Belle of the bars 

Most bartenders make the holidays festive and memorable by infusing creativity into the season’s libations. And so can you — we’ve got you covered on how to integrate that ingenuity into your own home bar, plus where to get the essential glassware, and it won’t even require you to sling behind a bar anywhere.

Flavor craver
Rococo Northpark’s bar manager Johnny Walker believes it’s all about building a flavor profile around the holidays. One variation he’s likely to pour is the pear martini. Based on the classic cocktail, it contains ginger-flavored vodka, pear Schnapps and a dash of bitters. An orange rind garnish completes the presentation.

Another unusual selection is pumpkin spice liqueur. He said it’s anything but traditional, and the creamy spirit can be stirred into creative cocktails, martinis or served cold.

“I associate ginger, pumpkin and cinnamon with the holidays,” said Walker, adding that darker spirits like whiskey and bourbon tend to become much more popular during the wintertime. One of the reasons is they add a certain warmth, as well as their own unique tastes.

right, Inside The Bottle Shop

Drinkers typically opt for traditional favorites like Wild Turkey bourbon and Jack Daniel’s whiskey, but in recent years, distilleries have crafted artisan flavors.

Julie Morrow, manager of The Bottle Shop, 13516 N. Eastern, said such new products as honey-flavored Scotch and cherry whiskey are gaining popularity.

She stocks dozens of flavored vodkas and said that Smirnoff recently introduced whipped cream and marshmallow vodkas  just in time for the holidays.

“We sell cake-flavored vodka, which would be good if you soaked strawberries in it and then dipped them in chocolate,” she said. “Chocolate-flavored would be good for holiday entertaining.”

Not all flavors are sweet. Some are nutty, smoky or spicy.

Morrow thinks flavored liquor enhances holiday beverages by reducing the number of mixers one has to purchase and offering you the chance to imbibe something innovative.

Glass key
Don’t forget to have some nonalcoholic beverages available for those who choose not to partake. Plenty of punches and beverages exist that offer a fun alternative. Grab a couple of bottles of sparkling grape juice, and you’ve got a bubbly backup, sans the silly.

Beyond the standard booze, beer and wine are good staples.

“Serve wine in a box,” said Morrow (pictured). “The taste has come a long way and prices range from $10 to $20.”

Because expensive stemware isn’t really practical to serve a larger group, cheaper sets are available at places like Crate & Barrel (starting at $3 a glass). Keep in mind that 12-ounce wine glasses can double as water glasses.

Those strapped for cash should check out City Restaurant Supply, 3404 N. May. It sells durable, allpurpose glasses that are dishwasher-safe and usually at a price that makes it possible to pick up a dozen or two. A 10-percent discount is given on sales of a dozen or more.

“We give customers an option of what’s out there,” said Carlos Garcia, a store employee. “We sell 100 different types of glasses.”

It’s probably not a bad idea to keep a reserve of good-quality plastic cups on hand, too.

However, the most important ingredient to any holiday cocktail is fun. So get stocked and enjoy the season with your friends and family.

Photos by Mark Hancock

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