When the ground starts freezing and your nose and ears start feeling less attached to your head, you begin to understand why booze is big business. Not only does it defrost your lips both literally and figuratively, it also provides an excuse to escape into a warm establishment with, hopefully, good company. And that’s what Christmas joy is all about, really—good food, good drink, and good will towards others.
Three of Montreal’s top mixologists certainly think so, agreeing most vehemently with the second of those three comforting elements. In honor of the holiday season, they break out their creative best, revamping classic cocktails with the addition of sweet spices and cranberries, festive sparkling wine, and more rum than a Newfoundland kitchen party.
At the Burgundy Lion, Drahos Chytry suggests a house cocktail called Red Rum. The layered cranberries, red wine, and spiced rum comes garnished with star anise, a cinnamon stick, and a lime wheel. According to Chytry it’s the perfect Christmas drink—“simple but beautiful,” he says. “It’s a Christmas party while sipping on it." At least it is at his pub, where every night is a party thanks to the chefs from nearby restaurants (Liverpool House, Vin Papillon, Grinder, Le Boucan, and James Beard Award-winning restaurant, Joe Beef) who stop in for a post-work drink that, inevitably, turns into a late night.
At Kafein, a low-key bar in the Concordia University area, students mix with academics, young professionals, and cocktail-lovers of all types. The bar’s discounted happy hour is one of the city’s best-kept cocktail secrets, and emphasizes the classics: Aviations, Manhattans, Side Cars, and Juleps. For Christmas, bartender Chris Whitlow eschews heavy egg-based tranquilizers in favor of a fresh Christmas twist on the French 75 called The Maupassant. He combines pomegranate juice with ginger syrup, cointreau, vodka, and sparkling wine. While it feels light, after two of these you may still need a nap—a little like the effect of Christmas turkey, but much more alcoholic.
At Montreal’s five-year strong premiere cocktail destination, the LAB, festive drinks are best served hot. All the better to help thaw your frozen bones, we say. For the “Hot and Sexy Daisy,” mixologist Fabien Maillard combines amber rum, Limoncello and Ataca syrup—a homemade cranberry coulis—and lets it steep with hot water before adding a dose of fizz. For Scrooges bemoaning a lack of cream-heavy Christmas concoctions, the LAB also serves the seasonally named “Nutcracker,” made with frangelico, kahlua, and just enough whipped cream to bring the smile back to your face, and feeling to your extremities.