Without a little initiative, holiday parties have a tendency to blend together. If you hope to set your own Christmas bash apart this year, offering a distinct, homemade cocktail is one way to do it.
For some guidance we turned to Alexis Soler and Ben Clemons, owners of the East Nashville bar No. 308. They like to draw their inspiration for cocktails from unlikely sources, but whatever their muse, there are a handful of principles they always keep in mind.
“I think fresh ingredients are number one,” Alexis said. For No. 308, that means things like squeezing your own lemon juice and making your own cranberry syrup.
Simplicity, Ben said, is number two. “We try to keep everything to three, four – if we have to, five – ingredients. People get a little crazy with all that stuff. It’s like a kid with a box of crayons. If you mix too many together, it just turns brown. People do that with their drinks. It muddies it up.”
After that, mixology becomes an art form with the goals of evoking certain memories and emotions and pleasing your clientele. Alexis and Ben say these three drinks should fit the bill to mix up your holiday party.
1 oz Fernet Branca (an Italian liqueur)
1 egg white
¾ oz dry Curaçao
½ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz simple syrup
Shake vigorously with ice and double-strain into an embassy glass. Add a few dashes of Peychaud’s bitters and garnish with a mint sprig.
“The Fernet Branca adds a menthol flavor, and the egg white gives it a nice consistency, frothiness and is reminiscent of egg nog,” Ben said. “The bitters and mint sprig serve to lighten the intensity of the Fernet Branca and the smell of the egg white, as well as to brighten the cocktail with the traditional red and green color palette of Christmas.”
Death And Taxes
1 ½ oz Belle Meade Bourbon
¾ oz Harveys Bristol Cream sherry
½ oz cranberry syrup
½ oz lime juice
Shake vigorously with ice and double-strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with cranberries.
Ben feels strongly that you can’t judge a drink by its color, and this pink concoction proves his point with its stout, bourbon-prominent flavor profile. “This is a perfect punch drink that could be served in mass quantities in a punch bowl at a holiday party.”
The 59 Club
1 bar spoon fig preserves
1 ½ oz Bulleit rye whiskey
¾ oz pineapple juice
½ oz Nux Alpina (a walnut liqueur)
Shake vigorously with ice and double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a walnut (flamed lemon peel substituted in photograph), and top with pinch of fresh-grated nutmeg.
Named for the famous British motorcycle club, this cocktail balances the sweetness of figs, the nutty dryness of Nux Alpina and the spice of rye whiskey. “You’ve got flavors that evoke memory and emotion,” Ben said. “Bulleit rye has a nice spiciness to it, which I really enjoy a lot in the wintertime.”
Photo by Eric Staples