The Artisanal Kitchen: Holiday Cocktails

The Best Nogs, Punches, Sparklers, and Mixed Drinks for Every Festive Occasion

Formats and Prices





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Holiday Cocktails is the newest addition to the Artisanal Kitchen series, adapted from Raising the Bar (Artisan, 2004) by master mixologist Nick Mautone. Holiday Cocktails provides dozens of foolproof ideas for successful entertaining at home, including the basics of cocktail making, choosing the right drink for the right occasion, and serving cocktails for a crowd. It’s packed with easy-to-follow recipes for seasonal favorites, from nogs to grogs, as well as classics with a twist that work year-round, such as old-fashioneds and martinis, coffee-based drinks to serve in lieu of dessert, and even nonalcoholic cocktails that are a treat unto themselves. This is the perfect book to pull off the shelf year after year when you want to make any occasion a little more festive. Holiday Cocktails, Holiday Cookies, and Party Food, three new titles in the Artisanal Kitchen series, provide an indispensable arsenal of recipes that cover all the bases for a delicious holiday season.




Home Bar Basics

Understanding the basics is the key to being success­ful in any endeavor. Perfecting basic techniques and using superior ingredients and the proper tools are fundamental to creating an extraordinary drink.

This chapter focuses first on what is perhaps the most impor­tant element of a great cocktail: balance. Without balance, a drink might be too sweet, too sour, or even just too big, but it is easy to avoid these excesses and get a grasp on how a properly balanced drink should taste. Next featured are a few basic tools and techniques that facilitate efficient and fun cocktail making. "The Right Glassware" will help you identify which glass in your cupboard is best suited to the drinks being served. And finally, "The Right Booze" is a straightforward guide to stocking your liquor cabinet with a few well-chosen basics.

Consider this chapter a brief but thorough course in great cocktail making. Taking a little time with these home bar basics before tackling the recipes that follow will enhance your experience and improve your results, for on these pages are the necessary building blocks to transform you into a master home bartender, and that's when the fun really begins!

A Focus on Balance

The first rule of cocktail making is that balance is everything. In imbibing, balance might be viewed as the ratio of acid to sweetness to alcoholic strength. In the case of wine, those that are too low in acid taste "flabby," wines that are too high in alcohol taste "hot" or medicinal, and wines that are too high in sugar or too low in acid or alcohol taste cloying. These same principles hold true for cocktails.

Determining balance in your drinks will also help you understand the characteristics of liquors and mixers. For example, some bourbons are sweeter than others. If you use them in an old-fashioned, you may require less sugar. Other bourbons are higher in alcohol, and when using them, you may choose to add more water. Certain recipes in this book recommend a specific brand of liquor for the distinct sweetness, dryness, or extra kick it provides.

Personal preference also comes into play when making cocktails. I generally like my drinks on the sweeter side. When I am out, I take the time to inform the bartender what my preference is, and when at home, I make my drinks according to my tastes. If you are a newcomer to mixing your own cocktails, I suggest you make the recipes in this book as they are written. Once you have tasted the drink, you can determine if you prefer it sweeter, stronger, or lighter.

Also important is the size of the final drink. Remember that bigger is not necessarily better. In fact, many of the recipes in this book have lesser yields, for drinks that are often as small as 3 ounces. This allows you to sip a perfectly made, balanced cocktail ice cold. If it were any larger, the cocktail would become warm and insipid before the drinker could finish it. The more cocktails you prepare, the more comfortable you will become with determining your own specific sense of balance.

The Right Tools

You don't need much in the way of expensive equipment to mix great drinks. There are many good inexpensive starter kits on the market that contain shakers, strainers, jiggers, bar spoons, and a paring knife. Aside from the household basics—a bottle opener, can opener, and corkscrew—here are some other tools you will need.


There are two types of cocktail shakers: the cobbler shaker and the Boston shaker. Either one works well, although each has particular features that make it useful. Specifically, the cobbler comes in varying sizes, from 8 to 16 to 24 ounces and even larger. These variations allow for different drink sizes and some flexibility when presenting and serving cocktails. For the shaking and stirring technique, see here.

To use a cobbler, fill the base shaker with ice and the cocktail ingredients. Place the top on with the cap in place. Shake well, remove the cap, and strain the drink into a glass.

The Boston shaker is the one most bartenders use. It is a little more versatile than the cobbler but slightly more difficult to use. The Boston is composed of two glass or metal tumblers. One tumbler holds roughly 26 to 30 ounces. The other tumbler generally holds 16 ounces. To use a Boston, fill the smaller tumbler with the cocktail ingredients and ice. Place the larger tumbler on top and gently but firmly give it a tap or two to seal the two tumblers together. Hold the bottom of the smaller tumbler in the palm of one hand while pressing the larger tumbler with the palm of the other and shake vigorously. Invert the shaker on a counter so that the larger half is on the bottom. Hold the seal between the two pieces with one hand; two fingers should be on the one end and two fingers on the other. Hold firmly and, with the heel of your other hand, tap the rim of the larger tumbler. This should break the seal. Remove the smaller tumbler carefully. Place a strainer over the top of the larger tumbler and pour.


The Hawthorn strainer and the julep strainer each serves its own purpose, and both are necessary if using a Boston shaker set. The Hawthorn strainer has a metal coil on its underside, and the julep strainer is solid metal with holes throughout. The Hawthorn is used for shaken drinks and works with the larger tumbler, and the julep strainer is used for stirred drinks and is used with the smaller tumbler.


Jiggers are basically tiny measuring cups. The most common jiggers have a long handle with two cups of different sizes that measure 2 ounces or less, but my favorite jigger is a small, shot glass–size measuring cup with measurements ranging from ¼ to 1 ounce and their equivalencies in teaspoons, tablespoons, and milliliters all etched on its side.

