Holiday Drinks

We’ve all been there. It’s the holiday season and you’re throwing back a few cocktails. One minute you’re chatting with a co-worker and the next you’ve got the proverbial lamp shade on your head.

We’ve all been there. It’s the holiday season and you’re throwing back a few cocktails. One minute you’re chatting with a co-worker and the next you’ve got the proverbial lamp shade on your head. So, what do you need to know before going out for your first round of merrymaking? Here are a few tips from some veteran New Jersey bar and restaurant folks as well as their favorite seasonal recipes for you to sip—slowly and responsibly.

Nancy Laird, co-owner of the award-winning Restaurant Serenade in Chatham, says, “Make sure you keep track of how many alcoholic drinks you actually consume. At parties, where hosts and/or servers keep refreshing your glass with champagne or wine, it’s easy to lose count of how much you’re imbibing.”

Be like the French and keep the flavor high, says Kiera McElwain, events coordinator at Red in Red Bank. That way, she says, “you don’t feel the need to have more than you should. Drinking a great holiday cocktail will satisfy your palate a lot more than beer, where the salt content is so high that you’re constantly thirsty.”

David Burke’s new in Millburn is the celebrity chef’s latest foray into New Jersey eats. His managing director, Evelyn Hsu, who also happened to create the cocktail menu, thinks drinking without eating will definitely shorten an evening. “When planning parties with the host, I will insist on offering passed hors d’oeuvres. Most holiday parties occur after work on an empty stomach.” Though the holidays are supposed to be happy times, she’s witnessed many potentially embarrassing episodes. “The best thing anyone can do is gently whisper to the guest. Distract him from his actions by offering food. By the time he wants to play Tarzan and swing on your custom chandelier, he’ll have a juicy mini crab cake to nibble on. However, you never want to embarrass a person in front of his colleagues. I’ve even pretended that someone has an important call to take and escort him to the podium to draw him away from the crowd. When we reach the podium, I simply say, ‘Oh—they must have disconnected.’ It buys you time,” she adds.

“Always remember to stay hydrated,” says bartender James Rienzi of Arthur’s Landing in Weehawken, a restaurant and lounge with a spectacular view of the New York City skyline. “Having a glass of water for every cocktail you enjoy will make a world of difference in how you feel the next day.”

“As a bartender you need to be aware of all the patrons alcohol intake, a drunk person at a holiday party can ruin the night for everyone.  I try to keep people eating, talking  and do not encourage shots,” says bartender Bob Gigante, who is co-owner of Nine in Hoboken. “If they are eating and talking the won’t have time to drink too much.”

Tim Vlachopoulos, general manager of the newly opened Axia Taverna in Tenafly, says simply, “Don’t switch from wine to spirits if you want to make it through a holiday party. And limit your intake to one cocktail per hour.”  

Cocktail Recipes

Restaurant Serenade
2 oz. Maker’s Mark bourbon
5 oz. fresh apple cider
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
3 dashes simple syrup, optional
apple slice for garnish
cherry for garnish

Mix first four ingredients in a tumbler with ice. Garnish with apple slice and cherry.

1-1/2 oz. vodka
1 oz. Starbucks coffee liqueur
egg nog
nutmeg for garnish

Mix vodka and liqueur and serve over ice, topped with your favorite homemade or store-bought egg nog. Garnish with nutmeg.
1-1/2 oz. citrus vodka
1-1/2 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. coconut syrup
1/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1/4 oz. passion fruit purée
4 basil leaves
1/2 pkg. Pop Rocks

Combine all ingredients except Pop Rocks in mixing glass filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into coupe. Garnish with Pop Rocks or rim glass with Pop Rocks.

Arthur’s Landing
1-1/4 oz. Pearl pomegranate vodka
1/4 oz. Cointreau
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup
1-1/4 oz. pomegranate puree
sugar-coated mint leaves for garnish

Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and shake
vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with sugar-coated mint leaves.

2 oz. Tequila Patron
2 oz. Tanqueray gin
1 oz. Midori melon liqueur
1 oz. fresh lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
fresh mint for garnish

Shake all ingredients and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with fresh mint leaf.

1-1/2 oz. Don Julio tequila
1 shot ginger ale
splash of sour mix
1 tsp. of brown sugar
1 tsp. fresh diced ginger

Muddle ginger in the ginger ale. Shake all ingredients and serve.

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