When I was planning our New Year’s Eve party, I searched through several cocktail books. Nearly all of them were duds – they felt clunky and overly simple. The recipes were rarely sorted in a convenience way, and it was difficult to get a sense of the seasonality of the recipes – whether they were best as summer refreshments or warming cold weather drinks, whether they tasted fruity or spicy, sweet or dry. Plus, they usually just covered the basics, which I can just as easily find with a quick Google search. I wanted a cocktail book that inspired me to make something a little different, something that isn’t a standard classic.
I didn’t find that perfect New Year’s Eve cocktails book that I was looking for last year, but now I have it: Winter Cocktails by Maria del Mar Sacasa. The layout, images, and even the square shape of the book convey the warmth and coziness of the recipes within. The gorgeous photography by Tara Striano portrays a “let’s get inside and out of the snow” feel, and the author’s background as a food stylist shows.
Winter Cocktails opens with step-by-step photos of basic techniques, such as muddling and making citrus twists, before transitioning into the recipe chapters. The chapters are sorted by type of drink – hot toddies and mulled drinks; eggnog, hot chocolate, coffee & tea; punches and pitchers; chilled winter cocktails. As you might imagine, my favorite chapter is the one involving tea. I’m especially excited about the “White Witch” on page 60 – a spiked chai-infused white hot chocolate! I mean, it’s like that recipe was added to the book just for me, right?
The straightforward and DIY ingredients and tools make all of the cocktail recipes approachable. Most of the pantry and refrigerator ingredients are things you already have or are easy to find. And the majority of the alcohols and liqueurs called for are fairly standard, so you aren’t stuck buying five different flavored vodkas or whatever to make individual cocktails (hooray!). The less common alcohols that are called for, like Aguardiente and Bährenjäger, aren’t used much in the book or have recommended substitutes, so you could just skip or tweak those recipes if you don’t want to buy a specific bottle. I’m keeping my bar stocked with just the basics, and I have pretty much all of the alcohols and liqueurs I need – it’s a win!
Oh, and the book ends with a chapter on DIY ingredients (like pink peppercorn simple syrup and blood orange sour mix), and a chapter of small bites (like candied bacon!) to serve with your cocktails.
I have a long list of recipes on my to-make list from this cookbook. I mean, a LONG list. I think I bookmarked over half the cocktails in the book to try, and some of these will definitely be on my New Year’s Eve menu this year. There are a few basic recipes with suggested variations, like the “New Fangled,” a twist on the Old-Fashioned, or the Hot Buttered Rum made with vanilla-and-brown-sugar-infused butter. Plus, there are some new versions of old classics, like Pumpkin Bourbon Eggnog, and plenty of new drinks. I can’t wait to try the Liquid Gold, a mulled pineapple cocktail, and I’m intrigued by the beet granita, Red, Red, Red, on page 100.
Quirk Books was generous enough to allow me to reprint two of my favorite cocktail recipes for you: the Rosy Cheek from page 59 and Orchard Fête from page 81. You can find them after the jump!
Overall, I give Winter Cocktails by Maria del Mar Sacasa…