The Mistletoe Margarita, a cranberry juice and tequila seasonal offering...

The Mistletoe Margarita, a cranberry juice and tequila seasonal offering from TGI Friday's. Credit: Newsday/Scott Vogel

’Tis the season to be off your trolley, what with the insanity of holiday shopping, inclement weather, improperly calibrated eggnog, etc. America’s chain restaurants feel your pain and want to do their part to ease it. With drink specials. This is not a bad idea. There are worse antidotes to a month of madness than a red-fruited cheap cocktail.

“You put in the time getting everyone else the perfect gift,” says the Applebee’s website, “but you deserve one too.” Quite right. The gift in question — the Merry Dollarita, its limited-time-only cocktail of the month — costs less than a stocking stuffer, and is an energetic stir of tequila, triple sec, pomegranate juice, and margarita mix served in a beer mug. It is also a difficult drink to recommend. The flavor combinations, at least in the mug I tried, dredged up painful memories of children’s medicine past.

For its one-buck price, the Dollarita packs a surprising punch, however, as does TGI Fridays’ Mistletoe Margarita, which was apparently codesigned by the loaded potato skins conglomerate and the editors of online food site Delish. The $5 concoction features a generous pour of Jose Cuervo Especial Silver Tequila and the juice of a second red holiday fruit, cranberries. It’s beautiful to look at, faultlessly potent, and oddly flat. The mistletoe-esque garnish of berries and mint is a nice touch, though. Actual mistletoe, while perhaps not poisonous as is often claimed, can cause serious stomach upset, thus only adding to your misery.

Chili’s Berry Blitzen ’Rita, also $5, hadn’t been sampled at press time, but it’s a variation on a theme, with Sauza Silver tequila, Cointreau, strawberry puree and more. When it comes to December cocktails, the berries change but the colors stay the same.

Or do they? As a rule, I disdain turquoise-colored anything, but the Jack Frostie — another $5 December offering from Friday’s — turns out to be just the thing for the holiday blues, not to mention the winner of this month’s cheap drink derby. Something works about the Kool-Aidian combo of blue Curacao, Skyy vodka and sparkling wine. As the name implies, the Jack Frostie is a frozen concoction, and won’t exactly warm the cockles of anyone’s December heart, but it makes for a fun escape nonetheless. Which is all you’re really looking for anyway, right?

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