Local mixologists refresh classic cocktails with holiday twist
Photo by Alicia Castro
(written for Home for the Holidays) Every year, when I take down the bins of sparkly baubles and bright garlands from our attic, I reach first for the soft, red cloth bag I keep pressed against the inside of my largest box of decorations.
In this pouch are the Christmases of years gone by - drafts of Santa letters, scribbled recipes and - what I cherish most - holiday photo cards I keep neatly tucked away and ready for revisiting. As this year’s mail arrives, I’ll take a moment to compare how families grew, children changed and relationships blossomed.
Encapsulated in my fabric pouch is what I consider to be the one of the most magical elements of the holidays: that traditions and celebrations are constant yet evolving.
It’s with this thought in mind that I set about to discover how local experts are updating their cocktail menus.
Turning old into new
Since Turn Bar & Grill opened earlier in the year, the Main Street eatery has reinvented dining out in downtown Los Altos. General manager Robin Berard shared with me the restaurant’s approach to its holiday cocktail menu.
"We wanted to put our turn on traditional cocktails while keeping in line with our farm-to-bar ideals," she said. "Turn is a must for anyone who wants a traditional cocktail with a modern twist to it."
Bar manager Brian Holquin’s lineup is enough to make any merriment seeker’s mouth water.
"This year, we’re mixing up cocktails that will please a wide range of palates," he said.
With everything from cider to coffee liqueur featured in his creations, diners may have a difficult time deciding which to try first.
"Our cocktails will pair well with our holiday-season menu that chef Mark Laverty has thoughtfully prepared," Berard said.
Holquin will be shaking or stirring his Perfect Toast or Light Night Floral, among others, for Turn’s cocktail menu. He shares his recipes below.
"I love to use fresh ingredients," he said. "That’s what makes the cocktail next level."
Paying homage to Christmas
Fully in the holiday spirit, I made my way to Doppio Zero in downtown Mountain View to see what the restaurant has planned for the holiday season.
Doppio Zero’s menu modernizes traditional Southern Italian food - and the Neapolitan pizzas are extraordinary.
Bar manager Anton Nilsen keeps the restaurant’s cocktail menu fresh. His efforts are much appreciated by customers. At the bar, one of his fans deemed him "the most creative bartender in town."
His passion for producing distinctive cocktails is evident - he even brews his own ginger beer for the Roman Mule. He’s precise and artful in the way he prepares a drink.
"I made The Christmas Word as my homage to the smells of the season," Nilsen said. "But this cocktail is all modern, too."
His gin-based drink brings that sentiment to all the senses. Nilsen shares his recipes for The Christmas Word and the Viking Glogg - a contemporary take on mulled wine.
• 3/4 ounce cognac
• 1/2 ounce Cointreau
• 1/4 ounce lemon juice
• 1/4 ounce Aperol
• Splash of apple cider
• Orange zest, to garnish
Shake all liquid ingredients and pour into champagne coupe glass.
Garnish with orange zest.
Late Night Floral
• 2 ounces Nolet’s gin
• 1/2 ounce lavender white tea simple syrup
• 1/2 ounce Bianco vermouth
• 2 dashes lavender bitters
• 2 dashes orange bitters
• Rose petals, to garnish
Shake all liquid ingredients and pour into cocktail glass.
Garnish with rose petals.
The Christmas Word
• 1 ounce St. George Terroir Gin
• 3/4 ounce Green Chartreuse
• 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
• 1/2 ounce mint simple syrup
• 1 egg white
• Ice, to blend
• Sprig chocolate mint, to garnish
Shake lime juice and egg white, in shaker without ice.
Add ice and remaining ingredients. Shake well.
Strain into martini glass.
Garnish with mint.
• 1 bottle port
• 1 bottle light rum
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 5 cloves
• 2 orange peels
• 3 ounces cracked almonds
• 2 cardamom pods
• 5 ounces dried raisins
• 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Add port to large pot and bring to simmer.
Add remaining ingredients and carefully light mixture on fire with gloves and long grill lighter. Extinguish flames after 1 minute by placing lid over pot.
Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
Pro tip: For sweeter Glogg, add 1/4 cup brown sugar while mixture is on fire.