Since March, bars and restaurants have been scrambling to pivot their food and drink offerings into pandemic-friendly options. One such “invention” is the to-go cocktail.
You can go to your favorite restaurant or bar and pick up a delicious drink — and perhaps something to snack on
— and sip and enjoy at home with family, friends or just a fluffy blanket, crackling fire and good read. As the weather gets colder, many local spots are rotating winter or holiday-themed drinks into their to-go menu, including mulled wine, spiked hot chocolate and cranberry Negronis. We got the scoop from the inventors of these cozy concoctions on how to best serve these to-go cocktails at home.
Liquor Tasting Kit
Top Ten Wines
While this cocktail kit might take you a little more time to build a drink, it does something the other to-go cocktails don’t: It can teach you a few things. Owner Paul Vernon came up with the idea for these tasting kits after seeing many customers come in looking for hard-to-find liquors that aren’t typically available for purchase locally, such as Blanton’s Bourbon. “The idea was to create tasting kits with five different bourbons, or mezcals or gins so people can know if they’re worth spending the energy to find them,” he says. “It’s sort of a cocktail kit, but also an educational tool.”
Customers can then know if they should go looking for cocktails at bars and restaurants in Columbia with that brand in them, Vernon says, creating a win-win for local businesses. The tasting kit from Top Ten includes five either 1- or 2-ounce bottles of spirits or liquors, depending on the offering (bourbons are 1-ounce portions while vermouths are 2-ounce portions), and customers bring the engraved tasting kit back after. Vernon is currently offering three tasting kits: rare bourbons, red vermouths and first edition single barrel malt scotches. The kits will be available year-round, but certain spirits have limited availability.
Barred Owl Butcher & Table
This festive favorite should come as no surprise to cocktail lovers. “Sangria is something we offer regularly,” Andrew Ruth, bar manager and spiritual advisor, says. “It made sense to make it a winter drink by mulling spices to keep up with the changing of the season.”
Ruth’s winter sangria is made with a mixture of red and white wines, cognac, dry curacao, orange juice and spiced apple cider. The secret is in the marinating time — Ruth soaks the cocktail with fruit and spices for several days before straining and serving.
To recreate the look of this drink at home, pour the cocktail over ice into your favorite glass. “We prefer a pretty, bulbous glass like a snifter or wine glass, but using your favorite glass is the correct answer,” he says. “Garnish it with citrus, herbs and warm spices like a cinnamon stick or whole star anise.” Ruth’s features orange and lemon wedges, a cherry, rosemary and a cinnamon stick.
The winter sangria will be offered at Barred Owl Butcher & Table until this spring, when Ruth will tailor the drink to be warm-weather friendly.
Cranberry Bourbon Negroni
A holiday take on a classic cocktail, this Negroni, created by Owner Billy Giordano, features bourbon, Campari, Amaro Montenegro, bitters and cranberry soda. “We wanted to do a twist on a classic cocktail that had a little holiday flair,” Giordano says. “I experimented with a few different concoctions before we landed on this recipe.”
To re-create this cheery cocktail at home, start with a rocks or whiskey glass and use a carrot peeler to make the orange peel garnish. Next, use the juice of the orange or oil from the peel to rub the rim of your glass, and dip in sugar. Pour about 2 ounces of the cocktail into the glass, top with ice, stir, twist the orange peel over the drink to release the oils and set on top.
The Cranberry Bourbon Negroni will be available at Room 38 until spring.
Latin Hot Cocoa
Park Restaurant & Bar
While Park Restaurant & Bar’s Bartender Aaron Abernathy is the creator of this spiked hot chocolate, the entire staff helped to perfect the recipe. Aaron took a simple hot chocolate and elevated it a with little bit of smoke and heat,” Joshua Anderson, manager, says. “It’s warm, spiced and inviting.”
The hot chocolate is made with Godiva chocolate base, Sombra mezcal and house-made Fresno chili simple syrup. To create the presentation at home, use your favorite coffee or hot tea mug and top with whipped cream and a dusting of hot cocoa powder.
The Latin Hot Cocoa (and Winter Park, shown on the right) will be available at Park Restaurant & Bar throughout December.
Coley’s American Bistro
Colder weather for most people means a transition from light and refreshing drinks to darker, heartier options. Brian Coley, owner of Coley’s American Bistro, says this was one of the reasons behind their new Purple Haze cocktail.
“We see more requests for darker spirits in the colder months,” he says. “And blackberry is a fitting winter flavor that really lends itself to pairing with bourbon.”
The Purple Haze includes bourbon, blackberry syrup and lemonade, which are both made in-house. To serve this cocktail at home, simply pour over ice in your favorite glass — Coley uses a rocks or whiskey glass — and garnish with fresh blackberries and a lemon wheel.
Coley’s will offer this house-made seasonal spirit throughout this winter.
Warm Mulled Wine
Cherry Street Cellar
Co-owner Daniel Bauer’s mulled wine smells almost as good as it tastes. He creates this cozy quaff with rich red wine, orange, a variety of spices including cloves, cinnamon, anise and peppercorns, dried cherries, raisins, prunes and demerara sugar.
“Nothing lifts the spirits quite like sipping some warm spiced wine, and it’s a great way to utilize leftover wine,” Bauer says. “We blend our remaining open bottles of red wine at the end of the week, heating gently with sugar, citrus and spices and spike the final product with a little cognac.”
To serve this drink at home, re-heat the mulled wine slowly on the stovetop, add ¾ ounce of cognac, pour into your favorite warm-drink friendly glass and garnish with a large swath of orange peel or orange slice, and a cinnamon stick or star anise pod. Bauer also recommends serving the drink chilled over ice, with fresh grated nutmeg on top. Cherry Street’s Warm Mulled Wine will be served throughout the holiday season.