of holiday cocktails in the coming days, one already on the menu is the chocolate martini.

“Those have been popular lately,” said Jones. “That’s a creme de cacao, a little bit of vanilla vodka, then just half-and-half. Then you can use chocolate dessert sauce, which has a little bit thicker consistency, or just chocolate syrup.”

Many people share an appreciation for the classic hot toddy. It’s thought to have been around for centuries, dating back to the 1700s, but the warm beverage continues to be a favorite in many recipe books.

“Most people just do hot water, honey, a little cinnamon and whiskey,” said Jones. “Sometimes I’ll brew a hot tea, like lemon-grass tea that’s pretty good, instead of just hot water. That’s my preferred hot toddy.”

The Branch has shifted its beers to more stouts and darker ales for wintertime. Shiner Bock’s Holiday Cheer has also been a popular choice for customers at the bar.

Most ingredients for a holiday cocktail can be found at any local liquor store, such as Mary’s Liquor. There, Sterling Wright has been offering tips for customers who aren’t sure what beverage to make. One choice is the peppermint martini, which calls for vanilla-flavored vodka, 2 ounces of creme de menthe, and half an ounce of peppermint schnapps.

“You can also garnish it with a crushed candy cane on the rim of the glass,” said Wright. “If you really want to make it dance, then that’s the way to do it.”

A mulled wine is always popular around the holidays. It starts with a dry red wine; fresh oranges, with peels still attached to give it more zest; cinnamon; cinnamon sticks; mulling spices, available at most grocery stores; and a little bit of sweetener, like sugar.

“Then you can put more sangria in it, or some people add a little bit of brandy to strengthen it,” said Wright. “You basically put all that together and heat until the wine reaches a simmer, because you don’t want the alcohol boiling out of it, and you drink it hot, which is strange for wine.”

Another favorite is the classic apple cider. To add some kick, imbibers will often throw in some vodka or moonshine, but it also goes well with rum and bourbon. A few cinnamon sticks and some fresh ginger will give it a little more flavor, too.

For jolly drinkers, no holiday season is complete without eggnog, which can be spiked in a variety of ways.

“I typically put brandy in it, but a lot of people will put rum or whiskey in it,” said Wright. “It just depends on the person’s taste. If they normally drink whiskey, they’ll probably want to put a little bourbon in it. If they like a little more spice, they’ll do a spiced rum. Really, eggnog is very good at covering the taste of anything you put in it, because it’s so thick and full of spices.”

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