About an hour ago

You don’t have to go to the bar to get a well-made drink.

Many can be served in your house.

“With most people spending the holidays at home because of the pandemic, there are easy ways to make cocktails in your house,” said Barry Young, co-founder and master distiller at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries’ Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and BLY Silver Rum in Glenshaw.” It is still important to have the tradition of the holidays even if you aren’t having large-group gatherings.”

Young said you don’t have to spend a lot of time making the drinks, either. There are plenty of pre-mixed cocktails available.

All you need is ice and a glass.

Young created a lemon lavender punch last holiday season, and his family suggested he create a ready-made drink so others could enjoy it. His company fashioned concoctions such as a pumpkin spice mule and a blood orange cosmo that can be purchased online or at a Fine Wine & Good Spirits store.

A pre-made cocktail is a good idea because people may not have every ingredient, Young said. Measurements also are exact in a pre-made drink, he added.

“Or just go with the ‘2020 drink’ — a straight martini of Boyd & Blair vodka over ice,” Young said. “It’s the stiff drink we need in 2020.”

Summer versus winter drinks

Tropical, sweet and fruity cocktails reign in the summer — fall and winter weather tends to make people seek out more tart, savory, herbal and even bitter-based cocktails, said Megan Painter, product education supervisor for Fine Wine & Good Spirits, a company run by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

“I also find people crave cocktails with clear-spirit bases in the summer — such as vodkas — and trend to the brown or barrel-aged spirits in the cooler months,” Painter said. “That could be because some view barrel-aged spirits as more comforting or warming.”

Examples of fall and winter-themed cocktails include traditional classics such as a negroni or a brandy Alexander, but more adventurous mixologists could try their hand at making something like a rosemary gimlet twist, spiked chai latte or a cozy cinnamon old-fashioned, she said.


Courtesy of Johnathan Huemme

Some of the holiday cocktails at Sharky’s Cafe in Latrobe which will be available Dec. 1


Cocktails to go

Johnathan Huemme, owner of Sharky’s Café in Latrobe, said they plan to launch holiday drinks Dec. 1. They will have five signature cocktails, including “Olaf” and the “Grinch Martini,” that will be available for takeout up to 64 ounces.

Huemme said these drinks usually require lots of ingredients that a full-service bar will have, versus someone trying to make them at home. Sharky’s bartenders also know the proper amount to mix to fit perfectly in the glass.

“Usually, we do 10 or 15 but have decided to do less this year because of everything that is happening,” he said. “We wanted to make some, because we all need some holiday drinks in 2020.”

Proper equipment

Painter said it’s best to have a jigger to measure ingredients, a stirring spoon and a shaker. If you have those, you can pretty much make anything, she said. She also keeps a citrus juicer, grater for zest or whole spices like nutmeg, and a strainer.

“The one thing that can make a world of difference, in my opinion, is using the proper glassware,” Painter said.

Make sure you have a few glasses that qualify as the following: snifter, martini, Collins, highball, rocks and old-fashioned. Glass shapes are designed to expose your palate, she said.


Courtesy of Q Mixers

Festive Mule from Q Mixers



Anthony Pullen, a former bartender and vice president of trade marketing for Q Mixers, available at Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores and Giant Eagle, said people generally like to get a little more indulgent during the colder months and select seasonal ingredients for their cocktails.

“Mules are popular year-round, but you will see more variations with dark spirits like whiskey, rye and spiced rum being drunk during fall and winter,” he said. “Anything with bubbles also gets more attention during the festive period.”

It’s best to keep it simple, however. Complex drinks with more ingredients are less forgiving when you construct them and make even a small error, Pullen said. It’s best to use quality ingredients, from the spirits to the citrus choices and mixer.

“Remember that 80% of what you taste comes from smell, so a quality garnish can step up the experience,” he said. “If you are about to start eating, drink something that cleans and opens your palate.”

For a dessert drink, mix up some custom mules with a tiny touch of cranberry juice or honey to serve.

