As the holidays wear on, we begin to worry about last-minute shopping, and how we're going to cope with the backwards yokels know as "extended family." We get distracted by the bows, tinsel, and lights. We get frazzled and frustrated. The whole damn season can become an annoying mess. But in all of the holly-jolly madness, it's important not to lose sight of the true meaning of the season: booze. No, I'm not kidding.
The fact is, no one knows when that certain magical baby was brought into the world, manger or not. But, in ancient Greece, there had long been a birthday celebration on December 25 for Dionysus, the god of wine. Much like my own birthday parties, the celebration included drunkenness, nudity, and the worship of the phallus.
It wasn't until much later that frustrated Christian leaders co-opted the celebration by claiming it was actually the birthday of the savior of the world. They even stole some tricks from the old god's book. You know that whole water to wine thing? That schtick came from Bacchus, the Dionysus of Southern Italy. Thus, Christmas was loosed upon the world, and Dionysus was usurped. But you can't keep a good god of drunkenness down. The "holiday party" has slowly drifted back to the land of the wine-soaked gods, and booze has become as standard as carols and mistletoe.
As my gift to you, here are recipes from two of Portland's top bartenders to help you fight the cold and celebrate the true reason for the season. Be careful, though, the gods of booze are a moody bunch, and a tad less forgiving than the other one celebrated around this time.
Lance Mayhew of the Oregon Bartenders Guild knows what the season is all about. He's generously offered this hot cocktail recipe to Mercury readers. My favorite is the Hot Buttered Rum Batter. If you're unfamiliar with hot buttered rum, it's time you broaden your horizons. Any alcoholic beverage whose ingredients read more like a cookie than cocktail is just fine in my book:
Hot Buttered Rum Batter
1 stick butter, room temp
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp clove
Mix ingredients together until the batter is smooth. Slice a good dollop off of the batter, add to a mug with two ounces Bacardi 8 rum, fill with hot water, stir to incorporate, and enjoy.
Daniel Shoemaker of the Teardrop Lounge is a nationally renowned bartender who's know for both for the care he gives to the classics as well as innovation with a shaker.
Oddly, Shoemaker comes from a teetotaling household, and for him, the connection between booze and the holidays came "late in the game." He told the Mercury that he remembers spiking the eggnog one year on a trip home from college "and being dramatically disappointed with the results."
It's not likely that you'll be disappointed by his recipe for the Teardrop Lounge's Hot Toddy.
Teardrop Lounge Hot Toddy
2 ounces Rittenhouse 100-proof rye whiskey
juice of half a lemon
3 cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
Heat large stemmed wine glass with hot water. Discard water and coat the bottom of the glass with agave nectar. Add the remainder of ingredients. Fill with hot water, top with grated nutmeg, stir with cinnamon stick.
Kevin Ludwig, proprietor of the much anticipated bar and eatery Beaker and Flask, created his version of the hot toddy to impress a girl who was enamored with coconuts and the mysterious herbal liqueur known as Becherovka. Not wanting to make a hot coconut drink, Ludwig decided to just stick with the Becherovka. Combined with applejack and bitters, the clove and cinnamon notes of this toddy make for a warming and aromatic experience. Ludwig does admit that, "the girl ended up moving to Hawaii to be around the coconuts," but that certainly shouldn't reflect on the quality of his cocktail.
Ludwig's "Impress a Girl" Hot Toddy
1 oz. Applejack
1 oz. Becherovka
1 tablespoon Clover Honey
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. orange juice
4 dashes of Fee Bros. Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters
4 oz. hot water
Pre warm liquor in a water bath or briefly in a pan on the stove top. Mix all together in a brandy snifter and garnish with a lemon twist.