Drink and Be Merry with These Crowd-Pleasing Holiday Cocktails
The holiday season is known as the most wonderful time of the year, but sometimes entertaining can lead to more stress and mess than fun and festivities. A little organization and planning, such as having a well-stocked home bar and a few simple beverage recipes on hand, will help to take the pressure out of the season and keep gatherings merry and bright.
Master mixologist Julia Momose, owner and Bar Director of the celebrated Chicago bar Kumiko, knows a thing or two about creating crowd-pleasing cocktails and spirit-free beverages that are sure to delight family and friends during the holiday season. Momose believes that cocktail making should be fun, rather than intimidating, and that being prepared for holidays with a few basic bar ingredients, like honey, can set the stage for effortless holiday entertaining.
Julia Momose has been in the service industry for close to 15 years, starting her career as a student in Japan. When she moved to America for university, she continued to work in the service industry, training in all facets of hospitality. Currently she resides in Chicago, where she worked as the head bartender at GreenRiver Restaurant and Bar in Chicago. During her time there, GreenRiver was awarded its first Michelin star. In 2017, Momose partnered with the team at Oriole in Chicago to open a bar based on the philosophy of a thoughtful experience filled with deep appreciation and understanding of craftmanship. Momose’s newest venture is Kumiko, based on her Japanese heritage and a meticulous appreciation for details, located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. It offers a unique perspective on the notion of a bar, through a remarkable experience of dining and drinking. Time Magazine named Kumiko on its 2019 list of World’s Greatest Places and Bon Appetit included it as a nominee on its 2019 America’s Best New Restaurants List.
Momose favors the ease of honey to achieve well-balanced holiday beverages and has partnered with the National Honey Board to share how she incorporates it while entertaining at home and at Kumiko. Because the flavor of honey is affected by the floral source that the bees have foraged, there are more than 300 varietals of honey in the US alone. The nuanced flavors of different honey varietals not only add to its versatility, but also pair well with different spirits and are the secret to many of Momose’s favorite cocktail and spirit-free recipes.
“From the lightness of a clover varietal to the richness of buckwheat, honey brings a wide range of flavors that complete any beverage,” said Momose. “Honey is in constant use at Kumiko, and at home too. This holiday season, I’ll be experimenting with honey varietals to create special drinks that will be sure to be crowd-pleasers at gatherings.”
To inspire stress-free cheer this holiday season, Momose is sharing some of her favorite honey-based beverages:
- Mixing orange blossom honey with cold brew coffee and gin, Momose creates a Honey’d Coffee G&T. For a festive brunch bar, she recommends setting up several honey varietals with an assortment of single-origin cold brew coffees, gin, and tonic, and allowing guests to pick and choose their coffee and honey for a customized experience.
- To create her own spin on a holiday season favorite, a hot toddy, Momose combines honey, chamomile and spices in a soothin Spiced Honey Toddy that is not only easy to make, but is also warm and soothing on a chilly Chicago night.
- A hit with Momose’s family and friends during the festive season, The Berries and Bees combines honey, blackberries and whisky for a warming, uplifting cocktail that can be quickly made day or night.
- The spirit-free Bright One with honey, yuzu juice and ginger beer creates a refreshing beverage that will ensure that you wake up feeling refreshed.
In addition to her recipes, Momose offers tips to easily create crowd-pleasing beverages during the holiday season and beyond:
- Preparing the perfect cocktail is about balancing three critical elements: sweetness, fullness and flavor. While balancing sweet with bitter or sweet with acid is a critical element to drink making, so is finding ingredients that provide a pleasant texture and roundness.
- Preparation is key, because you never know who may happen to drop by during the holidays. Having a well-stocked bar at home will ensure that you have the ingredients you need to create a well-balanced beverage. The must-haves for any bar include:
- Several varietals of honey – including wildflower, clover and blueberry – help to offset the intensity of the spirit and add flavor to the cocktail.
- Extra-credit liquor, like vermouth and orange liqueur, can be combined with mixers like sodas, tonic water and bitters to create a beverage that feels special.
- Fresh citrus, berries and herbs are easy to keep on hand and make great garnishes to put the finishing touch on a cocktail.
- When making a spirit-free, it is all about layering flavors. Instead of using a traditional simple syrup made with granulated sugar, experiment with honey, which is naturally sweeter than sugar, and provides flavor and richness.
For more information about how Momose uses just a drizzle of honey in her favorite beverages, visit www.honey.com.
The National Honey Board (NHB) is an industry-funded agriculture promotion group that works to educate consumers about the benefits and uses for honey and honey products through research, marketing and promotional programs. The Board’s work, funded by an assessment on domestic and imported honey, is designed to increase the awareness and usage of honey by consumers, the foodservice industry and food manufacturers. The ten-member-Board, appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, represents producers (beekeepers), packers, importers and a marketing cooperative. For more information, visit www.honey.com.