By Valerie Peterson
Some of the hottest — and coolest — holiday drinks on Westchester menus combine up-to-the-minute trends with the comfort and joy of traditional holiday treats. In these inventive nogs, grogs and ’tinis, house-made spice infusions share the spotlight with fresh, local ingredients and premium spirits.
“With the growing interest in mixology in the past few years, cocktails have become a more important part of an evening,” said Alison Awerbuch, a partner and chief culinary officer at Abigail Kirsch, which often caters to groups of holiday revelers at Tappan Hill Mansion in Tarrytown.
“Their theme and seasonality set the tone for the entire party,” she said.
The Winter Champagne Sparkler at Tappan Hill is a bubbly riff on mulled wine that contains an intricately spiced honey-pear water and is garnished with a nod to its forerunner — a flake of cinnamon stick and a delicate strip of orange peel studded with cloves. House-made vanilla-infused vodka adds punch to Tappan Hill’s Christmas-red Vanilla Cranberry Champagne Cocktail, and is complemented by a touch of rosemary.
Article is copyright © The New York Times Company and appears for portfolio use only. Photo is courtesy of Abigail Kirsch.
A hint of Christmas tree — in the form of Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur of the Alps — flavors the Berkshire Pine, a creation reminiscent of eggnog served at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills. Its crème anglaise base — redolent with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and anise — is mixed with the Zirbenz and Berkshire Mountain Distillers’ Ragged Mountain Rum, then folded with whipped egg whites, fresh from the Stone Barns farm. Served in a Champagne coupe, it’s made even more stunning with a garnish of the foamy whites.
The foam that tops the nog at Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua is made from milk that is steeped overnight with cinnamon, and the eggs are brought to the restaurant daily by one of its cooks, from his farm. The intensely flavored cider from Thompson’s Cider Mill and Orchard, in Croton-on-Hudson, provides the base for Crabtree’s spicy hot mulled cider. Perfumed with a blend of cardamom, ginger and other aromatic spices, and spiked with Ron Zacapa Centenario 23, an aged Guatemalan rum, it provides patrons with a luxurious version of the traditional cold-weather warmer.
In the mixology world, luxury is in. Sales of premium liquors have been rising steeply, said Danielle Eddy, a spokeswoman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. For example, in 2008, the sales volume of premium vodkas rose 14 percent over 2007, and high-end cordials were up 9 percent. And the inclusion of top-quality spirits in cocktails provides complex flavors that can be appreciated along with their “kick.”
The Candied Apple Martini served at Dylan’s Bar at X20 in Yonkers combines the deep, burned-caramel flavor of Van Gogh Caramel Vodka with the crisp apple of both Stoli Gala Applik and Doc’s Draft Hard Cider (from Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery in Warwick, N.Y.), along with a touch of sweet vermouth. And the sweet taste of a favorite holiday candy is given sophisticated nuance in the Bedford Post Inn’s Gianduja, a chocolate hazelnut martini based on Ketel One vodka that layers the flavors of premium Valrhona chocolate and Navan Natural Vanilla Liqueur with Godiva Chocolate Liqueur and Frangelico.
If chocolate sounds better for dessert than for an aperitif, that is in step with the growing popularity of after-dinner cocktails. “A well-balanced cocktail can be a great alternative to a glass of port or cognac as an after-dinner drink,” said Danielle Madera, beverage manager at Bedford Post Inn.
Ms. Madera’s Gingersnap starts out with dark Rhum Barbancourt, a rum made in Haiti; Captain Morgan 100 Proof Spiced Rum; and a splash of fresh orange juice. Poured into a glass rinsed with St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram Liqueur, then floated with ginger beer, it’s a nod to the quintessential Christmas cookie — and perhaps a fitting alternative to dessert.
Not that cocktails are the only dessert-friendly holiday drink. Since the days when wassail fortified medieval carolers, beer has held an honored place in December feasts. Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association, said that seasonal beers, including holiday specialties, accounted for nearly 20 percent of the craft brews sold in the United States in 2008, and that winter beers are up 23 percent from 2007. This month, the Captain Lawrence Brewery in Pleasantville released its Nor’easter Winter Warmer, flavored with elderberries and aged in bourbon barrels. At 12 percent alcohol, it’s made to be sipped and can be served after dinner, paired with chocolate.
But whatever the drink of choice — luscious-looking cocktail or rich local brew — time-honored seasonal flavors can’t help but infuse the latest creations with a festive sense of tradition, wrapping an evening in spirits to brighten the darkest December night.
ABIGAIL KIRSCH AT TAPPAN HILL MANSION 81 Highland Avenue, Tarrytown. abigailkirsch.com; (914) 631-3030.
BEDFORD POST INN 954 Old Post Road, Bedford. bedfordpostinn.com; (914) 234-7800.
BLUE HILL AT STONE BARNS 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills. (914) 366-9600; bluehillfarm.com/food/blue-hill-stone-barns.
CRABTREE’S KITTLE HO– USE 11 Kittle Road, Chappaqua. (914) 666-8044;
X20 71 Water Grant Street, Yonkers. (914) 965-1111; xaviers.com.
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