’Tis the season for decorating, shopping, wrapping, hosting, gift giving and gathering with friends and family. Take some time out of the busy rush to treat yourself to delicious holiday cocktails that make your spirit bright.
Area restaurants are pouring a variety of mixed drinks infused with the rich flavors of the season. From smooth whiskeys and thick and creamy cocktail creations to the toasty warmth of hot toddies or hot cocoa-based concoctions, there are many ways to celebrate in holiday style.
Pikk’s Tavern, at 62 West Lincolnway in Valparaiso, offers seasonal mixed drink specials to satisfy everyone’s taste. Bartender Geoff Kolodziej says traditional flavors play a big role in the holiday cocktails he serves. Flavors such as peppermint—think candy cane—and chocolate are used to create the Chocolate Peppermint Martini. The White Christmas relies on white crème de cacao, which is lighter than most creamy liqueurs. “It makes a drink that’s not as heavy or syrupy as most drinks,” Kolodziej says. “It’s a nice way to give people the flavor they want without overdoing it in sugar and calories.”
The holiday drink menu typically includes a traditional Brandy Hot Toddy, made with honey and fresh juice. “We create all of our mixed drinks with fresh juices, which makes a lot of difference,” Kolodziej says. Pikk’s also offers a Blackberry Mint Sangria drink, which provides a lighter alternative to those with cream.
For those who want to keep warm while enjoying festive drinks, Pikk’s has the solution. “In the winter there are a lot of people downtown, like at the ice rink, so we’ll do coffee drinks and spiked hot chocolate,” Kolodziej says.
If you’re looking for a holiday martini, co-owner Dan Dattulo says Vino Tini at 1143 Joliet Street in Dyer is the place to go. “Vino Tini specializes in martinis and this year we have four holiday martinis on our menu.”
Bartender Angie Bulic creates the Pumpkin Pie Martini, which made its debut at Halloween and will continue through Christmas. It’s made with vanilla vodka, RumChata and pumpkin spice puree and features a crushed graham cracker rim. The Winter Wonderland has vodka, peppermint schnapps and chocolate and white chocolate liqueur, topped with a crushed candy cane rim. They also offer the Blue Snowflake, which combines Blue Curaçao, raspberry vodka and sweet and sour mix, complemented with a sugar rim. To round out the list, the White Snowflake is made with whipped vodka, white crème de cacao and white chocolate liqueur.
“These special drinks are all delicious and will make your holiday feel more festive,” Bulic says.
At Ciao Bella, 1514 U.S. Highway 41 in Schererville, specialty drinks are available for each holiday of the year and incorporate something from each celebration. According to owner Joe Scalzo, “We use all fresh ingredients, unique liqueurs and source from local distilleries, like Journeyman Distillery [from Three Oaks, Michigan].”
Scalzo notes the current trend in cocktail consumption is a return by the younger generation to retro drinks like the Old Fashioned, Highball and Manhattan. Taking a cue from that trend, bartender and mixologist Laurie Farver is creating modern updates of old school favorites. The Vanilla Old Fashioned is made with orange bitters, simple syrup, Licor 43 and Crown Royal Vanilla, topped with soda and garnished with an orange slice. The Old Pal Negroni has Journeyman Rye Whiskey, Campari and dry vermouth. A festive pink hue is created by crème de violet in the Aviation cocktail, which also includes gin, maraschino liqueur and lemon juice.
Farver is also whipping up creamy and sweet drinks, featuring the restaurant’s version of the Pumpkin Pie Martini, made with pumpkin vodka, RumChata and pumpkin syrup, topped with graham cracker crumbs and pumpkin spice. The Mint Chocolate Chip Martini combines dark chocolate and white chocolate Godiva liqueurs with crème de menthe, and is accented with cocoa powder. For a real treat, try the S’mores Latte Martini, a mixture of Pinnacle whipped vodka, coffee liqueur and cream, topped with whipped cream and a graham cracker rim.