Half the beauty of the holiday season lies in the out-and-out cheesiness it inspires. As soon as Thanksgiving hits, out come all the kitschy trappings of the next four weeks—tinsel, tree skirts, mistletoe, Bing Crosby and drinks bathed in whipped cream and nutmeg.
But these drinks need not embrace the same level of irony as bad sweater parties and re-watching Elf for the 100th time. These need not be eggnog from the carton or Bailey’s-soaked coffees. Holiday drinks are an opportunity to embrace the kitsch while tastefully remodeling them to be as balanced as the Manhattans or Negronis you’d drink during any other season.
In PUNCH’s rendition of the 19th-century Brandy Alexander, VSOP cognac is deployed alongside equal parts of cream and modernized crème de cacao (chill all of your ingredients ahead of time for an extra-icy cocktail). The belt-loosening White Russian (of The Big Lebowski fame) gets an overhaul from Brooklyn bartender Toby Cecchini with the addition of Italian walnut liqueur, House Spirits coffee liqueur, amaretto-scented whipped cream and the option of swapping rum for vodka. And Portland, Oregon’s flashy signature Spanish Coffee finds balance with Jamaican rum, coffee liqueur and Grand Marnier-infused whipped cream.
As for the following two original drinks from Pouring Ribbons and Dutch Kills, the only kitschy thing about them is their delightfully silly names. The former, the Hot for Teacher by Matthew Belanger and Shannon Tebay, is a tiki-fied play on the Hot Buttered Rum that calls for coconut cream, banana liqueur and a Donn Beach-inspired butter base. In the latter, Karin Stanley takes inspiration from apple pie and ice cream for the A La Mode using cider, bourbon and whipped cream spiked with brown sugar.
So no matter how absurd, there is always some joy (and stress relief) to be found in steaming drinks made doubly warm with a heavy pour.