The scene is a familiar one. Wine glasses abound, half-full or mostly empty. Beer bottles are neatly lined up on the counter waiting to be rinsed for recycling. Bottles of sparkling sit chilling in an ice bath, and popped corks adorn shelves and side tables alike. Such is the usual beverage accoutrement of holiday conviviality. Some adventurous souls provide their guests with mixed drink options. But unless you have a fully stocked bar, buying the different spirits to stock a mini-bar can set you back a pretty penny. So let’s compromise. Let’s pick a few forgotten but delicious and fun cocktails, and a perennial favorite to serve alongside the dauntless (and countless) bottles of beer and wine.
We’ll start with the staid gentlemen of the lot: the classic vodka martini. Two parts vodka, one part vermouth, this dignified combination has been a mainstay of sophisticated imbibery since the invention of imbibing. Needless to say, not all vodka martinis are created equal. Many are downright swill, effective only in their ability to incapacitate the drinker, be it by spasmodic coughing from the sheer disgustitude of the liquors used, or the biblical amount consumed in order to overcome the repugnant taste of such cheap liquor. Top Shelf costs an arm and a leg for a reason. Of course the quality of the vodka is vital, but so is the vermouth. With Noilly Prat no longer offering a dry vermouth, Dolin is the next best option. Stick with well-known vodkas, Grey Goose, Belvedere and Van Gogh. But slightly less expensive French vodkas such as Esmé, Esmé Black Shield and Froggy B are all delicious alternatives. Keep the vodka in the freezer.
Classic Dry Vodka Martini
- 1 ounce vodka
- ½ ounce dry vermouth
- queen olives for garnish
Shake the vodka and vermouth over ice until the shaker is painfully cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with queen green olives.
Martinis appeal to many, but their inescapably dry flavor isn’t universally liked. We can up the ante in our drink endeavor with the tart and treacherous Kamikaze, a drink from the bygone days of our youth. We’ve already got our vodka on hand. We’ll only need a superb orange liqueur such as Cointreau and lime juice. But beware. Much like the name implies, this drink packs a certifiable wallop. If you plan to serve a large gathering, you can make this drink up in a pitcher and store it in the fridge. Since this drink can be strained or served over ice, it’s the perfect make-ahead cocktail. And your guests can serve themselves.
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1 ounce orange liqueur
- 1 ounce lime juice
Shake the drink over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass, or strain into an ice-filled tumbler.
For a playful shooter, we offer up the Rattlesnake. This beautifully layered shot is meant to be tossed back in a single quaff. And with its relatively low alcohol liqueurs and creamy top, there’s no burning heat on the way down. Guests might be inclined to have several of these shooters so consider pouring an entire tray before passing them around. The layers, starting with Kahlúa need to be carefully poured so they don’t blend. This is easily achieved by slowly pouring the liquor over the back of a small spoon with it pressed against the shot glass and the tip touching the top of the liquor you are pouring on to. Pouring from a smaller container will give you better control. Of course, practice makes perfect, and these sweet and creamy shooters taste just as good even if they aren’t in perfect layers. Keep the shot glasses in the freezer before pouring.
In a shot glass, layer equal parts Kahlúa, clear crème de cacao, and Irish cream by pouring the liquors over the back of a small spoon.
For our grand finale, we end with Muddled Raspberry Lemonade. Fresh raspberries, muddled with a small amount of sugar provide the beautiful color for this slightly sweet, and pleasantly tart cocktail. Our only spirit will be vodka, but for this drink, lemon-flavored vodka, also known as citron, works best. This drink is topped with lemonade of which fresh-squeezed is preferred. A half cup of fresh squeeze lemon juice and a half cup of sugar are mixed with one quart of water for the best results. Commercial lemonades that are pulp-free would be an acceptable substitute. This drink is served in a tall glass with ice and can be garnished with any manner of fruit or served without.
Muddled Raspberry Lemonade
- 5 fresh raspberries
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 ½ ounces citron vodka
Muddle the raspberries and sugar. Add the vodka. Pour the muddled mixture into a tall glass filled with ice. Top with lemonade. Garnish with fruit if desired.
New Year’s Eve, or any celebration, can be made special with just a few drink alternatives and only a few bottles of liquor. Consider these tasty and traditional additions to your tippling repertoire.