Seasonal spices and tradition poured lovingly into holiday cocktail creations

December 19, 2016

It's always better to go dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh with a fabulous cocktail in hand.

OK, so there's rarely snow in Houston. And few urbanites probably have ever seen a one-horse sleigh, let alone dashed in one. But that's no reason we can't get all jingle belled when it comes to delicious cocktails during the holidays. Houston's best bartenders certainly are thinking of winter flavors, spices and traditions when it comes to putting spirit into holiday spirits.

We asked four bartenders at local restaurants to create a drink that best expresses the season. Here's what they came up with.


Chris Morris

Hunky Dory


Inspiration: "Calvados is made in Normandy, France. The House of Beaumont is one of the great Anglo-Norman baronial families of England," Morris says. "So (this cocktail ties Hunky Dory's) British leanings with that geographic area, and no doubt a baronial house would know a thing or two about luxury."The House of Beaumont

1½ ounces Calvados

¾ ounce Drambuie

½ ounce Madeira

2 dashes aromatic bitters

1 dash chocolate bitters

Cinammon stick, for aroma

Cherry and rosemary, for garish

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a snifter that has been scented with the smoke of 1 cinnamon stick (light the end with a lighter or match and let the smoke gather in the glass). Garnish with a cherry skewered with a sprig of rosemary.

Kimberly Paul

Étoile Cuisine et Bar


Inspiration: Paul took her cue from a classic Champagne cocktail with the bitters and sugar cube. The name of the cocktail is based on the Normandy region of France "where Calvados and Benedictine are from," she says. "Also, I like how it plays on the film title 'Roman Holiday.' "

Norman Holiday

½ ounce Benedictine

½ ounce Calvados

1 turbinado sugar cube

Angostura Bitters


Slice of apple, for garnish

Instructions: Put sugar cube in champagne flute, soak with several good dashes bitters, add Benedictine and Calvados, top with cold champagne.

Garnish with apple slice.

Richard Middleton

Brennan's of Houston


Inspiration: Brennan's is known for respecting seasonality, and its bar follows suit. Cooler months, Middleton says, naturally turn to classic flavors such as pear and vanilla. Here they show up in a simple but direct evocation of the season.

Autumn Pear

2 ounces Double Cross Vodka

¼ ounce vanilla syrup

½ ounce fresh lemon juice

2 ounces pear nectar

Slice of pear, for garnish

Instructions: Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice.

Shake and strain into a martini glass.

Garnish with a slice of pear.Judith Piotrowski

Pax Americana


Inspiration: Hot buttered rum is a winter favorite. Piotrowski made this favorite drinkable even for Texas' warm winters. "It's perfect for our mild weather but still puts you in the mood for the holiday," she says.


The Golden Girl

1½ ounces buttered rum

½ ounce Cointreau

½ ounce simple syrup

Spoonful of Benedictine

Dehydrated orange and cinnamon stick, for garnish

Instructions: Combine ingredients in mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain over ice into rocks glass. Garnish with dehydrated orange and cinnamon stick.

To make buttered rum: In a skillet, melt ¼ pound butter and add 10 cloves, 7 star anise and 1 tablespoon allspice. Let simmer gently for 15 minutes. Pour into a container and add 2 cups dark rum. Stir and cover.

Put in freezer overnight. Butter will solidify so it can be removed in a solid piece.

Fine-strain to remove any excess particles. Rum is now ready to use.