Cocktail trends are often harbingers or bellwethers, indicating signs of the times.
Over the last twenty years, there’s been a cocktail renaissance — it’s stylish to sip an impeccably crafted Old-Fashioned or Sazerac — even if these vintage classics date to 1806 and 1850, respectively.
Channeling the culinary revolution that fine-tuned our focus and whetted our appetites for fresh ingredients sourced locally, today’s cocktail ingredients link fragile nostalgia for simpler times with the pleasure of tasting finely crafted liquors in prettily dressed up bars and retro-styled speakeasies.
And then, a few years ago came edible glitter.
Alluring in a brassy, in-your-face-look-at-me sort of way, cocktails (and beer, cake, bagels and pizza) became bedecked with glitter, beads and pearls, all of which you can eat. Pink chocolate glitter-dipped strawberries in champagne, anyone?
The interesting thing is this: when A&E Spotlight asked local bartenders, distilleries and restaurants to show us what they were shaking up for the holidays, 2021-style, there was no glitter to be found. And you know how hard it is to get rid of glitter.
The cocktails being slung to help celebrate the end of this year align with cozy comforts and classics. Look for plenty of variations on the Old-Fashioned and lots of adult versions of milk-and-cookies.
Maybe, after 21 months of this pandemic, the sips that outlast the times are what are most warm and welcoming.
Distilleries have their own master mixologists for in-house sipping, but you can also buy their craft products to shake and garnish these cocktails at home.
477 Distilling, 825 9th St. Unit B, Greeley
General manager Brie Rodriguez’s (and most of the 477 staff’s) favorite cocktail is the Gin-Gerbread. The combination of 477 Distilling’s Double Gold winning gin and Chai Spirit, house-made ginger and cinnamon-clove simple syrups, and dashes of Fee Brothers molasses bitters gives this creamy cocktail strong notes of cinnamon, spice and a hint of Free Leaf’s rooibus tea. That creamy froth comes from shaking the heck out of it with spoonful of egg white powder, Rodriguez said.
- 2 oz Chai Spirit
- 1 oz Gin
- ½ oz Ginger Syrup
- ½ oz Cinnamon-Clove Syrup
- 2 dashes Molasses
- 1 scoop Egg White Powder
- Garnish: Cinnamon
Glass: Coup, no ice
Shake and double strain
Spirit Hound Distillers, 4196 Ute Highway, Lyons
Gin’s botanical complexity might seem more appropriate for a summery gin-and-tonic, but in London, vapors coming off the Thames River make sipping gin in vogue year round. Spirit Hound shares a recipe for its London Fog gin-inspired cocktail created by their resident mixologist, Amanda Englehorn. Barrel-finished gin made with fresh-picked juniper berries from the banks of the St. Vrain River spends six months in new, charred White American Oak barrels. The result is a “beautiful interplay between spices and oak,” Spirit Hound said. Tart cherry and Earl Grey simple syrups make this cocktail a wintery classic.
- 1-1/2 oz Spirit Hound Distillers’ barrel-finished gin
- 1/2 oz tart cherry simple syrup
- 3/4 oz Earl Grey simple syrup
- 2 oz oat milk
Tart cherry simple syrup: Roughly chop 4.25 oz dried tart unsweetened cherries and infuse with one bottle vodka for one week. Strain cherries and make syrup with 1 cup dissolved sugar in 1 cup hot water, cooled. Mix 1 cup syrup and 1 cup cherry infusion.
Earl Grey simple syrup: Pour 2 cups boiling water over 4 Earl Grey tea bags and steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and stir in 2 cups sugar until dissolved. Chill.
To craft the London Fog: Add gin, tart cherry syrup and Earl Grey syrup to shaker with ice and shake. Pour contents into Old Fashioned glass, leaving room for oat milk. Garnish with expressed lemon twist, rubbing around glass rim.
Syntax Distillery and Cocktail Bar, 700 6th Street, Greeley
It’s “pie in a glass,” said Heather Bean, Still Mistress at Syntax. “Rich, creamy and holiday-flavorful,” Syntax’s cute and cuddly P-spice Martini incorporates elements of pumpkin spice, simple syrup and Syntax Heavy Rum. The distillery’s newest spirit starts with 100% American dark cane molasses blended with Rocky Mountain whitewater, and is then fermented to coax out its smooth, malted caramel flavor. Whiskey barrel aging with a kiss of molasses adds a luxurious mouthfeel. Syntax’s skilled bartenders embellish the martini with miniature candy gingerbread men that are so darned cute, it’s guaranteed to hit the p-spot.
