In the last few years Virginia has substantially upped the number of distilleries as well as the diversity of spirits being made in each of them. Between Copper Fox Distillery (Sperryville), Catoctin Creek (Loudon County), Laird’s (North Garden), Reservoir (Richmond), and A. Smith Bowman (Fredericksburg), to name a few, there is plenty of New Year spirit to share. I have experimented with a few traditional cocktail recipes and altered them using locally made spirits that should be easy to find and not too labor intensive to make at home.
Let’s begin with the Negroni, a classic Italian apéritif served before dinner to stimulate the appetite with its bitter orange bite. For this recipe we are using 1 oz. of Catoctin Creek gin, 1 oz. Campari, and 1 oz. sweet vermouth (Cocchi or Dolin are my favorites). Combine all 3 ingredients in a shaker or glass and either stir or shake depending on your preference, and serve over ice with a twist of orange. An alternative to this classic uses Aperol instead of Campari (it’s not quite as sweet) and adds a dash of lemon bitters (Fee Brothers makes a good one) and a twist of lemon instead of orange. The end product of either style is a refreshing drink that can also work as a nice digestif instead.
At Thanksgiving I discovered a cocktail recipe named “The Re-animator,” which I re-created to my liking using 1.5 oz. Wasmund’s Rye whisky, 1.5 oz. Luxardo amaro (an Italian herbal based spirit). Shake together over ice and serve either straight up or over ice with a twist of lemon. The herbal notes of the amaro (any amaro will work, doesn’t have to be Luxardo) with the bite of the rye whisky are a soothing combination for these cold nights, and also good for a sore throat or the sniffles (or at least it seems that way).
The Manhattan was made famous in New York City possibly as early as 1870 and has been a timeless staple in every bar since. It is always whiskey based and can be made with bourbon, rye, or Canadian whiskey, and served either “up” or “on the rocks.” For this twist on the classic recipe, I used 2 oz. Reservoir bourbon from Richmond, 1/2 oz Cocchi sweet vermouth, 2-3 dashes of bitters and either maraschino cherry or lemon zest to garnish. This cocktail can also be modified into a beer cocktail using Blue Mountain Brewery’s “Full Nelson” pale ale, reducing the spirit recipe by half and excluding ice and lemon zest. I would use 4-6 ounces of beer, 1 oz. bourbon (or rye whiskey), 2-3 dashes of bitters, and maraschino cherry stirred together in a beer glass. It’s hearty, unexpected and comforting.
For a warming winter drink to sip by the fire or before bedtime you can’t go wrong with the classic Hot Toddy—a supremely satisfying drink whose preparation isn’t too demanding, and whose flavor is improved by substituting bourbon for Laird’s apple bradny. Combine one cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, honey in a snifter, add ½ cup boiling water and stir to melt the honey, top off with 1.5 oz. of Laird’s apple brandy and enjoy. A twist of orange could also be added.
Hopefully these cocktail ideas will help ease you into a very Happy New Year.