Cocktail Spoons

Cocktail spoons are used to stir a drink in a pitcher or shaker. The same rules apply to stirring as to shaking: stir until the outside of the shaker is frosted and beaded with sweat, ten to fifteen seconds.

Nutmeg Grater

This tool is indispensable for garnishing drinks such as hot toddies or punches such as Whiskey and Ginger Punch with freshly grated nutmeg.


For cocktail making, you will need a paring knife for cutting your lemons, limes, and oranges and a chef's knife for cutting large fruit such as pineapples.

Channel Knives and Zesters

A channel knife has a rounded or rectangular metal head with a small curved blade and a hole on either the side or the top. This is used for producing long citrus-peel swirls. A zester has a steel edge with five tiny cutting holes. When pulled across the surface of an orange, lemon, or lime, it creates strips of peel.


Bar muddlers are used for mashing fruit, sometimes with sugar, to extract juice. They are also used for bruising soft fruit, such as cherries, and herbs, such as mint. The best muddlers are made of soft, unvarnished wood and are generally 6 inches long with a flat end on one side.

Juicers and Reamers

I strongly recommend purchasing a citrus juicer. Make sure to get a model that is large enough to handle grapefruit as well as lemons and limes. In addition, always keep a wooden citrus reamer on hand. It is great if you have to juice just a few lemons or limes.

Cocktail Pitchers

Tall, elongated, and somewhat narrow, cocktail pitchers range in size from 1 to 2 quarts. Standard cocktail pitchers also come with a long glass stirrer. Gallon-size glass pitchers and several plastic pitchers with tight-fitting lids are also good to have on hand.

The Right Techniques

There are very few strict rules for mixing drinks, and with just a bit of practice you can easily master them all.

Shaking and Stirring

When shaking your drinks, follow this simple but important rule: shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker is frosted and beaded with sweat. The shaker should be so cold that it is almost painful to hold. This will generally take ten to fifteen seconds. Most important, maintain a consistent and constant rhythm while shaking to ensure that the drink is mixed effectively.

As for shaking versus stirring, it is my opinion that drinks that are all or mostly liquor, such as a martini, should be stirred; drinks that contain juice, egg, or other heavy ingredients should be shaken. The simple reason for this is texture: in cocktails that are primarily or all liquor, stirring produces a more delicate texture; for juice-based or weightier drinks, shaking emulsifies the cocktail, ensuring a smooth, even texture.

For very weighty drinks or those based on fruit purees, a technique called rolling is the best method for mixing and can be done only in a Boston shaker. Rolling consists of pouring a drink back and forth between the two tumblers. This thoroughly combines heavy juices with other ingredients without producing a foamy texture that is unpleasant in these types of drinks.


To muddle, place the fruit, herbs, sugar, or other ingredients to be muddled in the bottom of a large glass or shaker. Using the flat end of the muddler, firmly press and twist the tool, crushing and breaking down the fruit or herb to release as much juice and essential oil as possible. If bruising an herb, do not press quite as hard; you don't want to pulverize it.


Rimming a glass with sugar, salt, or spices ensures that every sip of the cocktail is a multilayered experience.

The key to proper rimming is to keep the granules on the outside of the glass. Too many granules on the inside of the rim mean that each time the drinker tips his glass, the garnish falls into the cocktail, eventually throwing off the balance of flavors in the whole drink. The correct method is to pour the sugar or salt onto a small plate, rub the juicy side of a wedge of lemon, lime, or other citrus fruit on the outer edge of the rim—not along the inside—and holding the glass at an angle, roll the outer edge of the rim in the salt or sugar until it is fully coated.


Floating is a technique that has both aesthetic and practical benefits. Brightly colored syrups, cordials, or cream may be floated on a cocktail, giving an attractive layered look to the drink and dividing the drink into two distinct levels in the drinker's mouth. To float one liquid on top of the other, place the bowl of a spoon upside down over the cocktail and pour the cream or syrup slowly over it, allowing the liquid to gently spread over the top of the drink.

The Right Glassware

Feel free to improvise when it comes to glassware. While there is a glass for every type of cocktail and each one is designed to enhance a specific drink, it is just not practical to own them all. For example, an old-fashioned glass can easily double for a whiskey-tasting glass. The most important rule in glassware isn't about the glasses at all. It is about what you serve in the glass—a high-quality, freshly made, well-balanced beverage.

The illustrations on these pages highlight twenty different vessels for preparing and serving wine, cocktails, and straight spirits. While you do not need all of these, you should keep the following basics on hand: old-fashioned glasses, highball glasses, martini glasses, all-purpose wineglasses, champagne glasses, beer glasses, and perhaps dessert wine or port glasses.


Old-Fashioned or Rocks Glasses

These can range from 8 to 12 ounces and are used for spirits served over ice, or "on the rocks." Generally they are short and round or, in some cases, rounded squares.


Highball Glasses

Tall and round, these are used for drinks containing soda as well as liquor. Most highballs hold 10 to 16 ounces of liquid. Collins glasses are even taller and narrower and are often frosted.


Cocktail or Martini Glasses

These are used for cocktails served "up," or without ice. Holding the glass by its long stem prevents the heat of your hand from warming the drink. Cocktail glasses can be as small as 3 ounces and as large as 10 ounces.


All-purpose Wineglasses

These are good for more than just wine; they are perfect for frappés, delicate-tasting drinks, and some frothy, juicy drinks. Choose one that holds 6 to 8 ounces, which will give you versatility.


Champagne Glasses

On Sale
Oct 17, 2017
Page Count
128 pages