- 2 shots milk
- 1 shot simple syrup
- 1 shot Syntax Heavy Rum
- 1/4 tsp pumpkin spice
Shake with ice for 30 seconds, strain into martini glass and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
For service with style, these area restaurants deliver cocktails to your table with a festive smile.
Coyotes’ Southwestern Grill, 5250 West 9th Street Drive, Greeley, Blue Agave Grill, (locations in Fort Collins, Longmont, Denver) Palomino Mexican Restaurant, (Greeley-Evans, Loveland)
The company-wide Yuletide Jalisco Old Fashioned, conceptualized by Ian Bearss at the Fort Collins Blue Agave Grill, is a yuletide-inspired Jalisco style Old Fashioned. Warm flavors of Maestro Dobel Añejo tequila, Tuaca Italian Brandy, Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract and hellfire bitters merge with cinnamon-nutmeg infused cranberry simple syrup for a sweet touch of holiday festivity. A fresh rosemary sprig garnish grounds the nose with an earthy aroma that ignites the senses to notes of vanilla, spices, orange essence and cranberry.
Greeley Chophouse, 804 8th Street, Greeley
The Greeley Chophouse envisioned the Mistletoe Martini to celebrate the holidays this year. This ever so slight twist on the classy holiday sipper offers familiar seasonal flavors without the heaviness of holiday indulging. Perfectly balanced Kettle One Vodka, cranberry juice and Blue Agave syrup is shaken, chilled and topped with a splash of ginger ale. Light and slightly fruity, the martini is a pleasant palate tickler to welcome the holiday season.
Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar, (Fort Collins, Boulder, LoDo, Glendale, Colorado Springs locations)
Oysters have a reputation for being aphrodisiacal, and while that’s probably the stuff of myth and legend (thanks, Casanova), there’s always room for romance during the holidays. Jax is shaking up the Love Potion #9 — Van Gogh Naturally infused Dutch Chocolate Vodka, Frangelico, Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur and a dollop of crème chantilly. The liquids are shaken and strained into a martini glass lined with stripes of strawberry purée. Garnished with chocolate shavings, this sweet sipper is perfect for cozying up with your honey for the holidays.
Kenny’s Steak House, 3502 West 10th Street, Greeley
Created by one of Kenny’s Steak House’s manager/bartenders ironically named “Nick,” Kenny’s owner Matt Larson noted that although the restaurant’s featured cocktail is just what Kris Kringle is hoping you’ll leave for him to sip by the fireside after a long night’s work, they’re not sure if Bartender Nick qualifies as a Saint. Even so, their Sugar Cookie Martini, shaken up with Vanilla Vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Amaretto, milk and a dash of powdered sugar is the cat’s meow. With sweet notes of chocolate, vanilla, a hint of nuts and rimmed with red and green sprinkles, this nostalgic martini combines a childhood joy for the holidays with a grownup taste.
The Kress Cinema & Lounge, 817 8th Avenue, Greeley and Speakeasy (shhhh, don’t tell anyone about it)
The Kress offers two versions of their Homemade Eggnog every year that’s crafted in house. Upstairs, the lounge version is concocted with bourbon and spiced rum. Downstairs in the speakeasy (enter through The Kress doors, walk downstairs and flip the switch until someone lets you in) the nog is made with amontillado sherry and anejo tequila. Served in a retro eggnog mug and garnished with fresh grated nutmeg, this is a classic holiday must have, at least once in the season.
Windsor Mill Tavern, 301 Main Street Unit C, Windsor
Stirring up something warm and wonderful as the weather finally turns colder, Windsor Mill Tavern’s Sweater Weather cocktail riffs on a traditional hot toddy.
J. Seeds Apple Cider Whiskey, Whiskeysmith Salted Caramel Whiskey, fresh lemon and mulled apple cider mingle classic holiday and wintery flavors to warm you up. Inspired to create a feeling of coziness, what’s cozier than a sweater in the wintertime?