NH bartenders share what's hot in their Christmas season repertoires

Special to the Union Leader
December 18. 2012 9:01PM

A festive twist on the nog and toddy is a traditional way to celebrate the season. Shown above is a Tugboat Egg Nog from Southpaw's in San Francisco. For the complete recipe, see Page C3. 8Mark DuFrene/Contra Costa Times/MCT 
After all the presents are picked, purchased and wrapped, after the house is cleaned and the cookies baked, after all the holiday-preparation rigmarole, there is nothing like finally getting to the cheer portion of the holidays. And what better way to warm the heart, the spirit and the gullet than with a little taste of something boozy?

There are a variety of flavors to please the holiday palate when it comes to cocktails. And who better to ask about the trends this year than bartenders from some of the best local hot spots.

For Tracey Trischett, bartender at The Green Monkey, in Portsmouth, a good way to keep warm this winter is with the Aspen Après. For that she said, add some peppermint Schnapps and Cinnamon schnapps to some hot chocolate.

"I would definitely put some whipped cream on that," she said. "Maybe some nutmeg or chocolate shavings."

Some bartenders also recommend topping with crushed-up candy canes to add some more holiday flair. But for those who want a bit of holiday bubbly, The Poinsettia, may be just the trick.

"It's fun, festive, has bubbles. The Poinsettia is always nice," Trischett said. "You can do cranberry juice but for 2012's sake let's go with pomegranate, any sparkling wine and perhaps a squeeze of lemon or lime juice."

At 21 Bar in Keene, bartender Kristina Stallsmith said they are making up a variety of holiday martinis thanks to the slew of specialty vodkas on the market now. Among them:

-- The Snow Angel martini has Godiva chocolate-infused vodka, Baileys Irish Cream, a little bit of Godiva white-chocolate vodka and Grand Marnier.

-- The Candy Cane martini has vodka with a dash of peppermint schnapps and white-chocolate Godiva.

-- For those looking for a little stronger flavor, the Café Caramel is mainly Stolichnaya Vanilla vodka and Three Olives Espresso vodka with a little bit of caramel Baileys and a whipped cream topper.

-- The Winter Snowflake is mostly Amaretto and peppermint schnapps with some whipped-cream vodka, chocolate Godiva vodka and a whipped cream topper.

-- For traditionalists, brandy in egg nog is always a holiday favorite and for a new twist on that classic, the egg nog martini features Kahlua, whisky, egg nog and nutmeg.

Gretchen Vatalaro, the bartender Michael Timothy's in Nashua, likes to go old school, high end and local. The Sugar Shack is a mix of egg nog, vanilla vodka, brandy and Saplings maple liqueur, which is made in Vermont.

"We just do a splash of egg nog in that and shake it straight up and just dust it with a little cinnamon sugar," she said.

She also recommends the Fig Side Car, which is fig-infused brandy, and to sweeten it up a little bit, a little bit of maple agave, fresh lemon and Cointreau.

But hard liquor doesn't have to be the only star of the show, said Josh McGary, general manager of the Salt Hill Pub in Hanover. Darker beers like a porter can also warm up a winter night.

He suggests a good, local variety like Smuttynose Porter - a mahogany colored full-bodied brew - and the Sebago Slick Nick Winter Ale, with its caramel and black.

McGary said any of the winter brews are, "going to be darker, roastier, heavier beers with a lot more malts in them as opposed to just straight grains. It's definitely going to be a more robust beer."

For those looking to create their own signature cocktail, Trischett recommends starting with the anything in the ginger family, and anything cream-based like a Baileys. Another popular pick this season is anything with allspice.

"You can actually go to the liquor store and get allspice liqueur now," Trischett said.

And to keep warm, Trischett suggested, making a simple sugar which is just equal parts one cup sugar to one cup water.

"You melt that down and it will be very viscous and then infuse it with something hot, like a habanero pepper, and let it steep," she said. "Then add the sugar mixture to any vodka or rum drink."

Stallsworth also suggests sticking with any of the Godiva liqueurs to add a nice hint of warm chocolate flavor without getting too sweet. Vatalaro said anything with warm apple cider can be on any holiday menu.

"You can really put anything in there," she said.

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