Among the more annoying things you can expect around the holidays — awkward office parties, bickering family members, tinsel that just. won’t. stay. put. — the most unbearable might be that gloopy grocery-store eggnog. Why even consider forcing it down when local bartenders have these five cocktails waiting for you? Made with seasonal ingredients like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg and heated to a comforting temperature, the following concoctions stand out for their festive takes on cocktail classics and their ability to help you cope with the most “wonderful” time of the year.
Majestic Cafe, 911 King St., Alexandria; 703-837-9117, majesticcafe.com.
One of mixologist Todd Thrasher’s creations, the Cider Car ($12)is a clever play on the sidecar. Instead of that drink’s cognac and lemon juice, Thrasher mixes Calvados Busnel apple brandy, Cointreau and hot apple cider with a cinnamon sugar rim on the glass. The result is boozy with a thick citrus flavor that’s sweet but not overbearing. The cinnamon garnish injects a bit of balancing spice into each sip. “It’s perfect for warming your belly this season,” Thrasher says.
13th & Clifton
Room11, 3234 11 St. NW; 202-332-3234, room11dc.com.
This winter cocktail is named after an intersection where bartender Sean MacPherson had a memorable night with his girlfriend. “She took me there on a cold night and we talked for hours,” MacPherson says. “We kept passing a sweatshirt back and forth, and it made me want a warm drink.” The next day, the 13th & Clifton ($9) was born. Based on the traditional hot toddie, the drink is made with Old Overholt rye, Kirschwasser brandy, Peychaud’s Bitters and Fernet Leopold Highland Amaro. Served in a mug, the 13th & Clifton is tart with a heat that creeps through your chest. For the full effect, take it outside to Room11’s small sidewalk patio and sit by the fire pit.
Jackson 20, 480 King St., Alexandria; 703-842-2790, jackson20.com.
The 2 Sins ($11) is bartender Andy Nelson’s interpretation of the hot buttered rum, the rich holiday classic that dates back to Colonial days. To keep the drink from being too heavy, Nelson chills the hot butter overnight so the fat can be skimmed off. He reheats it before adding it to Myers’ Rum and a spice bouquet that includes cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. A house-made butterscotch and dulce de leche foam mingles with the liquid as you sip. “We’re going for a complex yet well-rounded taste that will keep you warm with seasonal spices and buttery sweetness,” Nelson says.
Estadio, 1520 14th St. NW; 202-319-1404, estadio-dc.com.
Inspired by the classic Spanish drink Trifasico (espresso, frothed milk and brandy), beverage director Adam Bernbach created the Quatrofiasco ($9), which adds almond syrup and orange zest to the recipe. “The orange brightens it up a bit and the almond accentuates the nuttiness in the espresso,” Bernbach says. His tweaks help to “sand down the bitter edges of the espresso and the stark booziness of the brandy.”
Range, 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-803-8020, voltrange.com.
A spin on the classic Blue Blazer (the original flaming cocktail that was included in the first bartenders manual, written in 1862), the Blazed Abbot ($11) trades the customary scotch for Smith & Cross rum and Chartreuse, a liqueur whose recipe includes more than 100 herbs. Hot water and an orange peel is added and the Blazed Abbot is lit on fire. It’s then sloshed back and forth between two mugs, all the while ablaze to build warmth before the bartender extinguishes the flame by snuffing it with a mug. The resulting concoction — so named for the Carthusian monks that make Chartreuse — is potent, aromatic and herbaceous.