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In this series, the food writer, wine lover and cookbook obsessive Kristin Donnelly test-drives the most fun and inspiring new books that come across her desk.
The Book: Winter Cocktails, by Maria del Mar Sacasa
Best for: People who love to entertain in winter.
Recipe highlights: Mulled White Wine; Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate; Nutella Melt; Butterscotch Eggnog; Bloody Good Punch; Orchard Fête; Affogata Speciale; Candied Bacon; Cheater Doughnuts
Cocktail books have gotten a little geeky lately. They’re what I pull off the shelf when I want to know the history of a drink, or have the budget and wherewithal to chase down five different specialty liqueurs.
But Winter Cocktails, by food stylist Maria del Mar Sacasa, is a total crowd-pleaser, with most recipes calling for one or two spirits. All of those drinks that new-school bartenders turn their noses up at—the White Russian, the Brandy Alexander—they’re in here. As is plenty of amaretto—Sacasa uses it to spike chai tea and sweeten a Champagne-and-bourbon punch.
But she does things the right way, making her own sour mix to add to sangria and juicing fresh pineapple for a bacon-infused bourbon drink (garnished with candied bacon!).
Many of the drinks lean sweet, but they’re also balanced: Her Butterscotch Eggnog, for example, might sound cloying, but she makes it with a super-dark caramel, plenty of bourbon and a pinch of salt.
A lot of the drinks are so appealing and evocative (as are the clean, modern photos by Tara Striano), they leave me fantasizing about how I’d serve them. The Orchard Fête—a rosemary–infused cider punch spiked with applejack? Sounds perfect after a hayride. The Nutella Melt—a boozy, hazelnutty hot chocolate? The new go-to for après ski.
Speaking of skiing (and fun fantasies), this book is what I’d give to anyone who hosted me for a wintery weekend on the slopes. Since I don’t actually ski, I’d spend my time making these recipes to welcome everyone else back to the house. (Hint, hint, I’d be a really great guest.)
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.