Holiday cocktails have never tasted this good
Eggnog, hot toddies and hot buttered rums are not the only drinks on the holiday bar menus throughout the area.
Seattle Times staff reporter
You can't think of Christmas cocktails without conjuring up images of eggnog, hot toddy and hot buttered rum. It doesn't matter that these bar staples traditionally have been awful — too boozy, too sweet and too heavy. But if you have barhopped or taken a bar break during a shopping spree, you might notice, as I have, that the eggnogs and other holiday standbys or variations of them have gotten better. They are better structured and well thought out, balanced and complex. You'll also find quirky Christmassy drinks, pre-Prohibition-era flaming drinks and dessert cocktails dug up from old cocktail books for this festive occasion.
Few bars resort to the store-brand eggnog anymore. Credit that to the cocktail renaissance. Bars such as Rob Roy in Belltown and Cuoco on South Lake Union even offer classes on making seasonal drinks at home.
Holiday drinks tend to taste like dessert in a glass, often with a foamy or creamy texture, with hints of allspice, nutmeg or cinnamon, many steaming hot.
Here is a sampling of what is being served across the area.
Knee High Stocking Co., 1356 E. Olive Way (Capitol Hill). How can you not like a drink called a "Christmas Cup of Awesome?" It sort of tastes like an eggnog, a gin drink made with cinnamon, egg white, sweetened with agave nectar and topped with a chocolate stout beer reduction. A Christmas tree gets stenciled on top of the foam (206-979-7049, text messages only, or www.kneehighstocking.com; open Christmas Day).
Liberty, 517 15th Ave. E. (Capitol Hill). This hot buttered rum is less creamy than usual but gluttonous all the same, made with melted ice cream, butter, spices and copious amounts of different rums. Instead of using boiling water, the bartenders decided, eh, let's just set the drink on fire (206-323-9898 or www.libertybars.com; open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).
Lot No. 3, 460 106th Ave. N.E. (Bellevue). If this gamy, zesty, holiday cocktail were an entree, it would be Duck à l'Orange. It's bourbon with duck fat, rosemary, pepper and orange peel. For a cocktail, the "duck fat washed bourbon" gets mixed with vermouth, orange liqueur, bitters and some lemon and cinnamon tinctures. It's a wink to the traditional Christmas drink formula. The duck fat plays the rich role that whole milk, egg or cream would serve and the drink is savory instead of sweet (425-440-0025 or www.lotno3.com).
Rob Roy, 2332 Second Ave. (Belltown). The Crimson & Clover is a Christmas take on one of my favorite gin drinks, The Clover Club, with egg white and lemon juice, with the traditional raspberry syrup subbed out for a mulled-wine syrup. You could pick a dozen other good Christmas cocktails at this popular craft-cocktail joint. Each day leading up to Christmas Eve, the bar features a holiday cocktail. Get recipes and history of that day's holiday drink at caskstrength.wordpress.com (206-956-8423 or robroyseattle.com; open Christmas Eve).
Sun Liquor, 607 Summit Ave. E., and Sun Liquor Distillery, 514 E. Pike St. (Capitol Hill). It's the best eggnog in Seattle. This potent version includes bourbon, rum and brandy and is aged for a month in the back of the fridge. It's less fluffy than your mother's eggnog. And boy, does it go down easy. Sun Liquor serves this famed eggnog only on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Last year, the line stretched two blocks before Sun Liquor opened, and the eggnog was sold out within 40 minutes. Bartender Erik Chapman assured me that won't happen this year. The bar aged 60 gallons and has since opened a second bar, Sun Liquor Distillery, where the eggnog also will be available (sunliquor.com; both locations open on Christmas Eve and Day).
Vito's, 927 Ninth Ave. (First Hill). This season's trendy Christmas cocktail is the pre-Prohibition-era "Tom and Jerry," the better eggnog. Vito's version features egg, rye, rums, steamed milk, cinnamon, clove and allspice, topped with grated nutmeg. This is the best variation I've tasted in Seattle (206-397-4053 or vitosseattle.com; open on Christmas Day).
Zig Zag Cafe, 1501 Western Ave. (Downtown). A popular hangout on Christmas Day, especially with cocktail geeks, Zig Zag Cafe came up with "HFH" cocktail, made with rye, apple brandy and hints of allspice. The cocktail falls in line with Zig Zag's mantra: minimal ingredient drinks that are dry and spirit forward (206-625-1146 or zigzagseattle.com; open on Christmas Day).
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle.
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