Skip to main content
LWR Life
East County Friday, Nov. 23, 2018 2 years ago

Holiday spirits

These five East County cocktails will keep you merry and bright all season long.
by: Guest Writer


By Shellie Terry | Contributor

 We know that one stiff drink won’t get you through the holidays. (It might not even get you through one hour with your in-laws.) But hey, it could take the edge off. We met with some of the hottest mixologists working behind the bars at East County restaurants to find specialty cocktails that will make your mother’s spiked eggnog and rum balls look like tea and crumpets. These tasty (and creative) beverages up the ante in Yuletide drinking, so if you’re feeling grinchy, order one and watch your holiday cheer go from bah-humbug to joyful and triumphant. 

Christmas in a Cup

Iced Cinnamon Whiskey Chai at Valentino

This festive cocktail is the perfect holiday elixir. It blends the Christmassy spices of a chai latte with the creaminess of a White Russian and adds a punch of whiskey to let you know it’s no cup of cocoa. Valentino’s manager, Anna Solari, fine tunes the craft cocktail menu each season with the help of new liqueurs, such as Sompriya Sōmrus Indian Cream. Pistachio, saffron, cardamom, rose and almond work together in this rum concoction to deliver a classic holiday zing. Paired with Knob Creek Whiskey, (secret ingredient) maple syrup and creamer, the cocktail is shaken and poured over ice in an Old-Fashioned glass rimmed with cinnamon sugar and topped with a cinnamon stick. Trust us, you’ll want to order it with a Valentino’s cannoli. We give you permission to have your dessert and drink it, too.

  • Valentino Pizzeria Trattoria
  • 8203 Cooper Creek Blvd.
  • Bradenton, 34201
  • (941) 359-6400
  • $8
Where There’s Smoke …

Smoked Old-Fashioned at Speaks Clam Bar

Eric Holmes, the sommelier and bar manager at Speaks Clam Bar, will take you back in time with his deft mixology skills and black felt fedora. Holmes has perfected the applewood-infused Smoked Old-Fashioned, a booze-forward cocktail for serious imbibers. This elegant drink is a study in simplicity that’s meant to impress. Holmes starts with a generous pour of Evan Williams Green Label bourbon. Then he adds a simple syrup and whiskey barrel-aged bitters, which are stirred — not shaken — so the ice doesn’t dilute the alcohol. The mixture is chilled and then poured into a small carafe topped with applewood smoke to enhance the robust flavor. The carafe is sealed for as long as the customer is willing to wait and then served with a giant ice ball, lemon and orange zest and a maraschino cherry for a full-bodied sensory experience. 

  • Speaks Clam Bar
  • 8764 E. State Road 70
  • Lakewood Ranch, 34202
  • (941) 232-7646
  • $12
Purple People Pleaser 

Butterfly Martini at JPAN

For a kiss of springtime in the midst of winter, JPAN’s bar manager, Robert Boyland, delivers the restaurant’s signature cocktail: the pretty, purple Butterfly Martini. The key to creating a successful signature cocktail menu, Boyland says, is the right balance of spirits, sweetness and sour, which the Butterfly delicately delivers. Juices are fresh-squeezed and syrups are handmade and paired with Effen Vodka, which has been infused with butterfly pea flower and lemongrass, elderflower and fresh lemon. The citrus mixture is presented in a martini glass alongside a small carafe of the purple potion, which is poured together tableside. Boyland makes a whimsical “butterfly” from lemon zest, which will carry you away to a day in May, no matter how much holiday hustling you’ve got left to do. 

  • JPAN
  • Sushi & Grill
  • 229 N. Cattlemen Road #61
  • Sarasota, 34243
  • (941) 960-3997
  • $12
Frosty Florida Fave

Bellini at Brio

If day drinking during the holidays is wrong, we don’t want to be right. The frosty Bellini at Brio at University Town Center is the light, refreshing pop of sweet effervescence that goes down well with brunch while you’re mall shopping. The menu suggests “peach,” but ask your server or bartender what other options are available. Blackberry or strawberry are easy substitutes if you’d rather swap out the peach nectar and schnapps for a more berry taste. The nectar and liqueur are blended and topped with Cuvée Storica Cinzano Prosecco, making the cocktail zippy without being too boozy or outrageous. You can order it by the glass or by the pitcher, depending on whether you’re feeling naughty or nice.

  • Brio
  • 190 University Town Center Drive
  • Sarasota, 34243
  • (941) 702-9102
  • $7.50/$22 pitcher
A Better Buzz 

Irish Coffee at MacAllisters

We can’t think of a better way to cap an evening of Christmas carriage rides on Lakewood Ranch Main Street than with a coffee with cream and Jameson. MacAllisters Grill & Tavern’s caffeinated spirit is your typical Irish coffee cocktail mixed with Baileys Irish Cream, but since the restaurant is known for its selection of specialty spirits, Manager Justin Simms likes to add an ounce of Jameson whiskey to give it a little kick. “That way it feels like you’re having a real drink,” says Simms. The hot brew is topped with whipped cream and a swirl of chocolate syrup, making it the perfect drink to wash down the tavern’s Sticky Toffee Pudding and, in general, all of your holiday fatigue.

  • MacAllisters Grill & Tavern
  • 8110 Lakewood Main St.
  • Lakewood Ranch, 34202
  • (941) 359-2424
  • $6.50





Related Stories