Twists on classic holiday cocktails will put color in your cheeks.
Fresh, seasonal fruit was Sarah Powell's secret cocktail ingredient upon the summer opening of her Medford restaurant.
Infusing drinks with fresh fruit doesn't just coincide with Powell's business philosophy for Sloe Bar and Grill. The technique has been among the most popular this year with mixologists, says Chris Dennett, owner of Elements Tapas Bar and Lounge.
"The biggest trends in cocktails are fresh ingredients," Dennett says.
Powell goes a step further by shopping at farmers markets and favoring local growers, boiling the concept of "slow food" down to supporting neighbors who will, in turn, support her.
With the markets' annual closure and the weather's wintery turn, Powell — unable to feature much local produce — has been shaking up the specialty drink menu. Whether it's coffee, chocolate or butterscotch, richer flavors are in order, she says.
"People are going to sin a little bit more at the holiday," says the 35-year-old restaurateur.
Darrin Richards, co-owner of Medford's 38 on Central, agrees.
"With the Christmas time, you can get away with the chocolate martinis," he says, adding that all his restaurant's cocktail sales are up.
Toddies, hot chocolates, old-fashioned eggnogs and other "winter warmers" are bartenders' mainstays this time of year. With a few bar staples on hand, many of these speciality cocktails are easy enough to make at home, bartenders say. The trick to giving them holiday-worthy flare is in the garnishes.
Powell doesn't skimp on spices, using whole star anise and cinnamon sticks. Candy canes add whimsy and even more sweetness to an identically named cocktail that mixes vanilla rum, white chocolate liqueur and peppermint Schnapps. A rim of cookie crumbs adds a comfort-food aspect to a cocktail or butterscotch-flavored Schanpps.
While innovation has its place, some of the most festive drinks are no-brainers.
"New Year's I always look to Champagne," Powell says.
A bit of bubbly can be requested, even after the holidays, to dress up Powell's most popular cocktail to date — the "star 69." Combining Pearl pomegranate vodka, simple syrup, orange blossom water and fresh lime juice, the star 69 tastes like Sweet Tarts candy, Powell says.
Try the following recipes for festive cocktails and "winter warmers."
Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail email@example.com.