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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.