Raise a glass to the holiday season with a little help from the pros. To get inspired to host a holiday cocktail party, we asked Josh Trabulsi, head bartender at San Francisco’s Burritt Room + Tavern, for some of his best mixing tips. Read on to learn how to create expert libations at your next get-together, and scroll down for some celebration-worthy cocktail recipes.
To stir or to shake? Shaking adds tiny air bubbles, resulting in a lighter texture. Shake cocktails that contain ingredients such as citrus, milk or egg whites. Stirring provides a beautiful, clear presentation and a velvety, heavier mouthfeel. Stir when no opaque ingredients are being used.
Use ice wisely. When mixing cocktails, add ingredients into your mixing glass or tin, and then add ice last. Shake or stir, then strain the drink over new ice or into a glass that you’ve chilled. This will result in a properly chilled drink while also preventing over-dilution — no one wants a watered-down drink.
Create a beautiful balance. Before serving your cocktail, insert a straw, cap the top with your finger and taste from the bottom. Now, decide if the drink is balanced or needs adjustment. It could be too sweet, too sour, too strong or too weak (watered down).
Make a quick fix. If the drink is too sweet, add a bar spoon of lime or lemon juice. If it’s too sour, add simple or other syrup. Too strong? Add water or soda. If the cocktail is too weak, try to add more spirit, sweet and sour ingredients, but consider starting over, as diluted drinks can be difficult to fix. Have fun and trust your palate!
Spiced Pear Punch
1 750 ml. bottle bourbon
8 oz. pear liqueur, such as Mathilde Poire Liqueur
4 oz. allspice dram, such as St. Elizabeth’s
4 oz. maple syrup
8 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
Add each item into a punch bowl and stir. Add ice cubes, stir to increase water concentration (dilution level based on your discretion). Garnish with whole cinnamon sticks, star anise and grated clove. Serves 6 to 8.
Applejack Hot Toddy
2 oz. applejack
1/2 oz. p0megranate syrup, such as Monin
1/2 oz. honey
1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 oz. water
1 oz. spiced orange or chai tea
Bring all ingredients to a boil using a tea maker. Serve in a mug and garnish with orange peel and shaved cinnamon. Serves 1.