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The classic Gibson martini is one of the best holiday cocktails to enjoy at home this New Year’s Eve. Photo by Andrew Maxwell.

As 2020 comes to an end and we prepare our best renditions of “Auld Lang Syne,” many are also preparing to celebrate the holidays at home for the first time. Some people are true experts when it comes to homey, in-bed-before-10 New Year’s Eves; while others love to squeeze into a crowd of thousands in blustery Times Square. Whether you fit comfortably into either category, or rest somewhere in between, one thing is for sure: New Year’s Eve is better with a classy cocktail (and so is New Year’s Morning.) 

Given that you won’t be driving “over the river and through the woods” this holiday season, why not try your hand with a little at-home bartending? It’s a fun way to impress your family and even yourself, not to mention it’s a great way to save a little money. With a little guidance, you’ll be pouring martinis fit for a British spy in no time. We’ll be curating two holiday cocktails perfectly suited for a New Year celebration, and one for the morning after. Please enjoy responsibly.

The Classic Martini

The Gibson Martini was created in direct response to Charles Dana Gibson, who challenged a New York City bartender to improve upon the martini. The bartender simply replaced the olive with an onion. A classic was born.

Into a mixing glass add:

  • 1½ oz Botanical Gin
  • 1½ oz Dry Vermouth, like Noilly Prat 
  • splash of fermented pickle brine
  • lots of ice

Using a teaspoon or bar spoon stir rapidly to chill and slightly dilute the drink. The dilution is essential in the process, otherwise your cocktail would be too strong. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass and garnish with a pickled onion. If you don’t have a fancy cocktail glass, coffee mugs work great too.

The New Martini

gin, lillet, and a stirring spoon in mixing glass
Martini ingredients. Photo by Andrew Maxwell.

Maybe you aren’t the type for onions and old recipes, maybe you’d like to try something a little sweeter and slightly festive to put you in the holiday spirit. My Midnight Martini is just the thing you’re looking for. Cassia Bark Bitters from Denali Spirits gives this drink a slight undertone of cinnamon and the grapefruit twist is the perfect way to use the traditional holiday fruit.

Into a mixing glass add:

  • ¾ oz Botanical Gin (I used 50 Fathoms from Port Chilkoot Distillery
  • ¾ oz your favorite neutral vodka
  • ¾ oz Dry Vermouth, like Noilly Prat
  • ¾ oz Lillet, a French aperitif wine
  • 2 dashes Cassia Bark Bitters
  • lots of ice

Stir rapidly to chill and dilute the beverage and strain into a chilled martini glass or coupe. Express the essence of grapefruit over the drink and along the walls of the glass (to do this, simply use a vegetable peeler to carefully peel away the skin of the grapefruit leaving as much white pith behind as possible, then squeeze the peel over the surface of your beverage. You will notice a tiny spray of fragrant oil full of flavor). Coil the grapefruit peel and drop it in your drink for a beautiful garnish.

Coupe glass with citrus garnish
Add the Midnight Martini with a citrus garnish to your repertoire of holiday cocktails. Photo by Andrew Maxwell.

Hair of The Dog

vodka, olives, tomato juice, and other ingredients
Bloody mary ingredients. Photo by Andrew Maxwell.

While the aforementioned martinis might be best enjoyed in an evening gown, my bloody mary recipe is best served in your pajamas. Long heralded for its “morning after” medicinal properties, the bloody mary is the perfect way to start the new year. There may be as many bloody mary recipes as there are bartenders in the world with myriad ingredients available to concoct endless possibilities. I like to keep my bloodies simple, using fresh ground chili paste and fermented pickle brine to give them the perfect balance of salt, sour, and sweet. The key here is fermented pickle brine which contains no vinegar, if you use a vinegar based brine use only a splash and substitute the rest with water as the vinegar will be overpowering.

Into a cocktail shaker add:

  • 1 oz fermented pickle brine (I use Bubbies Dill Pickles, you can find these in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores)
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground chili paste (like Sambal Oelek)
  • lemon wedge, juice it and toss it in
  • 1 drop fish sauce
  • 2 oz tomato juice
  • 1 oz neutral vodka
  • 1 oz Botanical Gin
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • lots of ice

Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Let your creativity fly when it comes to your favorite garnishes, some people add asparagus, bacon, okra, kimchi, cheese and even hard boiled eggs. I keep it simple with a pickle wedge, an onion, and an olive. One more twist of the pepper mill over the drink and you’re set to take on 2021.

Happy New Year!

bloody mary in rocks glass
A bloody mary to recover from enjoying holiday cocktails the night before. Photo by Andrew Maxwell.

Author

Andrew Maxwell is the Pastry Chef at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Email Andrew at chefandymax@gmail.com

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