With the flurry of holiday parties in December, it can be daunting to try something new. Here are my tried and tested new faves for cocktails to make at home, all super simple and sure to impress.
(A note on spelling: Whiskey is spelled with an e in America and Ireland and without in Canada and Scotland, and that’s why it’s spelled in two ways below!)
Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
Have you heard of adding a handful of salted peanuts to a glass of Coke? My father used to do this, and I thought he was the only person in the world to do it until I stumbled across this piece in Atlas Obscura about the origins of peanuts in Coke. It goes back to the 1920s, and it’s delicious.
When I saw that Skrewball made a peanut butter whiskey, the pairing with Coke was a no-brainer. In search of the nostalgic flavour of my dad’s Coke and peanuts, I paired Skrewball with Coke over ice, and it’s simple and heavenly. I served it to guests with a side of salted peanuts, and they raved. It’s also delicious neat and very well chilled, or pair it with milk and chocolate bitters in a shaken cocktail for a peanut butter cup vibe. So many fun ways to play. Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey is available and on sale at the LCBO.
Glenfiddich Orchard Experiment
One of the Glenfiddich Experimental Series, Orchard Experiment Glenfiddich whisky is finished in Somerset Pomona apple cider brandy casks, lending this whisky an array of orchard fruit flavours and aromas: caramelized apples, floral blossom and honey on the nose and creamy toffee and spice on the palate. For holiday entertaining, this is wonderful paired with warm apple cider and garnished with an apple slice. So simple and warming.
I love learning about established brands’ experiments with spirits. We had a chance to see creativity in action at its launch, and there are so many ways to riff on the flavours. Pair it with thyme syrup and soda for a simple collins style drink, or stir it with sherry and amaro for a more sophisticated cocktail. You can’t go wrong! Find more ideas on their website here.
Forty Creek Art of the Blend Winter Harvest
Canadian brand Forty Creek is distilled in Grimsby, Ontario, and to celebrate the brand’s 35th anniversary, Master Blender Bill Ashburn has created a limited-edition whisky called Art of the Blend. It celebrates the brand’s Niagara region roots and combines wine and spirit making. Niagara whisky is infused with grapes harvested in winter. Perfect for the whisky lover curious to try new iterations.
(And for the gin lover, check out their Forager Botanical Whiskey made with juniper berries, spruce tips, Labrador tea and sweet fern.)
The Wiseman Kentucky Straight Bourbon
If your tastes run to bourbon, The Wiseman is new to Canada, and it packs a flavour punch. With a blend of 4 Kentucky straight bourbons, it has warming aromas of caramel, allspice, and hints of oak on the finish. For a seasonal flash of red, it’s wonderful in this Continental Collins. The muddled berries lend a red hue, and it’s a breeze to make.
1 1/2 oz Wiseman Bourbon
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup (or honey)
3 blackberries, muddled
Sprig of rosemary for garnish
Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice, then shake well for 1 minute. Pour into a tall glass, over ice. Top with soda.
HP Juniper Single Malt Whiskey
Made in Quebec, this non-alcoholic whiskey is amazingly close to a single malt. I had a chance to sample it before its launch with Clearsips, and I was amazed at how close it comes to its alcoholic counterpart. This is the perfect non-alcoholic bottle to have on the bar, and it makes a delicious Old Fashioned. I recommend using it in a cocktail with a syrup to give it a rounder mouthfeel. Maple syrup would be the obvious and delicous choice! Launching soon!
St. Remy Signature Brandy
Did you know that Canada is the biggest consumer of St. Remy globally? When Master Blender Cecile Roudaut was in Toronto recently, we had a chance to sample St. Remy in a number of cocktails, and its versatility is really endless. Since the theme of this post is simple and stunning, try this riff on the Paper Plane. It was my favourite of the cocktails we tried that swapped out St. Remy for the usual ingredient in a classic cocktail.
St. Remy Paper Plane
3/4 oz St. Remy Signature Brandy
3/4 oz Italian bitters (Select Aperitivo, Campari, Aperol)
3/4 oz Amaro Nonino
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a shaker, combine all ingredients. Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass.
Eataly Barrel-Aged Negroni
Eataly not only has a variety of dining and bar experiences to choose from in their sprawling Bay and Bloor location, but there is also a market, where you can buy all kinds of wonderful things, including alcohol. It’s a playground for a cocktail enthusiast, with fresh citrus like bergamot and makrut limes, and a wide variety of specialty drinks. After my wonderful Bar Cocchi experience, I stocked up on my favourites from their line. And now you can buy ready to serve house-aged Negroni! Combining the best of ease and exclusivity, Eataly has bottled up their barrel aged Negronis, making it easier than ever to enjoy one of their trademark drinks at home.
Fill a rocks glass with ice, add Eataly’s Negroni mix and garnish with an orange twist.
Bombay Sapphire Bramble
When I tried Bramble at a Bombay Sapphire event, the brand ambassador very cleverly had us taste their berry gin alongside the competition’s. I can say with certainty that Bombay Sapphire Bramble stood out bright, bold and beautiful as the best. There is no added sugar, and made with all natural ingredients, this is authentic berry flavour with a woody depth. It’s the whole bramble experience: sweet berries, herbaceous twigs and all! As a gin lover, I loved that woody edge to it, but this is also a great choice for those who do not like juniper-forward gins.
Try Bramble in a spin on the French 75, and you can prep several of these at a time, making it a great choice for entertaining. Find both Bramble and Bombay Saphhire at the LCBO.
1 1/2 oz Bombay Bramble
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 oz honey syrup (3 parts honey to 1 part water)
4 oz prosecco
Combine all ingredients except prosecco in cocktail shaker. Give them a quick hard shake with ice. Strain into a flute and top with prosecco. Garnish with a fresh raspberry or blackberry.
Johnnie Walker Mango Chutney Sour
I love cocktails that put a fresh spin on a familiar spirit. Lilly Singh partnered with Johnnie Walker to create a fabulously fresh Mango Chutney Sour, and it’s a winner for a sweet and spicy holiday cocktail. It’s easy to batch, making party prep a cinch.
Start by making a mango ginger mix. Combine 4 oz of mango juice, 1 oz champagne vinegar, 4 oz raw ginger juice and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Makes enough for 10-12 cocktails.
1.5 oz Johnnie Walker
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz mango ginger mix
candied ginger garnish
Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with candied ginger.
Sortilege Maple Cream
A sweet something to add to your Christmas coffee as well as to your espresso martini! From beginning to end, this is a made in Canada treat. Sortilege blends rye whisky from Ontario with maple syrup from Quebec, and they put it into bottles with a maple tree ring design at the bottom. Sortilege whisky is made with maple syrup, so you can skip additional sweeteners to the cocktails you make with it. The maple cream version takes it a decadent step further! It’s also great in shaken cocktails, and we tried it in this Creme de la Creme cocktail.
Sortilege Creme de la Creme
1 1/2 oz Sortilege Maple Cream
3/4 oz whiskey
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 barspoon maple syrup
2 dashes Angustora bitters
1 egg white or 6-8 drops Vegan Foamer
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously and strain over new ice in a double rocks glass. Garnish with a star anise pod.
Finally, you know I am a huge fan of Laneway Gin. Lately, I’ve been enjoying their Ever Gin Liqueur. Cocktail lover that I am, this is one to sip neat over ice. It’s so smooth and complex, and nothing could be simpler to serve.
If you are looking for a show-stopping gift, check out their 24k gold-plated bottle of Laneway 33 Gin!