Wine & Spirits: Christmas Cocktail Countdown

by WL Author

Area bars offer daily sips inspired by the aromas and flavors of the season.

By Kelly A. Magyarics

holiday cocktail col cropped

Firefly and Bibiana are offering special seasonal cocktails now through December 23. (Courtesy photos)

It feels like Thanksgiving was just yesterday, but Christmas is only days away. That means only a few more shopping days (less for fellow Amazon Prime addicts.) Whether you’ve checked your list (twice, of course) to be sure you’ve purchased all your gifts, or you haven’t even started (again, two words for you: Amazon Prime), take a breather and grab a cocktail this weekend before the real craziness begins (travel, open gifts, eat, drink, repeat). You can still catch the end of Firefly’s and Bibiana’s Christmas cocktail countdown promotions this weekend, and those in the ‘burbs can grab a sweet and spicy liquid treat.

From December 20 through December 23, catch the end of Firefly’s 12 Cocktails of Christmas. Each evening from 7 p.m.-9 p.m., bartender Jon Harris and his team will offer a different sip inspired by the Christmas season. Drinks are announced on Firefly’s Facebook page and they are priced from $10-$13.

Bibiana also wraps up its 25 Cocktails of Christmas on December 23. The promotion, which began on November 30, unveils a seasonally inspired cocktail priced at $12 daily, all created by beverage director Michael King. On December 20, enjoy the Forte made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, orange, ginger, maple and lemon. December 21 sees the Cranberry Apple Sour with Bourbon, apple cider and cranberry. On December 22, try the Barrel Aged Negroni, which spent 12 months in a barrel. Finally, on December 23, sip the Variopinto with Prosecco, grappa, orange, honey, fig, ginger and a rosemary tincture.

King shared the recipe for one of his 25 Cocktails of Christmas. This riff on the Old Fashioned uses Bourbon infused with hazelnuts and baking spices, including star anise, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.

Hazelnut Old Fashioned
Courtesy of Michael King, Bibiana, Washington, D.C.

4 oz. Hazelnut-infused Bourbon (see recipe)
1 oz. Sugar
2 Orange wedges
2 Maraschino cherries
Dash bitters (your choice)

In a rocks glass, muddle the oranges, cherries, bitters and sugar. Add ice and the Bourbon and stir until chilled.

For the hazelnut-infused Bourbon:
Add a 750 ml bottle of Buffalo Trace Bourbon to a clean jar, along with ½ pound shelled and toasted hazelnuts, 1 star anise pod, 2 cinnamon sticks, 3 cloves, 6 allspice berries and ½ teaspoon whole peppercorns. Store in a cool dark place, shaking daily to incorporate flavor. After 1 month, strain out solids.

And at Ovvio Osteria in Merrifield, Va., bar manager and sommelier Timothy Clune is offering The Ginger Snap. He uses caramelized syrup in place of regular simple syrup which adds richness and depth. He also infuses rum with cinnamon sticks — silver rum makes for a lighter cocktail, while golden or aged rum delivers a more complex and multidimensional flavor. (Caveat: the rum takes a few weeks to steep. For instant gratification, nix the caramelized simple syrup and infuse regular simple syrup with cinnamon sticks to taste.)

The Ginger Snap
Courtesy of Timothy Clune, Ovvio Osteria, Merrifield, Va.

2 oz. Cinnamon-infused rum (see recipe)
1 oz. Lemon juice
1 oz. Caramelized simple syrup (see recipe)
Fever Tree Ginger Beer
Cinnamon stick for garnish, optional

In a cocktail shaker, add the rum, lemon juice and simple syrup. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice. Top with ginger beer, stir and garnish with the cinnamon stick.

For the cinnamon-infused rum:
Take one bottle of silver or aged rum (your preference), and add 4 cinnamon sticks. Seal and store in a cool dry place for several weeks, shaking occasionally. Remove cinnamon sticks when desired flavor is achieved.

For the caramelized simple syrup:
Pour 2 cups sugar into a heavy skillet. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly so it doesn’t scorch. When the sugar turns clear and brown, remove it from the heat. Slowly stir in 1 cup boiling water. Return the mixture to low heat and stir until the syrup is smooth again. Cool the sugar and place it in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Store at room temperature for up to 6-8 weeks.

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,, or on Twitter or Instagram @kmagyarics.

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