Celebrate the Season by Pouring Local Holiday Cocktails

While our seasonal gatherings might look different this year, we can still toast to good health with a festive libation from Delaware mixologists.

At Bluecoast Seafood Grill & Raw Bar in Rehoboth Beach, mixologists focus on seasonal ingredients. Throughout the fall, enjoy libations featuring pumpkin, figs, apples, cinnamon and rosemary. The winter welcomes fun infusions and garnishes, like cranberry-ginger tequila and candied orange slices, says Amber Willis, assistant manager and bar manager.

“The possibilities are limitless. It’s just having fun with what you have,” she says.

At The Copper Dram in Greenville, owner Tom Houser specializes in cocktails, serving up winter drinks that “go warm”—literally, or with heavy spirits, spice or smoke.

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For those looking to pour more than beer or wine for family members this holiday, Houser and Willis serve up tips on how to properly stock a bar cart and mix like a pro.

To make cocktail prep easy for your home gathering, local mixologists suggest shaking batch drinks in advance that can be stored in the fridge. When it’s time to serve, pre-pour glasses or make a self-serve station. Either way, keep COVID-19 precautions in mind and drink responsibly.

Stock up responsibly

When filling your liquor cabinet or cart for a holiday dinner or soirée, stock only what you know your guests will enjoy, says Houser, suggesting heavier staples like whiskey, brandy and cognac, as well as aged spirits like rum and tequila. For lighter drinks, vodka is the most versatile and least imposing. (And it’s always good, he notes, to have sparkling wine or champagne for toasts, plus beer and wine for those who don’t have a palate for hard liquor or who want to switch to something lighter as the evening goes on.)

Small-batch is best

If you’re making a bespoke cocktails menu, create a batch cocktail for easy self-serve and carefree bartending, the duo says. Plus, many batch drinks can be made COVID-19 compliant.

“Create signature party drinks like punches or batch recipes with non-carbonated mixers that won’t go flat,” Willis suggests. “This allows minimal contact and reduces the need to sanitize equipment [and] bottles throughout the night.”

She also suggests having pre-assembled garnishes available for guests to pick up with fancy, individual tongs.

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Houser agrees that keeping the cocktail menu simple is best so you don’t get overwhelmed with everything to prepare. He suggests making punch ahead of time and placing it in the fridge for flavors to meld and chill. Adorn the bowl with some fruit or other garnishes for presentation.

Serve the cocktail to your guests or prefill glasses for less contact. Or, if it’s a group of the same household or people who have quarantined together, leave a ladle for self-service.

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  • 2 ounces Seacrets’ spiced rum
  • ½ ounce apple pie liqueur
  • 1 ounce fig simple syrup*
  • Candied orange slice** for garnish

Shake and strain all ingredients into a coupe glass. Float a candied orange slice** on top.

*Fig Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups chopped dried figs

In a pot, bring all ingredients to boil. After boiling, remove and let cool. Purée in blender and strain through chinois. Use 2 cups of water to rinse out the blender and pour any overproduct in the strainer; push through to get as much out of it as you can.

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**Oven-Dried Oranges

  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • Prepared fig simple syrup
  • Raw sugar to taste

Preheat oven to 200 F. Place orange slices on a cookie sheet covered with a silicone liner. Brush one side with the fig simple syrup. Flip and brush the other side. Generously sprinkle raw sugar on top. Bake for 1 hour and check. It should look caramelized but not burned. Bake until oranges are firm to touch. Let cool before storing in an airtight container. Do not refrigerate.


Dress it up

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a little decoration. Providing guests with garnishes for their cocktails adds flair and a bit of flavor. Houser says to make sure your garnish adds something to the drink, otherwise it’s unnecessary.

“A garnish, while visually appealing, should also have a good smell to it,” he says. “[It should] add some kind of aroma to the drink.”

Try fresh fruit peels to spread the natural oil over the drink, dried flowers to float in the drink and fresh grating spices on top to add not only aroma but beauty to your cocktail, Houser says.

“It can be as easy as floating pomegranate seeds or a sprig of rosemary in a spritzer,” Willis adds. “This time of year, candy canes or candy ribbon add a simple touch of whimsy.”

And don’t forget about the rim of the glass: Willis suggests blending salt or sugar with herbs and spices to create one-of-a-kind flavors.

If you’re making a bespoke cocktail menu, create a batch cocktail for easy self-serve and carefree bartending.

Order in

For those who want someone else to do the hard work for them, Houser suggests supporting a local restaurant and looking into to-go cocktails.

He says The Copper Dram will be exploring the possibility of offering to-go drinks for customers who want to make their gatherings a bit easier or wish to support a local restaurant without dining in.

The Copper Dram; 3826 Kennett Pike, Greenville; 256-0535; copperdram.com

Bluecoast Seafood Grill & Raw Bar Rehoboth; 30115 Veterans Way, Rehoboth Beach; 278-7395; bluecoastrehoboth.com

Published as “Holiday Cheers” in the December 2020 issue of Delaware Today.

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