Spirits of the season: Cocktails to bring good cheer to the home bar

GLASS FULL OF CHEER: Courtney Nelson, bartender at East Asheville's Post 70 Indulgence Bar, uses a combination of cognac, Campari, cranberry juice, heavy cream, chocolate syrup, simple syrup and egg white to create her frothy holiday concoction Caught Under the Mistletoe. Photo by Thom O'Hearn

It’s a little easier to spread happiness and cheer when there are some yuletide spirits in your glass. Xpress asked two of Asheville’s finest barkeeps to provide recipes for craft cocktails that home bartenders can make this holiday season. Donnie Pratt of Cucina 24 offers a hot rum, gin and apricot tiki toddy to keep you warm under the cold glare of Aunt Matilda while you unwrap those gifts. And Courtney Nelson of Post 70 Indulgence Bar at Filo has whipped up a chocolaty cognac fizz for those looking to add a little airiness to the celebration. I have contributed a nice, kitschy, ice-cold Collins riff for those looking to escape the heat of Uncle Albert’s political rants.

Banda Island toddy

by Donnie Pratt of Cucina 24

1 ounce dark Jamaican rum (such as Coruba)
3/4 ounce Beefeater 24 gin
1/4 ounce apricot liqueur (we use Rothman & Winter)
1/4 ounce lemon syrup (see recipe below)
2 dashes aromatic bitters (I use Orinoco bitters, but Angostura would work)
1 dash mace tincture (see recipe below)
3 ounces hot water
Fresh nutmeg
Fresh lemon peel

Add all ingredients to a fancy glass with a handle and grate nutmeg on top. Express the oils from a lemon peel over the drink and discard the peel.

Mace tincture:

2 ½ ounces Everclear
1 ¼ ounces distilled water
1 ounce whole mace (30 grams by weight)

Mix ingredients together; let sit for five days. Strain and bottle.

Lemon syrup:

Peel six lemons, put the peels in a bowl and cover with cane sugar. Let rest for an hour. Juice the lemons to get 1 cup of juice. Gently heat the lemon juice in a saucepan not quite to a boil and stir in a scant cup of cane sugar. Add the sugared lemon peels and mix until they are incorporated and the sugar is dissolved. Strain and bottle.


Caught Under the Mistletoe

by Courtney Nelson of Post 70 Indulgence Bar

1 ½ ounces Salignac cognac
3/4 ounce Campari
1 egg white
1 ounce heavy cream
3/4 ounce cranberry juice
3/4 ounce chocolate syrup (you can make your own, but using store-bought would be acceptable as well)
1/4 ounce simple syrup (see instructions below)

Combine all ingredients in a shaking tin and shake without ice for about a minute. Add some ice and hard-shake those ingredients again. Using a bar strainer, strain the ingredients off the ice and give them one more good shake. This will give you a frothy and delicious dessert beverage that is sure to please all of your holiday guests and perhaps introduce them to an egg-white cocktail.

Simple syrup:

Dissolve equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan at a slow boil.

If We Make It Through December

by Jonathan Ammons

2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce candy-cane syrup
Club soda
Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
Absinthe floater

Combine gin, Campari, candy-cane syrup and bitters in a stirring glass or shaker. Fill with ice and stir gently until ingredients are mixed and glass or shaker has frosted. Strain into a Collins glass on the rocks and top with club soda. Using the back of a spoon pressed firmly against the inside wall of the glass near the waterline, pour the absinthe in slowly to create a nice layer of green across the top of the cocktail.

Candy-cane syrup:

12 standard-sized candy canes
1 cup water

Boil the water and break up the candy canes, adding them to the boiling water. Cover and boil until candy canes are completely dissolved. The resulting mixture should be a nice cherry-red color. If you’d rather not use candy canes, equal parts raw cane sugar and water with a handful of spearmint leaves will also do the trick and be delicious, but it will mess up the whole festive red color scheme and kitsch factor of the drink.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Jonathan Ammons
Native Asheville writer, eater, drinker, bartender and musician. Proprietor of www.dirty-spoon.com Follow me @jonathanammons

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.