December 23, 2019 at 10:54 am EST | by Evan Caplan
Local chefs share their favorite queer holiday cocktails
holiday cocktails, gay news, Washington Blade
What Do You Guys Put in Your Tiki Mugs 6.0, Vanilla Butterscotch Hot Chocolate and Barr Hill Tom Cat Gin with elaborate garnish. (photos courtesy the chefs)

They run your restaurants, they craft your drinks, they sous your food: but what do they love to stir up themselves when the holidays roll around? Right from the creative genius minds of your favorite LGBTQ chefs and mixologists in the District, this is how they suggest tossing together a drink (or two) to get all the feels during December.   

Jamie Leeds, Hank’s Oyster Bar

What Do You Guys Put in Your Tiki Mugs 6.0.

This drink is a fun tiki play on holiday spiced apple cider. In this version, we start with a traditional tiki drink base of smooth double-aged Caribbean rum, Velvet Falernum and Tiki bitters. Then, we pair it with house-spiced apple cider and fresh lemon. The best part about the drink? It can also be served as a zero-proof libation, making it a perfect drink for events and gatherings of all ages.

Mikko Kosonen, Mikko Nordic Fine Food

Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer

1 part cranberry cocktail

1 part lemonade

1/2 part vodka

1/4 part St-Germaine

Splash of tonic

Sprinkling of fresh cranberries

I had this drink for first time in Stockholm, as I was working there at my family restaurant. We served it all year, but somehow it become our signature drink for holiday events. As it get dark in Nordic countries early (like 3 p.m.), we choose to have this one also for our happy hour drink. We started to use it for holiday events’ signature cocktail, so we called it Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. Here in Washington as we love aquavit so much we changed vodka to clear aquavit –- and you bet it is tasty with pickled herring and house-cured ham.

Bryan Van Den Oever, Red Bear Brewing

Dirty Klaus

Red Bear’s D.C. Dirt Porter

Mt. Defiance Amaretto

Civic Vodka

Don Ciccio Concerto (coffee liquor)

It might not be roasted chestnuts, but what says “winter,” “holidays” and “indoor drinking season” more than freshly shaved nutmeg on top of your drink? Answer: nothing. It’s like the Klauses themselves are sitting next to you, except more leather and less jolly suit. Made with only local spirits and our own D.C. Dirt American Porter, it’s a perfect nightcap after some delicious brews in this chilly weather.

Carlie Steiner, Himitsu and Dos Mamis


2 oz pecan-infused apple brandy

1 oz grapefruit juice

.5 oz Cardamom honey

1 barspoon apricot jam

This is a simple grapefruit sour meant to replicate the flavors commonly found in rugelach while playing with common wintery time ingredients. Best drank by people who celebrate Hanukkah and also love Lizzo. Shake all ingredients, and strain them into a coupe. It can also be made into a huge punch and served on the rocks.

Christopher Lynch, Wundergarten and La Boum Brunch

Vanilla Butterscotch Hot Chocolate 

1 cup milk

1 cup fat-free half and half

4 tablespoons cocoa

3 tablespoons sugar or granulated sweetener

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butterscotch schnapps

1 oz vanilla vodka Whipped cream or mini marshmallows (optional) Butterscotch syrup (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, half and half, cocoa, sugar and salt. Heat over medium heat until steaming hot. Remove from heat, stir in the vodka and butterscotch schnapps. Pour the hot chocolate into two heat safe mugs. Top with whipped cream or mini marshmallows, and drizzle with butterscotch syrup, if desired. The drink’s being served all winter long at Winterfest, Wundergarten’s holidaytime pop-up.

Ruth Gresser, Pizzeria Paradiso

Barr Hill Tom Cat Gin

Gin on the rocks (or with garnish)

I’m a spirits drinker when I have a cocktail. Generally gin on the rocks. For the winter, my favorite is Barr Hill Tom Cat Gin, which would be great with a lemon latke. I can see Barr Hill Tom Cat on the rocks with a lacey latke sitting on the rim topped with an apple slice and a dollop of sour cream.

Alex Levin, Schlow Restaurant Group

Manischewitz Sangria

1 bottle of Manischewitz

1 cup of simple syrup 

1 lemon, juiced

1 lime, juiced

1 cup of spiced rum or vodka (or more for a stronger sangria)

1 cup club soda

Seasonal fruit such as slices of Cara Cara Oranges, Pomegranate Seeds, Pears (pieces) or Apples (pieces)

Make the simple syrup by mixing 1/2 cup of simmering water with 1/2 cup of sugar, then let cool. Mix all the other ingredients together. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator, then serve the following day.

Every year, I host a gala that is now known as the People’s Hanukkah Party here in Washington. The core group are people who used to attend the Obama’s annual Hanukkah party at the White House but now choose to celebrate elsewhere. Last year, the party had over 300 people and is an amazing experience of community, food and music. Besides baking babka, latkes and sufganiyot, I always serve Manischewitz Sangria as one of the cocktails — it’s a big hit and so easy to make. 

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