It’s 2020

Despite a holiday season that’s practically guaranteed to feel different than any other, one constant will remain for many — enjoying the tastes of favorite foods and beverages while cozied up at home, according to Family Features, a food and lifestyle content provider.

For a fruit-flavored solution, a cranberry smash Moscow mule offers a sweet spin on the classic cocktail. Break out your favorite copper mug and let the cranberries and cinnamon sticks add festive flair to your fusion of vodka and ginger beer.

Or go for a winter white margarita by blending in coconut milk and garnishing with cranberries and rosemary sprigs.

Cheers: Cocktails to try at home

Festive Mule by Tony Abou Ganim

½ ounce vodka

½ ounce fresh lime juice

½ ounce festive spiced cranberry-orange syrup

4 ounces Q Mixers Ginger Beer

In a shaker, add vodka, lime juice and syrup; shake with ice. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with chilled Q Ginger Beer. Garnish with a powdered-sugar sprig of mint.

*Festive syrup instructions for making at home

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of cranberry juice

Peel from 1 orange

Cinnamon stick

2 cloves

Add all ingredients to a small pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool and strain into an empty bottle. Will keep in fridge for 3 months.

— Q Mixers

Long Night Long Drink

1½ ounces gin

½ ounce lemon juice

1 teaspoon agave

5 ounces Q Mixers tonic

Mint sprig and lemon wheel

Shake first 3 ingredients and strain into ice-filled highball glass, top with Q Mixers Tonic. Garnish with mint and lemon wheel.

— Q Mixers

Swing State Spritz

1½ ounces dry vermouth

5 ounces Q Mixers tonic

3 ounces sparkling wine

Mint sprig and lemon wheel

Build drink in a large wine glass over ice. Garnish with mint and lemon wheel.

— Q Mixers

Apple & Gin

2 ounces gin

2 ounces apple cider

2 ounces honey

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 dash ground cinnamon

1 small apple, cut into small chunks

1 cinnamon stick

Combine first five ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.

Garnish with apple chunks and cinnamon stick.

— Fine Wine & Good Spirits

Hot Buttered Rum


2 ounces of BLY Limited Reserve Rum

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

½ cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground allspice

6 ounces hot water

Cinnamon stick for garnish

In mixing bowl, combine butter, vanilla extract, sugar, spices and salt. Beat until well combined. Make ahead and refrigerate overnight.

In heat-proof glass or mug, combine BLY Limited Release Rum with 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) spiced butter mixture. Remaining batter can be stored in airtight container in refrigerator for future use.

Top with hot water and stir until ingredients are well incorporated. Garnish with cinnamon stick if preferred.

— Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries

The 2020 Martini

2½ ounces of Boyd & Blair vodka

Garnish with olives or a lemon twist

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add Boyd & Blair and shake well, thinking of better times to come!

Strain into martini glass. Repeat as needed for stress relief.

— Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries

Cranberry Smash Moscow Mule

1 cup cranberries, plus additional for garnish (optional), divided

¾-1 cup water, divided

2 ounces vodka

1-2 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice

4 ounces Zevia Ginger Beer Mixer


Rosemary, for garnish (optional)

Lime slices, for garnish (optional)

Cinnamon sticks, for garnish (optional)

In saucepan, boil cranberries in ½ cup water until they burst.

Use fork to smash cranberries. Boil 3-4 minutes. Keep mixture moist by adding water ¼ cup at a time.

Let mixture cool to room temperature.

In copper mug, combine vodka, lime juice, ginger beer and smashed cranberries over ice.

Garnish with additional cranberries, rosemary, lime slices and cinnamon sticks, if desired.

— Zevia

Winter White Margarita

12 ounces coconut milk

12 ounces silver tequila

1 tablespoon orange extract

2½ cups ice

1½ cans Zevia Lemon Lime with Bitters

Granulated Stevia, for garnish (optional)

Cranberries, for garnish (optional)

Rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional)

In blender, blend coconut milk, tequila, orange extract, ice and bitters until smooth.

Rim six glasses with granulated Stevia.

Divide mixture among six glasses and garnish each with cranberries and rosemary, if desired.

— Zevia

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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