When the holidays come around I think of clinking glasses and cocktail parties featuring concoctions fit for my stocking – and stockings. (It’s time for both wearing the leggings under ski pants and dressing to the nines for a high-toned round of cocktails before a chef’s table.) And since you never know what co-worker or family member is going to show up at said cocktail party, it’s good to have a diverse repertoire, so I prefer to return to a class of drinks that can be improvised when thinking of mixing for the holidays.
For this, I summon the duos and trios. You might recognize many famous drinks that are also popular duos and trios: Brandy Alexanders, Rusty Nails, Black and White Russians, The Grasshopper, and my favorite, The Stinger.
Duos are constructed by using two ingredients: any type of spirit and any type of liqueur. Since there are only two ingredients, general drink-mixing ratios don’t really apply; you can try any ratio or combination you can imagine. In addition, most of these drinks can be warmed and turned in to toddies. (See the G Style Imbibe section for details on toddies.)
Not all trios come from duos, however most trios are usually duos with cream or cream liqueur added as the third ingredient. When it comes to the cream, half-and-half is best but soy, almond or skim milk can be used in a modified version. It’s your preference. Tread lightly when adding the cream – less is more. Or, for even more fun and – caution – more alcohol, add in a cream liqueur: Frangelico, Amarula, Irish Mist, Baileys, Godiva, etc.
Another great class of drinks that is fantastic for the holidays and often forgotten: pousse cafes. These drinks are layered cocktails that show well if you have the desire to execute them. The most famous is the B-52 (Irish cream, coffee liqueur and orange brandy) but there are plenty of other mouthwatering alternatives that will warm you from the inside out.
First, pour 3 ounces of Cognac or brandy into an ice-filled glass. Then add half an ounce of white crème de menthe. To enhance this cocktail, use crushed ice, or hand-crush your own cubed or blocked ice. Then pour the white crème de menthe over the Cognac and let it mix down like smoke rising. If you decide to make the drink in to a martini, shake it well – this one should be ice-cold, ladies.
TRIPLE DIAMOND BLACK: Combine 2 ounces of brandy or aged grappa with half an ounce of Frangelico. Stir twice and strain into a martini glass.
AMARETTO ALEXANDER (A MODIFIED TRIO): Combine 2 ounces of amaretto, 1 1/2 ounces white crème de cacao and 1 ounce cream. Shake and strain, then garnish with toasted almond slivers. To enhance this drink, mix real vanilla – two small drops – into the cream with a whisk before combining with the amaretto and crème de cacao.
(Note: This drink is more tropical and ideal on those occasional 96-degree December days in Austin.) Combine half an ounce each of Frangelico, crème de banane and blue curacao. Layer the drinks in order in the glass. (Use a spoon, holding the tip just inside the glass, and pour each ingredient into the spoon, letting it slowly flow over until it sits on top of the ingredient below.)
FRENCH KISS SHOOTER:
Combine half an ounce each of Frangelico, Baileys and amaretto. Layer the ingredients in order in a pousse-café glass or an Irish coffee glass (or get crazy and make a parfait in a champagne flute).
And just for fun – although not much technique is involved – I must mention the Black and White Cocktail, a drink invented by the great Gary Regan. Though he refers to it as a pousse-café, his nose would be growing if we really inspected this drink, as only the whipped cream forms a layer. But this one works fine in the lodge after a long day on the slopes.
BLACK AND WHITE COCKTAIL:
Combine 1 1/2 ounces of brandy, half an ounce of dark crème de cacao and 3 ounces of strong coffee. Layer whipped cream on top and garnish with shaved chocolate. (Try your favorite exotic chocolate bar. Especially good is a chocolate infused with chipotle or other pep pers.)