One of the best things about winter is the dark nights inside drinking good cocktails with good people—because when you’re too cheap (or broke) to turn up the heat, whiskey is a good substitute. The other good thing is winter weddings. Most of the wedding professionals I know will agree that winter weddings make up some of our favorites, partially because the “off-season” means we’re usually less stressed when the day rolls around, and partially because they’re much less common than spring/summer/fall weddings, so we get to see different decor, fashion, and food than we do the majority of the time. And then of course because the people who throw them tend to be pretty consistently rad (who knows why, but I suspect it has something to do with having an affinity for the unusual).
Since this is the first Easy Cocktails since the APW relaunch, I thought I’d take a second to reintroduce the series. Because, after all, why do you need a professional wedding planner to tell you how to make cocktails? (Thanks for the question, anonymous commenter from the last post!) The answer is actually fairly simple—as with anything related to big events, I look at cocktails through a logistical lens. So, while I personally love a good complicated drink that involves some bartending skillz to execute, I can also tell you that if you’re going to serve shaken, muddled, or carefully built cocktails to a hundred people, you’d best have an experienced bartending staff of more than one person, or hope your guests are prepared for really long lines at the bar. And so, I bring you: Easy Cocktails with Elizabeth from Lowe House and a rotating cast of friends who aren’t professional bartenders, but have strong feelings about cocktails.
The rules for the drinks:
- Only readily available ingredients (i.e., no small batch spirits from that one awesome local place, or really obscure regional fruits, if such a thing still exists in America).
- A maximum of two quick steps to serve—pre-batching the day before is allowed.
- No shaking. See above.
For these winter cocktail recipes, I looped in my friends Charlie Habegger (who’s a specialty coffee professional; he was very amused/frustrated by the rules) to help build the drinks and Melissa Ryan of Marble Rye Photography to photograph us making them (she’s a kick ass food photographer in addition to being an APW sponsor) and to do some QC tasting. So with that, let’s get started. Because I’m pretty excited about these drinks.
The Lion’s Tail is a bourbon lover’s cocktail, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be my jam for the next few months. (I gave the recipe to a bartender the other night while out with friends. Everyone, including the bartender, agreed it was excellent.) Allspice dram is somewhat of a specialty ingredient that you may not already have on your bar, but you can actually pick it up pretty easily if you have a well-stocked liquor store nearby (I got mine at BevMo). Plus it tastes like Christmas, in the most non-gross way possible. Lion’s Tails are traditionally shaken and then served up, but it turns out they’re also great on the rocks, and the best thing about this cocktail is that it batches out beautifully—you can mix the entire thing into a punch bowl or drink dispenser the night before and then serve it on the rocks when needed. Drink carefully, because these suckers are strong.
- Mix together: one part allspice dram, one part lime juice, one part simple syrup, six parts bourbon.
- Serve over ice, with two dashes of bitters and a lime wheel.
Rosemary ProseccO is so simple it’s barely a cocktail, this is an easy way to make a glass of sparkling wine more interesting, and you can make the syrup several days ahead of time. It will also pass muster at venues that don’t allow hard alcohol, which is a fairly common restriction in California.
- To make the rosemary simple syrup: simmer equal parts water and sugar, add one sprig rosemary per cup of sugar, simmer for about five minutes, let cool. Taste—if the rosemary isn’t strong enough, add more and re-simmer. If it’s too strong, dilute with more sugar and water.
- Per champagne flute (or, you know, jam jar): half an ounce of rosemary simple syrup, fill with prosecco (about four ounces) and add a dash of bitters.
Boozy Mexican Hot Chocolate. When I told Charlie and Melissa that we were doing a hot chocolate cocktail with mezcal, both of them were… skeptical that this would work. The morning we shot these, however, there were four people hanging out who’ve all had careers in the high-end food and beverage industries who all resoundingly said that it was oddly delicious and they would definitely drink it.
- Make spicy hot chocolate from mix (I found this one at Whole Foods) using water instead of milk, and twice the called for powder for the amount of liquid.
- Per cup of hot chocolate, add three ounces mezcal and seven dashes chocolate bitters.
- Serve with a cinnamon stick garnish. Or marshmallows if that’s more your jam.
- Keep hot in either a cambro (your caterer can rent you one easily) or in a pretty lidded pot on a propane powered camp stove for bonus prettiness points.
This is clearly calling out to be served in large thermoses and passed around a campfire. Just sayin’.
Have a favorite favorite winter cocktail? Share it in the comments! I’m currently looking for something else prosecco-based to serve at a party next week, so don’t hold back.
Photos by Melissa of Marble Rye Photography (APW Sponsor)