carey jones
Credit: © Carey Jones

So you’ve picked out your Christmas tree, untangled the damn lights, and tossed a few ornaments on the thing — you deserve a cocktail. And since we’re in the spirit, let’s pull out our favorite Yuletide liqueur: Zirbenz. That’s be “Zirbenz, Stone Pine Liqueur of the Alps.”

Made by a family-owned operation in Austria, it basically tastes the way a Christmas tree smells. Intrepid locals journey high into the Alps to pick the fruit of the Arolla Stone Pine, used to create the compelling liqueur. It’s piney, just sweet enough up front but bone-dry on the finish, and it’s about as festive as they come. Try it out in these three cocktails.

Easy: Alpine Soda

The weight and intensity of Zirbenz mean that it’s quite an experience to sip straight. Delicious, don’t get us wrong — but powerful. So lightening it up with lots of soda water lets you appreciate the alpine flavor in a much drier, more drinkable form. You can just garnish with a sprig of rosemary to kick up the herbal element — or if you want to get bartender-y about it, give the sprig a little scorch with a lighter, giving you a more powerful burnt-herb flavor.

Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1 ounce Zirbenz with 4 ounces soda water. Give a quick stir and garnish with a lemon wheel and a sprig of rosemary. For burnt rosemary, before you garnish, run a flame lightly along the sprig until it starts to smell fragrant.

Intermediate: Christmas Martini

We’re not calling this a martini because it’s cutesy to call any cocktail served up a martini. We’re calling it a martini because it’s a proper martini — gin and dry vermouth. A bit of pine liqueur picks up on gin’s herbal-botanical character, blending in seamlessly for a flavor that integrates pine with juniper and citrus.

Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine ounces 2 gin (we’re using Beefeater), 1/2 an ounce Zirbenz, and 1/2 an ounce dry vermouth, plus a 1/4 ounce simple syrup and 1 dash orange bitters. Stir until very well-chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a lemon peel, twisting over the surface of the drink to spray its citrus oils all over.

Advanced: Alpine Margarita

So we’ve never had a margarita in the Austrian Alps. But if we did, it’d taste something like this. Good tequila’s slightly grassy character is a great pair for pine-y Zirbenz, with lemon for a little kick of acid and just a little bit of sweetener. We didn’t know we needed a Christmas margarita in our lives, but now that it’s here, we’re shaking it up every holiday.

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 ounce of silver tequila, 1 ounce of Zirbenz, 3/4 ounce of lemon juice, 1/4 ounce of simple syrup, and 1 dash Angostura bitters. Shake until well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a few lemon wheels.