‘Tis the time of year to cast aside any pretense or pomp and indulge in the calorie-dense, oh-so-sweet, post-supper tipple known as the dessert cocktail. Love ’em or hate ’em, sweet drinks don’t have many stipulations — except that, perhaps, minimalism or restraint in presentation is best left for another day. So take a pass on that dessert menu, embrace chocolate liqueur and whipped toppings, and revel in the fact that it’s the one time of year where all judgment is withheld (until January 2).
There’s perhaps nothing more Christmas-y than a New York City hotel all dressed up in its holiday finest. At Central Park’s Loews Regency Hotel, they offer a smoky mezcal take on the classic chocolate martini to match the occasion.
“With festive décor filled throughout the [hotel’s] lobby and lounge, we thought it would be fitting to offer our guests a cocktail to toast to the season, too,” says Joseph Squillaro, the Food & Beverage Manager at Loews Regency Bar & Grill. “Our guests are enjoying this seasonal drink at the bar or as an after-dinner drink; it’s even doing well with the little ones as a cocktail.”
Why order chocolate mousse for dessert when you can drink this Smoked Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Martini? Photo: @vankz
Down south in Charleston, South Carolina-based Virgil Kaine whiskey makers also drew inspiration from NYC — particularly the iconic, sometimes monstrous, always delicious (even if shrink-wrapped and stale) Black & White cookie you’ll find in old-school New York delis. The Charleston distillers turned the cookie into a cocktail with rye whiskey, vanilla syrup, chocolate bitters, and egg white — with a careful dusting of chocolate and vanilla powder on top.
At the just-opened Gertie’s downstairs bar in Nashville’s The 404 Kitchen, Bar Director Christina Cabrera is adding a buttery spin to the classic Old Fashioned. Their signature house drink is deemed The 404 Old Fashioned, made with homemade brown butter, Old Granddad bourbon, roasted pecan syrup, Dale DeGroff’s bitters, and garnished with a dehydrated apple peel. “The brown butter bourbon adds a richness and silky component to the drink,” Cabrera says. “The high proof of the bourbon is meant to cut through the body of the butter, but still maintain the flavor without overpowering the bourbon.”
Brown butter and bourbon will warm you up in The 404’s signature Old Fashioned.
Her technique? “I brown the butter and, while still hot, I pour it over the bourbon and let it freeze over night. The butter rises to the top, leaving the bourbon at the bottom. We strain and it’s ready.”
Over at Garnish blog, creator Katie Stryjewski dreamed up her Mexican Hot Chocolate while pregnant (during the month of August, of all times). “At first, this was going to be a non-alcoholic Mexican hot chocolate, made with cinnamon and chili powder,” she says. “But then the idea of mezcal whipped cream popped into my head…it adds a surprisingly intense, smoky agave flavor to a batch of whipped cream.”
Stryjewski’s Mexican Hot Chocolate can be made with or without booze, but the homemade whipped cream topping is non-negotiable. Photo by garnishblog.com
The addition of Ancho Reyes chile liqueur is a welcome addition to cut through the rich sweetness of the chocolate, but like we said earlier, no judgment either way. Stryjewski agrees: “You can make this recipe with or without it, but whether you go non-alcoholic or full-on boozy, this hot chocolate is so good I promise you’ll enjoy it — even in August.”
Smoked Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Martini
- 1.2 oz mezcal
- 1¼ oz light crème de cocoa
- 1¼ oz Godiva Chocolate
- 3 Raspberries for garnish
- Dash of chocolate syrup
Directions: Shake and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with raspberries on a pick and a chocolate powder rim.
Black & White Cookie
- 2 oz Virgil Kaine Robber Baron Rye
- ½ oz vanilla syrup
- 8 dashes of chocolate bitters
- 1 egg white
Directions: Add all ingredients into a shaker, and dry shake for 30 seconds. Now add ice and shake for another 30 seconds, and strain into a coupe glass and garnish with vanilla and chocolate powder.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
- 1/2 oz. Ancho Reyes or 1/8 tsp. cayenne
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Directions: Combine chocolate chips, cinnamon, and cayenne (if using) in a small saucepan. Add milk and put on stove over medium heat, whisking constantly, until chocolate chips are melted, spices are incorporated, and milk is warm. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from heat and stir in Ancho Reyes (if using) and vanilla. Serve in a mug topped with Mezcal Whipped Cream, a pinch of cayenne, and a cinnamon stick.
Mezcal Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. mezcal (optional)
- 1/2 tbsp. vanilla
Directions: In a large bowl, whip cream with the whisk attachment of a mixer until it begins to thicken. add sugar, vanilla, and mezcal (if using). Continue to whip the cream until it reaches the desired consistency, with firm peaks that hold their shape.