The Ninth Reindeer

I always enjoy experimenting with cocktails during the holiday season. People are generally in a better mood and ready to drink – which makes experimentation all the more important and timely.

In my experience, serving cocktails you’ve created yourself results in a more enjoyable atmosphere – and really helps put everyone in the holiday spirit. I’d like to think last year’s Tree Topper achieved just that.

Photos by ADV Photography

For my latest creation, I wanted to incorporate seasonal flavours and colours, so I reached for some cranberries and rosemary. When coming up with a recipe, I almost always start with the base spirit. But in this instance, I worked backwards. I let the garnish dictate how I would proceed. I think the holiday season is an ideal time to experiment in this way.

When experimenting, it usually takes me a couple attempts to nail down a recipe. And more often than not, it’s on my final effort just before I want to give up that I manage to make something work. It may take up to nine stabs at a recipe, but you know that each one is better than the last and often, it’s worth the effort.

Here’s where this experiment led me:


1 oz Hendrick’s gin
1/4 oz elderflower liqueur
½ oz simple syrup (or cranberry-rosemary syrup)
½ oz lemon juice
Handful of cranberries
2 sprigs of rosemary
Club soda

In a cocktail shaker, add the simple syrup, lemon juice, cranberries, and rosemary. Muddle well. Add gin, dry vermouth, and ice and shake well. Double-strain into an ice-filled wine glass and garnish with a sprig of rosemary and cranberries. Top with club soda and lightly stir.

The more you muddle, the brighter the colour. And yes, it tastes great too. Although sweet, the vermouth and lemon juice cut it just enough so that it doesn’t get out-of-hand. If you wanted to, you could also substitute the simple syrup with a cranberry-rosemary syrup, but muddling the ingredients brings out such a strong and fantastic aroma.

It’s an ideal cocktail to serve at a Christmas party, if I do say so myself. What I love about this time of year is that there are a ton of seasonal ingredients to work with. And with the wealth of options at your disposal, it’s an opportunity to work ‘backwards’ and find your way through the fog of experimentation.

Maybe you’ll even make something that will go down in history.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

You Might Also Like