(Post) Holiday Cheer - the kind we drink

Essensia - It's not just for Holidays (Orange you glad the holidays are over?)

I just got an email from a big kitchen manufacturer with "the hottest cocktails for New Year's Eve" that's either planning way ahead, or they're like me and just a little behind...

Essensia is an award-winning dessert wine from the Quady Winery in Madera, CA. I first told you about Quady some time ago, and wrote about it here, Vya Vermouth Rejuvenates Aromatized Wine Category. (and yes, our tree is finally down...)

Essensia is Quady Winery's lightly fortified (15%) Orange Muscat dessert wine. The floral orange scent of the Orange Muscat grape and bright, balanced sweetness leave traces of apricot and honey. Accolades have come from diverse corners of the wine world, including many acclaimed ones, such as Robert Parker, who rated it a 92. But don't let the category "dessert" fool you - this is a wine that can be enjoyed in many ways.


Eben Klemm's Cocktail guide - All You Need to Know to Make the Perfect Drink: The Cocktail Primer

Organized by family of drink, which is an interesting concept for mastering the basics of the bar. As Klemm points out, a cookbook wouldn't be as helpful organized alphabetically from Avgolemono to Zucchini Parmesan, rather than by course. "A martini and a gimlet both claim gin as their primary ingredient, but they do not taste at all alike and most likely would be enjoyed under very different circumstances." In fact, as I sipped my Essensia and enjoyed it's orange floral notes, the logic of this cocktail guide was evident. I thought of a martini-like drink and turned to the chapter entitled "Martini's Children."

It was there I noted the Vesper, which Andrew Quady had mentioned as we discussed my simple drink idea. Here, I use Essensia in place of Lillet Blonde, as well as decidedly less alcohol.


  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz Lillet Blonde
  • lemon peel for garnish

Bols Orange Blossom Martini

  • 1/2 oz Essensia
  • 1 1/2 oz Bols Genever

Pour both over ice, in a shaker.  Shake vigorously then strain into a martini glass.

(Barflies and drinks enthusiasts: a squeezed and lit orange peel would add or detract from this? Discuss and/or comment below.)

Punch is making a comeback both in bars and at home. If you're having a party, say maybe a Superbowl Party, why not mix things up and serve a punchbowl in place of the standard drinks fare? Or maybe alongside it?

We have Kirsten Amann the LUPEC drink maven, AKA Pink Lady, to thank for these punch recipes. Punch has enjoyed a resurgence, due in part to the quality of artisanal ingredients and the interest in expanding our drinking horizons. Something like an artisanal dessert wine or handmade bitters might be just the touch. After all, the NFC game will be at the Superdome, and who's got a better cocktail culture than New Orleans?

Honey Spiced Punch
Erick Castro, The Rickhouse, San Francisco

1 Cup Leblon Cachaca
1/2 Cup Appleton V/X
1/2 Cup Velvet Falernum
1 Cup Lemon
1/4 Cup Honey Syrup
1/4 Cup Simple Syrup
8 Dashes Angostura
10 oz. Sparkling Water

Ladle into individual punch cups and garnish with cinnamon, orange wheels and a sprig of mint.

Old Sydney-Town Punch
H. Joseph Ehrmann, Elixir Saloon, San Francisco

1 liter Bols Genever
11 oz. of St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
11 oz. of Orange Juice
16 oz. of Lemon Juice
11 oz. of Pineapple Gum

Place a large piece of block ice in the bowl and let rest, stirring before serving.
To make a hot batch, use above recipe and 32 oz. water and warm in a pot, crock pot or soup toureen. Ladle into individual punch cups to serve.

Champagne Holiday Punch
Erick Castro, The Rickhouse, San Francisco

Combine in a punch bowl with a large piece of block ice:
1.5 Cup of Bols Genever
1/2 Cup of Orange Curacao
3/4 Cup of Lemon
1/2 Cup of Simple Syrup
1/2 Cup of Champagne
10 Dashes Fee Bros Aromatic Bitters
8 oz. Sparkling Water

Ladle into individual punch cups and top with fresh grated nutmeg. Garnish with pineapple and star anise.