Photography By Shana Novak
Eggnog may smell like Christmas in a glass, but it can also feel like Christmas in your belly -- heavy, rich, and best enjoyed in limited doses. Even when it's homemade, you wouldn't want to organize a party around it. The same goes for that other festive libation, mulled wine (or glogg), in which wine is mixed with rum, cloves, and cinnamon and then gently heated on the stovetop.
One glass is charming; three is regrettable.
And all that mixing and warming and spice measuring is far too involved. Meanwhile, hot buttered rum is wonderfully Dickensian, but better as a nightcap than a party stalwart (not to say a little greasy). Champagne is above reproach, but hardly novel. Which leaves...what?
How about the earthy, piney pungency of rosemary? Used to flavor simple syrup, it becomes a transformative base for an array of holiday cocktails as uncomplicated as they are impressive. Long associated with Christmas (its aroma was said to come from the swaddling clothes of Christ, according to master of miscellany Ben Schott), rosemary bestows the sharp herbaceous zing so urgently needed to counter the season's saccharine sensibilities.
No less a great figure than Sir Thomas More -- yes, he of Hilary Mantel's prize-winning Wolf Hall trilogy -- described rosemary as "the herb sacred to remembrance and therefore friendship." More was probably not thinking of a Rosemary Gin Fizz at the time, but it turns out that he was more accurate than even he may have realized: Last year a team of researchers in the U.K. announced that the scent of rosemary can boost memory. Comfort and joy, indeed.
Four Rosemary-Based Holiday Drinks
Rosemary Gin Fizz
2 oz. gin
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon rosemary syrup*
Club soda, chilled
1 rosemary sprig
In a highball glass, stir gin, lemon, and rosemary syrup. Fill halfway with ice, top with soda, and garnish with rosemary sprig. For a variation, replace lemon juice with blood orange juice, or gin with bourbon.
Rosemary-Scented Champagne Cocktail
1/2 oz. aged rum
1/2 oz. rosemary syrup
5 oz. champagne
Combine rum and rosemary syrup in a champagne coupe or flute, then fill the glass with champagne. Squeeze lemon into the glass.
750 ml. bottle prosecco
2 cups fresh-squeezed grapefruit or lemon juice
1 cup gin
1/2 cup rosemary syrup
1-2 tablespoons juice of ginger
(to collect juice, grate peeled root
and press through a sieve)
Sparkling water to taste
Combine the first three ingredients, then add syrup and ginger (adding more of each if needed), and place in a bowl with a large ring of ice, which you can make in a Bundt tin (it will melt more slowly). Serve as cold as possible.
Courtesy of 101Cookbooks.com
3/4 oz. Aperol
3/4 oz. St-Germain
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. rosemary syrup
2 oz. dry sparkling wine
Rosemary sprig for garnish
Shake the Aperol, St-Germain, lime juice, and rosemary syrup with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with rosemary sprig.
Courtesy of Anvil Bar and Refuge, Houston
*To make rosemary syrup, add 4 sprigs of rosemary and 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer, then remove sprigs. Cool and refrigerate until needed.