Winter Cocktails

By David Alan
Photography by Jenna Noel

In The Physiology of Taste, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin writes, “To invite people to dine with us is to make ourselves responsible for their well-being for as long as they are under our roofs.” Such a notion would seem to be self-evident, but I often find that hosts, whether amateur or professional, seem to miss this basic element of hospitality. Though the home entertainer’s livelihood isn’t dependent on expert handling of guests, it is nonetheless wise to think of Brillat-Savarin’s words when planning your holiday get-together.


Regardless of your entertaining prowess the rest of the year, this is the one time of year to go big, to take into consideration every element of your guests’ experience. Consider making it a disposable-serving-ware-free holiday; try to avoid a BYOB event unless you just can’t afford to entertain otherwise; and perhaps splurge and hire someone to make drinks, help serve food or clear plates and glassware. Most importantly for the Tipsy Texan, have no small quantity of drinks at the ready.

I have long been an advocate of punches and batches when entertaining medium-to-large groups in the home. This allows you to actually spend time mingling with your guests instead of spending the entire party behind the counter making drinks. Offering a couple of cocktails in punch bowls (or pitchers) allows your guests to have a drink whenever they want, and to meter their own alcohol intake. When serving spirited beverages, the hospitable host always has chilled water easily accessible, and keeps an eye on guests who may be getting too festive. Let them know that they are welcome to stay, or see them off safely in a cab.

Meet your local distillers!
Thursday, December 8, 6:30 pm
AT&T Executive Conference Center Grand Ballroom
featuring the Official Drink of Austin Contest


1 liter bourbon
18 oz. Texas grapefruit juice
8 oz. Aperol
12 oz. Fresh squeezed Lemon juice
3 oz. simple syrup
1.5 c. water
6 dashes orange bitters
Ice block or ice ring (Fill an old Jell-O mold or plastic food-storage
   container with water and freeze. The bigger the block, the longer
   it will chill your punch without overly diluting it.)
Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl and chill. 



This recipe makes one cocktail, which I recommend trying first before committing to a full batch—the flavor profile of absinthe is not for everybody.

1½ oz. Tenneyson Absinthe Royale (use clear Swiss-style absinthe
   rather than the green French style)
1½ oz. heavy cream
¾ oz. simple syrup
½ t. vanilla extract
1 egg
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake for a moment without ice (alternately, use a handheld milk frother to emulsify the ingredients). Add ice and shake vigorously to chill. For a larger batch, multiply all ingredients except the simple syrup and vanilla. After whipping the other ingredients in a mixing bowl, add simple syrup and vanilla to taste.


Philadelphia Fish House Punch is one of the oldest cocktails in the proverbial book. It dates to colonial times, and was the official drink of a sporting and social club outside of Philadelphia known as the State in Schuylkill. Short on a couple of ingredients, I improvised and found the resulting punch to be more enjoyable than the original. Given its improvised nature, I have named it for those old, understated shacks that used to line Lake Austin, and which are still occasionally visible through the McMansions.

¾ c. granulated sugar
6–8 lemons (enough to yield
   1 c. of fresh lemon juice)
8 oz. aged rum
4 oz. Cognac
3 oz. applejack or Calvados
1 oz. pear liqueur
3 c. water
Ice block

First, prepare what is known as an oleo-saccharum (sugared oil) by placing the sugar in a mixing bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the outermost layer of the lemon rind (zest) from the lemons in strips. Do this over the sugar to capture as much of the essential oils as possible as they are released from the peel. Using a muddler or wooden kitchen spoon, gently grind the sugar and zest, allowing the abrasion of the sugar to remove more essential oil from the lemon zest. Once abundantly fragrant, allow to rest for at least 30 minutes. Combine half of the lemon juice with the oleo-saccharum and stir to create a syrup. Strain out the peels. In a punch bowl, combine spirits, oleo-saccharum and half of the water. Taste and add more water or lemon juice as needed to achieve a pleasing balance. Chill, and keep cold with the ice block.


In the latter days of the 20th century, the old-fashioned came to be known as a whiskey cocktail sweetened with muddled fruit and bitters. In an earlier time “old fashioned” referred to a type of preparation that resembled the earliest combination of ingredients to be called a cocktail. Here, I’ve taken very stout rum and prepared it in the way of an “old fashioned” cocktail: diluted with a little water, slightly sweetened and flavored with bitters and citrus zest. No muddling required.

½ t. granulated sugar
½ oz. filtered water
1½ oz. Lemon Hart 151 Rum (no substitution here; you can find
   at Austin Wine Merchant or call around)
Dash The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters (or
   Angostura bitters)
Dash Regan’s Orange Bitters (or another orange bitters)
Strip of orange zest
Strip of lemon zest

Place the sugar in the bottom of a mixing glass, add the water and stir until dissolved (more water is used here than usual due to the high proof of the spirit). Add the rum and bitters and stir to chill. Remove the orange and lemon zest and twist over a double old-fashioned glass to express the oils. Drop the zests into the glass and pour in the chilled cocktail. Garnish with several large ice cubes.