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Best Holiday Drink Ideas From Chicago Mixologists

By Elizabeth SanFilippo

This holiday season, it's not just about enjoying food with friends and family. It's also about sharing a drink or two. These holiday drink recipes from local Chicago mixologists will get everyone in the spirit of the holidays with not only their wonderful flavors but their amazing aromas too.

The Barrelhouse Flat
(Credit: The Barrelhouse Flat's Facebook)

The Barrelhouse Flat
2624 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 857-0421

During the holiday season, mixologist and chef Stephen Cole loves the flavors from allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as using scotch or rum in his cocktails. To make his mulled cider, combine 0.5 gallons of cider (Barrelhouse uses Seedlings Farm Cider), 4 sticks of cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon of clove. You can also add -- these ingredients are optional (although recommended) -- a thumb-sized piece of ginger, 1 tablespoon of blade mace, 0.5 teaspoons of coriander seed, 0.5 tablespoons of whole allspice (if you only have ground, 0.25 teaspoons will do) and 2 whole pieces of star anise. Heat all of this to a simmer and let the spices do all the work for 15 minutes; the kitchen will smell divine! If you can, strain the liquid out carefully in a crockpot or serving vessel. Either add 3 cups of your favorite rum or whiskey, or just keep a bottle on the side so the kids can enjoy the non-alcoholic concoction, and add as much alcohol as you want as you go along through the night. Some ciders are more acidic than others, so you may want to sweeten with maple syrup, honey or sugar.

Another delectable holiday drink from Barrelhouse Flat is called the Black Friday Breakfast and was originally designed by Mark Brinker. In a shaker, combine 2 ounces El Dorado spiced rum, 0.75 ounces lemon juice, 0.5 ounces cinnamon syrup, 0.25 ounces Rothman and Winters Allspice Dram, a dash of Angostura Bitters and one egg white. Shake without ice. Add ice and shake again. Garnish the drink with fresh nutmeg. To add a cinnamon syrup, combine two cups of demerera sugar, 1 cup water and 4 sticks of cinnamon. The Black Friday Breakfast drink tastes just like a cream cheese pumpkin pie!

About Stephen Cole:

After graduating from the California Culinary Academy with a Culinary Arts degree, Stephen Cole started working in restaurants around the world, including Barcelona's Michelin-starred restaurant Drolma. In 2007, Stephen became a bartender at the renowned Violet Hour, where he led the lounge into the world of craft cocktails. After four years there, he opened The Barrelhouse Flat, a restaurant/bar that focuses on classic cocktails, punches, tap beers and wine, as well as locally sourced food.

Red Door

Red Door
2118 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642
(773) 697-7221

Mixologist Jay Schroeder's love of holiday flavors dates back to his childhood. "Whether it's my mother's perennially impressive showing at Thanksgiving or baking Christmas cookies in December, those are the flavors that made me love flavor." His favorite holiday flavors center around baking spices such as clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and molasses, as well as nutty flavors including walnut, almonds and pecans, which pair well with dark spirits.

To make Schroeder's Mexican spiced cider, first make the hot cider by combining 1 gallon apple cider, 100 grams Mexican cinnamon, 25 grams clove, 8 grams black pepper, 75 grams fresh thyme, 12 grams morita chilis, 20 grams sugar and 5 grams salt. Then pour 1.5 ounces Olmeca Altos Reposado Tequila and 5 ounces of that hot spiced cider into a footed mug and serve.

As for his drink Hierarchy of Needs, combine 1.5 ounces Nolet's silver gin, 1 ounce fresh lime juice, 0.5 ounces Nux Alpina walnut liqueur, 0.25 ounces Luxardo maraschino, 0.25 ounces honey syrup, 1 dash Angostura orange bitters and 1 dash Bitter Truth mole bitters. Shake this mixture over ice. Strain into a coupe glass and serve.

Lastly, for his drink The Fifth Percenter, combine 1.5 ounces Bulleit bourbon, 0.75 ounces fresh lemon, 0.5 ounces maple syrup, 0.25 ounces crème de cassis, 0.25 ounces dubonnet rouge and 1 egg white. Shake without ice. Then add ice and shake. Strain into a Collins glass over ice. Garnish with a few drops of Fee Brothers old fashioned bitters.

About Jay Schroeder:

Mixologist Jay Schroeder has worked in the restaurant business since 2003, and has completed a variety of top-level, spirit-based educational programs around the world. He considers the turning point of his career the time he spent working at the Drawing Room, where he was inspired by the nationally acclaimed Charles Joly, now of Aviary fame. He's also since worked at Double A at Mercadito. With his decade of experience, he's also been considered an important force in the mixology scene. Zagat named him as one of their "30 Under 30" in 2012, and he was one of the last four standing at Red Eye's "Best Bartender" in Chicago competition in 2012.

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap
41 E. Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 266-0400

Beverage Director Chris Jecha likes spice flavors for the holiday season, especially when they are made more complex with heat and smoke. Those scents remind him of holiday gatherings around fireplaces. Since Melnick's is very focused on beer, his cocktails are also inspired by malt flavors.

To make his drink Diplomatic Immunity (a dry, hopped-walnut spiced Manhattan), in a pint glass jigger, combine 2 ounces Corsair Ryemageddon, 0.75 ounces Koval Walnut Liquor, 0.75 ounces of Cocchi di Torino Vermouth and 0.25 ounces of Bittercube Orange bitters. Fill the pint glass to the top with ice. Using a bar spoon, stir the ice until the liquid reaches up to 1 inch from the top of the glass. Strain the contents of the pint glass into the "smoked" double old-fashioned glass and garnish with 3 whole cloves.

About Chris Jecha:

Chris Jecha began his career at the BOKA Group's landmark, BOKA, and Katacomb Lounge. He later joined the team at The Signature Lounge in the John Hancock. In 2008, Chris became the Beverage Director at Jake Melnick's Corner Tap, where he's put to use his knowledge about craft and international brews. He also assists various Levy Restaurants with their cocktail menus.

Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she's scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at

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