Parker was over at a friend’s house for a birthday party, and he was fascinated by the little pretend kitchen. We may have a future chef on our hands. So, my mom, his grandmother, his Tara, got him one for Christmas. I had to put it together. Somehow, I’ve become the one who puts stuff together. I’m Santa’s “helper," although I’m not sure I’m qualified. I hate reading instructions, get easily frustrated, and love to procrastinate. I'll set the scene. Instruction sheets are all over the house, there’s missing screws, extra bolts and lots of “what the eff is this for?”. I expect my pink slip from Santa any moment. The kitchen took four hours and eighteen minutes to complete. And, one of the doors doesn’t close, because I put the hinge on backwards.
Ah, the joys of the holidays.
These are the times that you need a good drink. So, I asked our friend Emily (the Master Sommelier) for some holiday recommendations.
Let’s get to mixin!
The first exciting thing I learned was how to make a shrub! Shrubs are popular among mixologists and are a fantastic way to spruce up your your boozy drinks. You can also use the shrub to make imaginative and fun mock-tails. Emily recommends making a cranberry shrub for your holiday libations.
Here’s a simple recipe for making a cranberry shrub:
- 1 cup water
- 2 1/4 cups fresh cranberries
- Orange rinds
- 3/4 cup sugar
- A holiday spice, like allspice or cinnamon
- 1 cup apple cider or champagne vinegar
- On the stove, bring the water, cranberries, orange rinds, sugar and spice to a boil and then let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Place everything in a large bowl, and add the vinegar to the mix. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 days. Continually taste and adjust the sweetness level by adding more sugar.
- Strain everything through a mesh strainer, placing the juice in a glass jar or bottle.
You’ve got yourself a shrub! There are a ton of recipes online, and I can’t wait to have a variety of these on hand year round.
Now on to the cocktails!
Emily recommends a Sherry Shrub. She says it’s a very 1600’s Christmas cocktail. I think it’s the ideal companion for building those really complicated toys. We’ll call this cocktail, the real Santa’s “helper.”
Emily’s Sherry Shrub
- 2 oz Manzanilla Sherry
- 0.75 oz cranberry shrub
- Stir over ice and strain into a small, classy coupe glass
- Garnish with lemon twist
For those days where you really need to focus on your toy-building skills, you can add the cranberry shrub to soda water for a yuletide non-alcoholic spritzer. But, who are we kidding?
Back to the cocktail list. If you’re like me, the holidays can bring on a certain level of anxiety. For the socially awkward, the holiday party is the equivalent of a haunted house. It's a frightening experience. This hot drink, when taken before and throughout the holiday party, will settle the knots in your tummy and calm your anxiety. And, it just tastes good.
Emily’s Chamomile Hot Toddy
- Chamomile Tea
- Bärenjäger (amount varies based on the level of anxiety). *Bärenjäger is a German honey-flavored liqueur based on vodka.
Finally, when the toys are all built and wrapped, the kids are off to bed, the family is getting along, you’ve got the good Christmas music playing and the fire is crackling, it’s time to relax and take a sip from an Old Fashioned. This drink also works when none of that stuff is happening, you’re surrounded by chaos, and you just need a stiff drink.
Emily’s Maple Old Fashioned
- 2 oz Dark Rum *I recommend Papa's Pilar, simply because of the name!
- 0.5 oz Maple Syrup
- 2 dashes of Ango (bitters)
- Shake and serve up
- Garnish with an orange twist
When all else fails, Emily reminded me that you can never go wrong with bubbles. So, have plenty on hand. This year, we're drinking J in honor of my mom, Parker's Tara (it's her favorite). However, since she gave him the kitchen that took over four hours to build, I'm not sure she gets any.
Cheers! Happy holidays everyone!