Get in the holiday "spirit" with local seasonal libations
Like it or not, it's cold weather time. For a lot of you, all this means is throwing on an extra layer or two before hitting up your favorite watering hole. For those trying to avoid as much of the chill as possible, it involves a lot of social hibernation with whatever mixers are left lying around from your last summer party.
But, why not add some style to your drink card? Winter means more than shutting yourself up at home with Rumchata'd weekend coffee. Just like many of you have plans to deck the halls and light up your homes with a little festive glow, there's no reason why your palate should go, well, un-lit.
Curious-but-cautious winter drinkers don't have to make great leaps to enjoy a good seasonal cocktail. Bryant's Cocktail Lounge, 1579 S. 9th St., has been mixing up its classic holiday punch for around half a century now. This popular mainstay is made with all-in-house ingredients and has remained unchanged since the recipe was created. It returns to the "menu" between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.
"It's a really amazing mix," Bryant's owner John Dye has said of the punch's secret recipe. "It's a little bit fruity, but not overly fruity. It's very punchy. It has enough sweetness to go down easily, but there's a lot of booze in it. It's very deceiving."
While Bryant's has perhaps the oldest winter cocktail tradition, holiday drinkers can visit The Duplex, 785 N. Jefferson St., to sample what could be the start of a new one. The bar, which opened in August, is ringing in its first winter with its apple pie Bellini, a mix of simple syrup, apple cider, secret spices and champagne served in a cinnamon sugar-rimmed glass.
"The drink will be available all month," said The Duplex's owner, William Jenkins.
Just steps away at The Pfister Hotel, the Lobby Lounge is offering its own spicy seasonal treat. Mixed by bartender Val (who is famous for her Pfister Bloody Marys), the Winter Glog is a combination of red wine, brandy, bourbon, apple cider, apple juice, cranberry juice, cloves and cinnamon. It's a creative arrangement, but the hotel staff can't take all the credit.
"This Glog originated from a family recipe of a former guest with ties to the hotel," said The Pfister's social media manager, Dustin Zick.
If all this mention of apples has you sighing wistfully for the bold, warm flavors of seasons past, there is still solace to be found in a few local bars. Craft cocktail fans still clinging to autumn can find refuge at The Hamilton, 823 E. Hamilton St., where the staff's fall menu is still available for the next couple of weeks.
Notable potables include the Carol of Harvest, made with Boomsma Genever gin, Great Lakes Pumpkin Spirit, cayenne-pumpkin syrup, lemon and Bittercube Bolivar bitters; the Autumn Cobbler, a mixture of Bulleit rye, walnut liqueur, lemon, grapes and Angostura bitters; and the Template for Fingerprints, made with Armagnac brandy, Earl Grey-infused vermouth, brown sugar syrup, sage leaves, lemon and Bittercube Jamaican #1 bitters.
"Our winter menu is a few weeks away but some intriguing flavors are already being developed," said owner Kimberly Floyd. "I know one bartender is working on a bourbon-based drink with a pecan/peppercorn-infused vermouth, and a rye drink with a cardamon/anise syrup."
The Hotel Foster, 2028 E. North Ave., and its Bay View sister bar Boone & Crockett, 2151 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., have made quite a name for themselves in the relatively short time they've been open. Known locally as go-to bars for their ever-changing menus of delicious and complex craft cocktails, they recently received national attention in the holiday issue of Imbibe Magazine for their kumquat-cardamom sidecar, a spicy mix of cognac, kumquat- and cardamom-infused white wine, lemon juice and simple syrup.
"It's the perfect transition between lamb chops and holiday fruitcake," co-owner Doug Williams told the magazine.
You wouldn't think from looking at it, but just across the street from Boone & Crockett Hamburger Mary's, 2130 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., is hiding a bevy of cold-weather libations right in plain sight. The big purple burger joint has put its own spin on the hot toddy, spiked hot cocoa and Kahlua'd-up coffee for the winter months. Patrons can choose to warm up with a Nutty Irishman, Peppermint Patti, Hot Mudslide, Aunt Betty's Apple Toddy or A Snog in the Bog for $6.50 apiece.
Hidden away across town in the Tosa Village, Firefly Bar & Grill, 7754 Harwood Ave., has revamped its whole drink menu for the holiday season.
"At Firefly we strive to bring the most flavorful, fresh cocktails to our guests," said manager Chris Prissel. "We use all natural ingredients to flavor our drinks which we feel really sets us apart."
Winter drinkers can wet their whistles with a Cranberry Basil Crush (fresh muddled basil, cranberry and lime juice with fresh lime sour, vodka and seltzer), Spiced Caramel Apple (Canton Ginger liquor, Pearl caramel vodka, apple cider and fresh lemon juice), the Cin-Gin (muddled pear with gin, fresh lemon sour, maple syrup, cinnamon and tonic) and others.
Looking for a little indulgence? Firefly also serves a trio of hot drinks – the Toasted Cocoa-Nut (hot chocolate, Malibu coconut rum and Rumchata topped with whipped cream), Harvest Apple Cider (the house's special spiked cider blend) or Hot Caramel "O" (Alterra coffee, Pearl caramel vodka, Chinese 5 spice and whipped cream) – which all ring in under $9. Page 1 of 2 (view all on one page)
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