Apple brandy-spiked hot chocolate and cookie-inspired old-fashioneds at Committee
With Christmas around the corner—and the twin anxieties of gift-buying and family time reaching a fever pitch—it’s time for a stiff, Santa-approved drink. Luckily, this holiday season has blessed Boston with another batch of festive pop-ups and cocktail menus.
On the pop-up front, Miracle has returned to the Kimpton Marlowe Hotel in Cambridge through Dec 24, serving Christmaspolitans (vodka, elderflower, dry vermouth, spiced cranberry sauce, lime, rosemary, and absinthe spritz) and Jolly Koalas (bourbon, cacao nib apéritif, dry vermouth, mulled wine reduction, and mole bitters). Similarly, South End tropical bar Shore Leave has again transformed into Sippin’ Santa through New Year’s Day, with drams like the Azul Navidad (tequila, mezcal, lime, cream of coconut, blue curacao, hazelnut liqueur, and pineapple rum) and the serves-two Mistletoe-to-Toe (bourbon, walnut liqueur, Jamaican and Puerto Rican rums, lime, orange, and maple syrup).
But one hall we’re particularly interested in decking is Committee Ouzeri + Bar, which has introduced the third installment of its holiday-specific cocktail menu under the tutelage of beverage director Lou Charbonneau. There will be some repeats from previous years, including Santa’s Helper, an old-fashioned variant sweetened by a “grandma’s cookie” syrup made with sugar, vanilla, pistachio, and brown butter, in addition to tweaked past hits and newcomers.
“Sometimes we’re newly inspired, or we want to try new things,” Charbonneau says. “We try and keep it a little bit fresh each year.”
One returner that’s getting a fresh look is the hot chocolate-based Krampus Karol, which in years past was spiked with a spirit of the drinker’s choice. But for this edition, the drink has a set template made with a dark hot chocolate blend, oat milk, Vermont apple brandy, Branca Menta, and peppermint whipped cream. Aside from being nondairy, this year’s Krampus Karol captures the feeling of biting into an Andes mint.
“It’s more directed so that it involves a flavor profile we’re really into,” Charbonneau says of the retooled cocktail.
A fresh addition for 2021 is the excellently named Cuban Mistletoe Crisis, which is made with a blend of white rums, an herbes de Provence syrup, lemon juice, rosemary sprigs, and a topper of Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored soda native to North Carolina. Charbonneau compares the cocktail to a mojito, with muddled rosemary standing in for the latter’s mint. The sum of these parts is a lighter, brighter drink that manages to refresh without losing that Christmas spirit.
“It looks festive, it tastes festive to a degree, but still has those tropical notes that are crisp, citrusy, and refreshing,” Charbonneau says.
Another potable attraction is the menu’s Jingle Juice, a rotating shot that’s served in a screw-top bulb ornament. While its fillings will change throughout the course of the holiday menu—which will be served through Dec 30—Charbonneau cites a mixture of cachaca, guava, banana, coconut, lime, and cinnamon as a recent example.
The space itself will be merrily decorated with wreaths, strung lights, and staff-specific stockings hung behind the bar, though Charbonneau states that the festive reimagining won’t reach Clark Griswold standards. After all, the focus should stay on the true meaning of the Christmas cocktail menu—the drinks.
“It’s just a fun little thing for people to come in, get out of the cold and have some cocktails,” he says.
Eric Twardzik is a Boston-based writer and editor with extensive experience in branded copywriting and journalism with an emphasis on food, drink, travel and men's lifestyle.