You've dressed the tree. You've taken your favorite reindeer sweater out of the mothballs and put the inflatable animatronic snowman on the roof. 'Tis now the time to turn your attention to that greatest gift you can give to your holiday party guests: the well-stocked bar and solid cocktail game plan.
Eben Freeman, beverage genius for the Altamarea Group, which includes Michael White's The Butterfly and Marea, recommends buying a few special bottles for the holidays. He stocks up on Christian Drouin Poiré pear cider ($45), Frapin Ch. Fontpoint XO Cognac ($98), St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram ($30), Laird's Apple Brandy ($26) and Berg & Hauck's Jerry Thomas Bitters ($26).
"Anything you make with whiskey you can try with apple jack," he says. "Spend a little bit more money on a nice cognac like the XO so you've got something really nice to finish the night with."
Butter your rum
Freeman mixed us a haute buttered rum topped with the Poiré pear cider. The drink, called The Crumble (see recipe) is caramelly, sweet and easy to make and scale. It tastes like the holidays in a glass.
Use what you've got
Look to the spice cabinet, advises cocktail expert Don Lee. "Most people already have what they need to make a great holiday cocktail: a cinnamon stick, say, some whiskey, sugar and honey. A hot toddy is a perfect for a cold day."
"Call your grandma," says Josh Fossitt of The Harrison in Tribeca. And not just to wish her happy holidays. "Ask her for some glassware; she's probably got the old school stuff. The glasses you have in your house are generally too huge. Smaller glasses make drinks feel special."
Have a punch list
Punches are the secret to no-hassle holiday entertaining. "You can make a punch a few days before," says Freeman. "That way you're not stuck behind the bar, which is drag for both you and your guests." Top with sparkling wine and dress it up with something seasonal and pretty like pomegranates or cranberries.
The DIY option
Rick Pitcher, beverage director at Manzanilla, suggests putting the guests to work. "Do a 'Make Your Own Eggnog' party or a Manhattan/Martini bar. You provide a variety of different liquors, vermouths, bitters and twists."
And if you're going out...
Help a host out by bringing an extra bag of ice. "People never have enough ice," Don Lee says. "I always travel with a little cooler."
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