By Robbie Medwed
Chanukah and all the December holidays mean there’s a different party almost every day of the week, and if you’re hosting, you’re going to need some tricks up your sleeve.
Even if you’re not hosting anything, you may need a quick drink here and there as the days go by. Amid your office party, school parties and neighborhood parties and actually observing all eight days of Chanukah, you may need to slip away for a quick cocktail.
Here are some of my favorite wintertime cocktails, perfect for Chanukah or any other cold night. Feel free to adapt these to your tastes or what you already have in the house.
For All These Miracles
The Greeks were the villains in the Chanukah story, but they also gave the world some pretty incredible food.
Baklava, the layered nut pastry that’s doused in honey, inspired this cocktail, and it’s by far my favorite Greek dessert. The sweetness and nuttiness of the amaretto play nicely with the smoke of the scotch (though feel free to substitute any nonpeated whiskey instead of scotch if you’re not a fan of smoke). The bitters add a complexity and depth you can’t get from the liquors on their own, though you can leave them out if you’d like.
1½ ounces smoky scotch
½ ounce amaretto
1 ounce lemon juice
½ ounce honey syrup
5 drops black walnut/pecan/other nut bitters
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously, then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. (Honey syrup is equal parts honey and water, blended well.)
In 1942, a Jewish man named Irving Berlin wrote the score for the movie “Holiday Inn,” featuring the song “White Christmas,” which would go on to become one of the world’s most famous Christmas songs.
In honor of one of America’s greatest composers and the common misconception that Chanukah is just “the Jewish Christmas,” this eggnog-inspired cocktail is certain to bring you some holiday cheer.
While eggnog traditionally calls for cream, using just an egg white keeps this drink pareve while making the drink thick and frothy. And just like real eggnog, this packs a punch.
1 ounce bourbon
½ ounce rum
¾ ounce brandy
1 egg white
¾ ounce honey syrup
Fresh nutmeg or cinnamon
Add 2 ice cubes and the egg white only into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 2 minutes. Add more ice and the rest of the ingredients and shake once more. Strain and pour into a rocks glass with ice. Grate fresh nutmeg or cinnamon on top to garnish.
The Paloma is Mexico’s most popular tequila cocktail and has nothing to do with Chanukah. But it’s a classic cocktail that has everything to do with winter.
Grapefruit and other citrus are at their peak right now, and this drink takes full advantage. Using fresh grapefruit juice is a must for this cocktail. Take the time to juice the grapefruits and limes yourself (or have the kids do it). The flavor is well worth the effort. Plus, everyone knows it’s not a party until tequila is involved.
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce grapefruit juice
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce simple syrup
Soda water to top
Fill a Collins (tall) glass with the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice and simple syrup. Stir. Add ice, and top with soda water. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge or lime wheel. Citrus may be juiced up to one day in advance, but for best results, juice the citrus within a few hours of serving. (Simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water, blended well.)
Honey-Orange Hot Toddy
A hot cup of tea on a cold night is one of the few things that make winter bearable, and it’s made better by the addition of honey, orange and rum.
You could serve this at the end of a big dinner party, but you may want to wait until all your guests have gone home and you don’t need to worry about the kids. If you’re not a fan of rum, you can use brandy, cognac or whiskey instead.
1 ounce light rum (not spiced)
¾ ounce honey syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange peel, squeezed
6 ounces hot tea
There’s no need to be fancy about this one. Pour the rum and honey syrup into a teacup. Fold the orange peel in half to squeeze its oils into the cup, and drop it into the cup along with the cinnamon stick. Add a tea bag, and fill the cup with hot water. I like to leave the orange peel and the cinnamon stick in the cup, but you can take them out if you prefer.
Robbie Medwed writes at koshercocktail.com.