From Irish coffee to hot buttered rum, winter cocktails tend to be warm, sweet and boozy. But not everyone wants to tread into toddy territory during the holiday season, so we rounded up a few more innovative (and less sugary) takes on winter cocktails.
Mai Thai: Julebukk
Julebukk, a Norwegian word that means "Yule buck" or "Christmas goat," describes the tradition of donning masks and costumes and going door-to-door between Christmas and New Year's seeking food and drink.
- Laurie Pearman
- The Julebukk, from Mai Thai.
At Mai Thai, the term refers to a delicate mix of Aquavit, Dolin dry vermouth and Aperol served in a chilled coupe glass and topped with green Chartreuse air. According to bartender Michael Reed, the Chartreuse air is made with powdered soy lecithin.
"It's basically a hydrocolloid suspension agent or stabilizer," said Reed. "Hydrocolloids are usually some type of fat or protein compound, but you use them basically to suspend things. ... It creates a really light, tight foam, so we call it an air."
After mixing the drink and spooning on the Chartreuse air, Reed unveils a rose-hued cocktail with wafts of green peppercorn on the nose and subtle hints of caraway and anise on the palate.
The Mode: The Iron Rod
According to General Manager Brian Livesay, The Mode's Iron Fist is a take on the flip, a class of cocktails that often contain egg whites and were first popularized in Colonial America.
- Laurie Pearman
- The Iron Rod, from The Mode Lounge.
"In the wintertime, you'd go to your local pub house and the bartender would have an iron poker in the fire just staying hot," explained Livesay. "And then you'd order a drink and they'd pour a little bit of beer, a little bit of rum, maybe some brandy, maybe a little bit of citrus—if they were lucky enough to have some laying around—some sugar and maybe an egg yolk for protein. It was just kind of this catch-all. You put it all in a big glass and then shove that red-hot poker into it and it would foam and froth and kind of actually cook it a little bit."
The Mode's take on this cocktail contains a red Flemish ale, Stroh 80, Lemon Hart 151 and brandy. Livesay constructed his own iron poker from industrial grade iron, which he heats for about 30 seconds using a blowtorch before plunging it into the cocktail. Not only does the iron heat the cocktail rapidly, making it froth and sputter, but Livesay said it also caramelizes the sugars and changes the drink's chemistry.
"It makes the beer kind of yeasty and sweeter," he added.
Though the end result looks like a glass of tea, the taste is more complex, with apple pie aromas mingling with tart, toasty and sweet flavors.
Bonefish Grill: Cold Snap Blackberry Frost
Though Bonefish Grill's Cold Snap Blackberry Frost is essentially a vodka bramble, what makes it unique is the glass it's served in. Reyka Vodka, which makes an appearance in the cocktail, also makes traffic cone-orange molds that produce lowball glasses formed entirely of ice. Mike Moreau, bartender at Boise's Bonefish Grill in BoDo, walked us through the process of building the cocktail.
- Laurie Pearman
- The Cold Snap Blackberry Frost, from Bonefish Grill.
"I start with five fresh blackberries and muddle in my housemade brown sugar syrup," said Moreau. "And I'll pack it with some ice and add some Reyka vodka, which is an Icelandic vodka, add a little blood orange Solerno, squeeze of fresh lemon juice, two dashes of bitters and give that a good 10 shakes."
Moreau then strains the pretty purplish concoction into the ice glass and garnishes it with a blackberry and a sprinkle of nutmeg. An orange plastic rim clings to the bottom of the glass so you can sip the cold cocktail comfortably.
"People really like the design and the novelty of the ice glass. ... If the glasses are properly formed then they should last long enough for you to get through your drink," said Moreau.
Grind Modern Burger: Dandy Shammy
Grind Modern Burger's delicious Dandy Shammy isn't a terribly complicated cocktail.
- Laurie Pearman
- The Dandy Shammy, from Grind Modern Burger.
"On the bottom, it's our hard ginger beer and floated on top is our Dry Rye Irish Stout and a squeeze of lemon," said GM Justin Zora.
What makes the lovely layered cocktail innovative is that PostModern Brewers makes the 4 percent hard ginger beer in house.
"It's a mixture of fresh and candied ginger. It's 100 pounds of ginger per batch and a batch is 20 kegs, or 10 barrels," said Head Brewer Marvin Kinney.
Kinney explained that he takes a proprietary, taste-neutral fermented base and blends it with a separate base of ginger, honey, citrus and sugar. The result is a sweet, low-alcohol ginger brew.
"For your non-craft beer people, cider people, moscato drinkers, it just gave us an ability to bring more people into what we're doing," said Kinney.
Zora said the ginger beer saves on bar expenses for popular cocktails like the Moscow Mule.
"Having a hard ginger beer on tap cuts your costs dramatically," said Zora. "Our No. 1 selling drink in house is our Jack Mormon, which is Jim Beam Honey with ginger beer."