By Terry Trucco
Christmas 2010 is history, but the holidays roar on. And so does this season’s round of holiday drinks
served at hotels around town. While complex signature drinks are more plentiful at New York hotels than ever – Red Pepper Daisy, anyone? — holiday libations are surprisingly rare.
Last season, the Algonquin concocted six special holiday drinks, including a killer eggnog. But when we stopped by to sample this season’s offerings, alas, there were none.
We were also intrigued when we heard of Hilton’s Twelve Days of Christmas cocktails (Two Turtle Doves — Baileys, rum and espresso – sounded particularly promising). Too bad they’re only available at Hilton hotels in Great Britain.
But never fear. We found a trio of New York hotel bars dispensing holiday cheer, emphasis on holiday.
After reading about the cool eggless eggnog Bah Humbug in The New York Times, we headed downtown to order one at the James Hotel’s rooftop Jimmy Bar. It was a chilly night before the Big Snow, but Jimmy proved a sweet haven with heart-stop views of the Hudson, potted firs swathed in fairy lights and velvet banquettes, all warmed (visually, at least) by a glass-fronted fireplace.
The drink, a luxurious amber mix of Flor de Cana rum, three liquors and Velvet Falernum (a sweet syrup flavored with fruit, nut and spice), nestled comfortably in an old-fashioned glass over one enormous block of ice, embedded with a cinnamon stick ($17). Curled up on a banquette, we gazed onto the river as we sipped. Bliss. Big ice cubes, by the way, are a trend you may have noticed. Some bars, like the Randolph Lounge, chip them off enormous blocks. Jimmy used molds, the better to flavor them with cinnamon, spice and everything, well, nice.
Lured by its full menu of holiday concoctions, we headed up to the Empire Hotel across from Lincoln Center. We passed on the Ho Ho Hot Toddy, made with a choice of Jamison or Bacardi Gold, butterscotch liquor and steamed milk (a boozy riff on Starbucks, it seems) and opted for the Kiss’eltoe (Plymouth gin, homemade cranberry sauce, lemon juice and sparkling wine). Too late! A second round of Kiss’eltoe flutes that appeared at a nearby table of six apparently used up the last of the cranberry sauce. We happily made due with the surprisingly light It’s All Gravy Baby — Bacardi Gold, spiced syrup, cinnamon-spiced apple juice and lemon juice ($15). And the lobby bar, with its double-height ceiling, long velvet curtains and animal-print pillows, proved a cozy lair.
We were surprised to learn the Intercontinental New York Barclay’s holiday drinks were Latin-inflected.
Not much in this 1920s neo-Federalist building, more evocative of Washington, DC than Cuba or Brazil, is. And though the lobby brims with white poinsettias and candles in hurricanes, there’s not in palm tree sight. But the hotel’s two holiday drinks are another story. For seasonal flavor, the Holiday Mojito is made with an apple cider Calvados mixture (apple cider, Calvados Apple Brandy, apples, cinnamon sticks and star anise) and rimmed with brown sugar. The Holiday Margarita’s ingredients also had a seasonal spin. In short, unexpected but pleasing ($15).
Happy New Year!