Ask an expert - MICHAEL BERGERON, MIXOLOGIST
Last updated 12/13/2023 at 9:43pm | View PDF
How can you dress up holiday drinks?
Gatherings of friends and family are made extra special this time of year with the help of festive decorations, holiday attire and decadent dishes. For those whose gatherings also include cocktails, local mixologist Michael Bergeron said a cocktail can go from everyday to extra with just a few simple changes.
Bergeron is the expert behind the bar at Hinsdale's Que Miso, a new addition to Washington Street that combines the flavors of Mexico with "a sprinkling of Japanese."
Whether for a brunch gathering or a take on traditional champagne, Bergeron said the Poinsettia is a festive but simple mix of cranberry juice and champagne or prosecco.
Garnishes of fresh cranberries and sprigs of rosemary add a special holiday flair to this crimson cocktail, and to Que Miso's signature holiday concoctions, including the sparkling cran-ginger margarita.
The drink combines 2 ounces reposado tequila, 1 ounce fresh lime juice, 2 ounces cranberry juice and 1 ounce ginger syrup with a splash of ginger beer or ginger ale.
The arándano, named after the Spanish word for cranberry, is Que Miso's seasonal take on a traditional negroni, Bergeron said. It uses Japanese gin with tart cranberry juice in place of the drink's bitter component, usually achieved with Campari or Aperol.
No matter the beverage, Bergeron said the right glass and garnish can take even the simplest drink from average to exceptional. He suggests serving chocolate or espresso martinis in a coupe or martini glass rimmed with crushed peppermint candies. A simple candy cane garnish also adds a festive flair.
When using fruit as a garnish, Bergeron suggests freezing it before cocktail time. The garnishes dress up the glass while chilling the cocktail without watering down the drink.
For those looking for a New Year's Eve toast that goes a step beyond a simple glass of champagne, Bergeron suggests the kir royale.
"It's a super simple two-ingredient cocktail," said Que Miso co-owner Collin Ringelstetter.
It combines champagne and creme de cassis, a sweet black currant liqueur, to create what Ringelstetter called a cocktail that's light in alcohol and worthy of an Instagram post.
When stocking an in-home bar for a holiday gathering, Bergeron suggests keeping things simple. Offer a beer selection that includes something warm and malty, red wine and perhaps something for toasting.
"Everyone loves a little champagne," Bergeron said.
As for spirits, heavier liquors like brandy and bourbon are popular in winter, but gin and vodka drinkers will appreciate having their favorites on hand.
"You don't have to get the spendiest ingredients," Bergeron said, but don't go with the cheapest, either.
To keep things simple, Bergeron suggests coming up with a couple of festive signature cocktails to serve guests.
"Think less light and refreshing, more warm and inviting," he said.
Of course, no host should forget their non-drinking guests. Bergeron said nearly any cocktail can be made without alcohol. He suggests replacing alcohol with sparkling water or seltzer, or trying a nonalcoholic spirit in place of liquor.
"It really wakes it up and makes it entirely different," he said.
- by Sandy Illian Bosch