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Winter twists on cocktail classics

Jeff Josenhans | Drink Shrink

With colder weather upon us in sunny San Diego, we also welcome a change in our drinking habits. Rosé and ice cold Mexican beer are somewhat out of place in colder and darker days, while stronger ales and “bigger” red wines just seem to gravitate towards our palate more than what they did a few months ago.

Creating cocktails at home is not only a festive way to celebrate the New Year, but also a great way to entertain until we get warm again — even if that just means getting back over 75 degrees come spring 2017.

The easiest way to look like a pro at home while bartending is to start with something classic that you are already comfortable with. From there you are just going to interpret for the season and give it a whirl.

These three cocktails below are approachable for any home bartender, and will give your guests (or yourself if you drink alone — there’s nothing wrong with that) a memorable drinking experience they will all envy.

The mojito — This is the classic summer drink that is an crowd pleaser whenever it’s hot outside, but when you break it down it’s just a simple combination of rum, herbs, sugar and citrus. For a winter version, try replacing the mint with some of your favorite spice or a winter herb. A easy approach is to simply muddle cinnamon sticks in your shaker with rum, let it soak a 5-10 minutes, then shake it up with freshly squeezed lime and fine cane sugar. Strain over rocks and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

The margarita — Also a classic warm-weather drink, the margarita can work well interpreted for our colder months. Mezcal is a complex and often-smoky substitution for your traditional tequila in a margarita and citrus is in fact a winter fruit. Try a high-quality mezcal shaken with agave nectar and the seasonal local citrus of your choice. Blood oranges grow in the region and make a great compliment to a cocktail in my opinion. Pick the ones that are a little on the unripe side so you still get the sourness needed in a cocktail.

Champagne cocktail — This cocktail can be used all year long, but is always a festive way to kick off a party. Put a raw sugar cube in the bottom of a flute, but mix it up by using a winter spice bitter to soak the sugar cube, such as cardamom or saffron bitters. The online market for bitters is vast, so plan ahead and take a few minutes to check it out. Add a dash of cognac then slowly fill with cold champagne.

Please send me your holiday cocktail stories via email and if you have a request for springtime beverage stories you would like to see, I would love to see those as well!

—Level 2 CMS Sommelier and Master Mixologist Jeff Josenhans — who just recently added a Cicerone certification to his resume — has changed the dynamic in The Grant Grill Downtown from a classic institution to an exciting lounge and elegant restaurant. Follow his drink-related posts on Instagram @jeffjosenhans. 

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