For many people, “Christmas” is code for “let’s drink eggnog,” which has had the lock on holiday sipping since medieval-era Europeans blended eggs and ale into posset, eggnog’s creamy precursor.
If you have ever despaired at the taste of preblended, sugar-loaded grocery store eggnog, however, there is a Christmas drinks revolution afoot.
And bartenders’ instinctive understanding that the holidays are not merry and bright for everyone means there are as many shades of seasonal drinks as there are seasonal moods — creamy and warm, icy and sour, tart and bittersweet, and maybe laced with something surprising, such as eucalyptus or Himalayan pink salt.
At Cork & Kerry in Rockville Centre, owner Doug Brickel and his staff have transformed the bar into the first Long Island iteration of Miracle, a holiday cocktail pop-up that began in the East Village four years ago and has since spread across the country.
Ever since Brickel got word in spring that Cork &Kerry had been chosen to take part, he’s stockpiled decorations for the big switch. “To us, it felt like opening a whole new bar,” said Brickel, who decked the place out in a riot of pine garlands, elves, and sparkly lights, plus kitsch such as a deer head with a blinking red nose and a blood-speckled mannequin in a Santa hat. (“It’s the ‘Die Hard’ mannequin,” said Brickel, referencing the scene where Bruce Willis utters the immortal but unprintable “Yippie ki yay” Christmas quote.)
That salty threat became the name of one of Miracle’s cocktails, a tiki drink with two kinds of rum, cachaca and marshmallow orgeat; other drinks reference the darker side of the holiday, too. A hot rum and milk punch served in a winking Santa mug is called Bad Santa. And the gin-based Koala-La La La, La La La La, blended with pine-infused vermouth and eucalyptus syrup, is served in a coupe glass with a Santa-hat-topped-koala clinging to the stem. (All of the glassware and mugs are for sale, too).
On a geographic diagonal from Cork & Kerry, at Spiro’s in Rocky Point, the holiday cocktail list takes a cheerier and more caloric turn toward things such as a peppermint martini (with peppermint schnapps), a “mistletoe margarita” and a salted caramel Russian, a twist on a white Russian that changes up the traditional vodka-and-Kahlua formula with caramel syrup, Himalayan pink salt and a whipped cream float, plus a salted caramel garnish. “When we first started out [eight years ago], we had a unique cocktail list with many varieties of martinis,” said Spiro’s general manager Michelle Farrell, explaining why Spiro’s tackles each holiday with a new battalion of season-ready drinks. “It kind of grew from there. Everyone is looking for seasonal things.”
Back at Cork & Kerry, Brickel has a few tips for those who prefer to mix it up at home: Buy whole nutmeg instead of the pre-powdered stuff (it’s easy to grate over drinks, and the flavor is worlds apart). Don’t skimp on spirit quality. And if you have a vegan or lactose-intolerant guest in your midst, open your mind about milk substitutes. “Oat milk would work beautifully,” in drinks that use cream, Brickel said.
MIRACLE ON LONG ISLAND
Where: Cork & Kerry, 24 S. Park Ave., Rockville Centre (until New Year's Eve; check website for hours).
Info: Cork & Kerry: Check Cork & Kerry's Facebook page (there is no website or phone number).
SPRIO'S LOUNGE & RESTAURANT
Where: 4 Patchogue Dr., Rocky Point
Info: 631-744-4100, spiroslounge.com