“Another Round: Fayetteville’s Guide to Holiday Drinks”
After a cold day on campus, an afternoon playing in the snow, or a stretch of lazy afternoon during winter break, there’s nothing that says celebration and warmth more than a delicious holiday drink. Whether spiked or sweetened, Fayetteville bars and coffee shops have elevated winter beverages to a new level of taste.
Smoke & Barrel, behind Jose’s on Dickson Street, is known as a purveyor of fine whiskeys. Amber bottles of all shapes and sizes line the shelves, and for expert advice on the best drinks for the holidays, owner and bartender Joe Utsch offers a creative twist on some of the classics.
Take, for instance, the hot toddy: a drink revered for its warming and medicinal qualities, it is composed of whiskey, hot water, honey, lemon juice and swizzled with a cinnamon stick. Utsch, however, likes his version better.
“The Wild Turkey American Honey toddy was totally an experiment,” Utsch said. “It [the whiskey] already tasted like a hot toddy, so I just heated it up…it was delicious.”
His toddy, as the name implies, uses Wild Turkey brand American Honey Whiskey, heated, with an orange slice for a flu-fighting citrus note. Another toddy version was inspired by the green tea obsession of a co-worker, and combines hot brewed green tea with the traditional toddy ingredients.
One of Utsch’s favorite drinks for the holiday season, though, is a family recipe.
“Hot apple cider and cinnamon schnapps,” Utsch said. “I learned from my uncles when we’d go hunting. They would leave a big pot simmering on the wood stove in the cabin for us when we’d get back from hunting. It smelled a lot better than a bunch of sweaty guys.”
Across the street, past the Walton Arts Center and down by the Nadine Baum Studios, the Wine Cellar is also preparing for the winter months ahead by brewing up their favorite family cider. The recipe is a secret, said Aleks Berry, sommelier for the Wine Cellar, but it is a popular one that keeps customers coming in from the cold.
“We are looking for drinks that are comforting,” Berry said. “It’s more about who you’re drinking with than what you’re drinking.”
But when you’re drinking the Bourbon Apple Cider, the beverage certainly does matter. It comes in a wide-mouthed coffee mug that exudes warmth, sweetness, and comfort, smelling of an orchard and a caramel apple pie. For only $5 – a holiday special – it’s worth a refill.
The champagne punches on the menu add a festive touch, like the Poinsettia Champagne Cocktail, made with triple sec, cranberry juice and champagne. The Wine Cellar does a few other drinks for the holidays, like the Coffee Classic, coffee with Frangelico hazelnut liqueur, and a Prince Charles, coffee with Irish whiskey.
Coffee is a critical component to any day, not just during the holidays, but gets a festive makeover during December and January. Starbucks has released their classic holiday flavors: the Caramel Brulée Latte, the Peppermint Mocha and the Gingerbread Latte, all available in the ubiquitous red cups.
At Arsaga’s, the holiday drinks are still in the works – “we usually get creative and make some up,” said Greta Lawson, manager of the Law Library branch, of winter-inspired beverages. For fall and early winter, Arsaga’s advertises Brown Sugar Cinnamon Lattes, Butter Pecan Lattes and Gingerbread Lattes, along with the standard of autumn, the Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Java’s little sister, hot chocolate, is not without glamour and decadence in the season of merriment, and Lawson said that the White Chocolate Peppermint Hot Chocolate is something Arsaga’s always manages to have around during the holiday season.
As for her favorite drink? Lawson said that, holidays or not, she prefers to drink tea. And sometimes, the simple things in life are the most satisfying.
Holiday Drink Guide
This harkens back to the days of colonial America, and was said to be one of Benjamin Franklin’s favorite cocktails. I like it because it’s sweet and cold and looks like snow – and with a dusting of nutmeg, it’s perfect for the holidays.
5 cup of milk and Half-and-Half (4:1 ration or 3:2, depending on desired richness)
1 ½ cup bourbon (whiskey or brandy with a splash of amaretto would also work)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Nutmeg, for garnish
Whisk ingredients together in a large pitcher and freeze until slushy, about 3-4 hours – this works best if you snuggle the container into a snow bank.
Traditional Hot Toddy
The origins of the toddy have been traced back to Scotland, although don’t feel constrained by Scottish whiskey – Irish, Kentucky, or even sweet Canadian are great alternatives. Pour the honey into a mug and add the whiskey and lemon juice. Pour the boiling hot water over the mixture and stir with a cinnamon stick to combine.
1 ounce whiskey
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup hot water
Juice of half a lemon
1 cinnamon stick
Hershey’s Classic Hot Chocolate
½ cup sugar
¼ cup Hershey’s cocoa
Dash of salt
4 cup milk (1 quart)
1/3 cup hot water
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
Stir together sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium saucepan, and pour in water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Turn down the heat and stir for 2 minutes, adding milk. Heat to serving temperature and top with mini marshmallows or whipped cream, as desired.