Good Life

Holiday Spirits

"Cinnamon Toast" prepared by Keith Lesho, General Manager, Bar Bleu, and Jennifer Zangrilli, Director of Operation's Dante's Restaurants, Inc.  CDT/Nabil K. Mark
"Cinnamon Toast" prepared by Keith Lesho, General Manager, Bar Bleu, and Jennifer Zangrilli, Director of Operation's Dante's Restaurants, Inc. CDT/Nabil K. Mark

A tasty drink or two puts the merry into Christmas and the happy into the holidays.

’Tis the season for entertaining, and seasonal beverages can add a festive flavor to any gathering. Mulled wine, Christmas wassail and eggnog with a splash of rum are always nice, of course, but this year, break from tradition and pour something different. Local restaurateurs have a few ideas on what to serve.

Dave Fonash, co-owner of Zola New World Bistro, Alto Italian Restaurant and Bar, Gamble Mill and Mount Hill Tavern, suggests one of his favorite holiday cocktails, a Z-Velvet. It’s a rich blend of hazelnut stout, Prosecco sparkling white wine and ground dark chocolate, all in a champagne flute.

“This drink is great socially, for events or as an after-dinner topper,” Fonash says. Fun to look at — the stout separates and sinks, for a two-tone appearance — the Z-Velvet goes well with desserts, especially chocolate ones, or light hors d’oeuvres, nothing with a heavy sauce or overpowering taste, says Elijah Darden, Zola’s general manager and sommelier. “It’s easy. The hardest part is getting the chocolate to stay on the rim of the glass,” Darden says. He recommends a simple syrup, made by heating equal parts sugar and water, as an adhesive.

Darden’s own invention, called Winter Mint, provides a bubbly, nonalcoholic offering. To ginger ale, he adds simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and mint, rimming a rocks glass with powdered sugar for a wintery look. “It’s not one of those complicated drinks where you have 15 items and you have to buy $50 worth of materials,” Darden says.

Harrison’s Wine Country Grill likes a pair of libations: a hot buttered rum spiced with light brown sugar and cinnamon, and a cranberry-infused Christmas Cosmopolitan.

Chef Harrison Schailey advises sipping the cosmopolitan with dishes or snacks that have clear flavors — pork stir-fry in plum sauce, for example, or puff pastries stuffed with beef, vegetables or Brie, maybe a little apple or cranberry chutney on the side. “You have a crisp drink, so you want crisp food,” he says.

The recipe calls for lemon juice, but in Schailey’s book, fresh-squeezed is superior to its bottled cousin: “That stuff is so tart and strong, it doesn’t taste the same.”

If all that’s not enough to get you in the holiday mood, try making Bar Bleu’s delectable-sounding drinks, a Bailey’s Chocolate Martini or a Cinnamon Toast. No doubt your guests will appreciate the gift.

RECIPES

Z-Velvet

2/3 oz. chocolate, coffee or hazelnut stout*

2 oz. Prosecco*

Ground dark chocolate

Simple syrup

Chill slender champagne flute and, with simple syrup, coat rim in dark chocolate. Pour stout with no foam or wait until it subsides, then slowly pour Prosecco over the back of a spoon, layering it over the stout.

*Dave Fonash prefers Rogue’s Hazelnut Stout and Zardetto Prosecco.

— Zola New World Bistro

Winter Mint

5 oz. ginger ale

1/2 oz. simple syrup

1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Muddled mint leaf

In a rocks or mojito glass, add syrup and mint leaf, then muddle (mash) together. Add lemon juice, ice and ginger ale and top with a mint sprig. For a wintery appearance, coat rim with powdered sugar.

— Zola New World Bistro

Hot Buttered Rum

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

2 cups light brown sugar

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2/3-1/2 cup (6-8 oz.) of dark rum

Boiling water

Mix together butter, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into a coffee mug. Add one shot (1 oz.) of dark rum. Fill mug with boiling water and stir to melt butter and dissolve sugar. Makes 6 to 8 drinks in 6 oz. mugs.

— Harrison’s Wine Country Grill

Christmas Cosmopolitan

1 oz. vodka

1/2 oz. Cointreau

1/2 oz. cranberry juice

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Whole cranberries

Combine vodka, Cointreau and cranberry juice in an ice-filled shaker and shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Add a few cranberries to the glass for garnish.

— Harrison’s Wine Country Grill

Bailey’s Chocolate Martini

2 oz. Bailey’s Original Irish Cream

1/4 oz. Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka

1/4 oz. Godiva Original Liqueur

Chocolate syrup

Decorate inside of a martini glass with the chocolate syrup. Combine all ingredients over ice in a shaker. Strain into the decorated martini glass.

— Bar Bleu, Dante’s Restaurants, Inc.

Cinnamon Toast

1 1/4 oz. spiced rum*

6 oz. hot apple cider

1 tbsp. cinnamon sugar

1 slice fresh orange

Simple syrup

Rim glass by dipping edge into simple syrup and then into cinnamon sugar to coat. Add mix of rum and hot apple cider. Garnish with orange. This drink also can be made in a martini glass.

* Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum is preferred.

— Bar Bleu, Dante’s Restaurants, Inc.

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