The Alpine Mai Tai Courtesy of The Beehive
Often sugary or creamy, holiday drinks can taste more like liquid dessert than balanced cocktails. “The temptation is to do peppermint this and gingerbread that,” says Nate Hayden, bartender at The Beehive, a jazz club, bar and restaurant in Boston’s South End. “But we wanted to create something fun and slightly sweet, but also with real complexity to it as well.” Inspired by the nostalgic scent of pine trees, Hayden came up with the Alpine Mai Tai.
To winterize the classic tiki cocktail, Hayden adds schnapps-esque Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur from the Austrian Alps, which provides fresh, clean pine notes. “It’s a familiar taste but different for everybody,” Hayden says. “For some people it reminds them of the holidays, for some people it reminds them of where they grew up.”
For his seasonal mai tai, Hayden mixes the pine liqueur with vanilla-flavored Whaler’s Hawaiian-style dark rum, toffee-tinged Mount Gay rum, ginger- and lime-spiced Falernum bitters, and orgeat, an almond-based syrup.
“In a summer drink, orgeat tastes fresh and light and sweet, but when you introduce things that are more reminiscent of winter and fall flavors, the more Christmas candy, marzipan notes start coming out in it,” Hayden says. Served over ice in a Collins glass and garnished with a slice of lime, the cocktail evokes summer nights but tastes like winter with flavors of fresh pine, toasted nuts and baked vanilla.
Here, more delicious and innovative cocktails for the holidays.
The NoMad, New York
Also inspired by pine trees, beverage director Leo Robitschek created the Pins and Needles cocktail: juniper-infused London dry gin; aged, slightly sweet Old Tom gin; floral Chambéry dry vermouth, made with Alpine botanicals; pale cream sherry; maraschino liqueur and Clear Creek Douglas Fir Eau de Vie, a pale green, pine-needle-scented brandy made with spring buds from the trees. “The cocktail is similar to a gin martini,” Robitschek says. “But more rich and textured, finishing with aromatic pine flavors.” The Pins and Needles is served up in a cocktail coupe.
Manifesto, Kansas City, Missouri
This small 48-seat speakeasy offers the Cranberry Cobbler, made with amontillado sherry, Ransom Old Tom gin, Angostura bitters, lemon juice, orange juice, muddled cranberries and a house-made honey-cinnamon syrup. Shaken over ice and poured into a Collins glass, the citrusy, spiced cocktail is a festive take on a classic sherry cobbler.
Sugar House, Detroit
Designed to feel like it’s been around for 100 years, with a refurbished bar from the early 1900s and vintage chandeliers, the one-year-old Sugar House serves a holiday variation on the old-fashioned, meant to recall roasted chestnuts. The Gun Show mixes smoky Vida Mezcal with vanilla- and spice-flavored Elijah Craig bourbon, orange bitters and house-made chestnut syrup.
Laurel Hardware, Los Angeles
Located inside a former hardware store, this West Hollywood bar serves the holiday-hued, vibrantly red Skinnies Fog. Beverage manager Cole Apodaca infuses plum vodka with fresh red beets for color and sweetness. Then he blends the vodka with fruity Lillet Rosé, lemon juice, simple syrup and plum bitters. The cocktail is shaken and strained over ice into a Collins glass, and served garnished with a lemon wheel wrapped around a micro beet and a sprig of mint.