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The end of the year brings cold weather and short days, but if we are lucky, it also brings warm greetings and long gatherings with loved ones. When entertaining close friends, coworkers, or family from near and far, tasty libations stimulate conversation and harken memories from yesteryear that fill our parties with joyful laughter. Whether planning a winter gathering in your home or enjoying the best craft cocktail creators in the area, here are some great ideas to celebrate the shivering season with more than just an ugly sweater.

Punch up the Holidays

Before the Industrial Revolution, ice was a rare luxury, and it was common to find punches offered by the bartenders “behind the stick” as house specialties. As refrigeration became more common, and ice became more readily available, punches seemed to all but disappear from the cocktail landscape, however, they are still a great option for your gatherings.

Pistol Pete’s Peach Cobbler Punch

375 ml (half bottle) Dry Point Distillery’s Pistol Pete’s Six Shooter whiskey
375 ml sparkling wine
6 ounces fresh lemon juice
6 ounces brown sugar/ginger simple syrup (1 cup brown sugar, 1.5 cups water, peeled and sliced ginger root, place ginger and water in a small pot, bring to a boil, lower heat, add brown sugar, and stir)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ gallon peach juice
¼ gallon cranberry juice
2 cups frozen peaches
1 cup fresh cranberries

Method: In a punch bowl, place a large block of ice in the center, then slowly add lemon juice, syrup, cinnamon, whiskey, peach, and cranberry juice. Stir. Add sparkling wine, peaches, and cranberries. Stir again. Place ladle and punch cups near the punch bowl.

warm apple cider

Warm Apple Cider

1 gallon apple cider
3 apples, cored and sliced
1 lemon, sliced and seeded
1 orange, sliced and seeded
3 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
4 whole allspice
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 pinch red chile powder

Method: Pour cider into a slow cooker, then add all other ingredients, and turn the setting to high until boiling, switch to low, and place various spirits, mugs, and a ladle near the pot.

Leave it to the pros

If you don’t feel like cleaning up your home after entertaining or the holiday office party has outgrown the office, some local food and beverage establishments have put special focus and resources into creating very interesting cocktail creations for the winter season.

Si Señor

Si Señor has been one of Las Cruces’ landmark restaurants since 1984 because of its dedication to making fresh, homemade, delicious food, and having friendly customer service.

“Our standards in our kitchen have always been extremely high,” says owner Sergio Castillo, “and the pandemic offered us the opportunity to complete the overall experience for our customers, from our aesthetics and ambiance to our unique beverage program.”

New signage and towering custom-made doors that welcome guests are only the beginning of the extensive remodels made during the lockdown. Sergio has invested resources to create an environment in his bar and bar program to enhance his guests’ overall experience. The lighted Patagonia granite bar and exclusive tequila and bourbon collections were just the beginning, as he also implemented an ongoing education for his bartending staff to get creative in making seasonal drinks with fresh ingredients and interesting techniques.

Si Señor has been a family business for three generations and Sergio’s two sons, Diego and Gabe, are heavily involved in the next evolution of the business.
“Understanding what restaurants in larger markets are doing helps us understand our potential and how to create delicious seasonal drinks that our community enjoys,” Gabe said about the beverage program.

Si Señor has found a handful of adventurous and experienced staff members who meet weekly to discuss new possibilities for monthly drink specials and bi-annual seasonal menu changes. Try this cocktail at Si Señor or mix it up at home.

Si Senor Mezcal old fashioned

Mezcal-ero Old-Fashioned

1.5 ounces Cantera Negra anejo tequila
.5 ounce housemade roasted pineapple infused mezcal
.5 ounce agave nectar
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Method: In a mixing glass combine tequila, mezcal, and agave nectar, fill with ice and stir until cold, and pour into a rocks glass over ice, add bitters, and garnish with a pineapple leaf, Luxardo maraschino cherry, and orange twist.

La Posta and Hacienda de Mesilla

You can always count on La Posta de Mesilla to come up with a festive cocktail for any season. The bar staff never lacks enthusiasm when shaking up your favorite holiday margarita! La Posta owners Tom and Jerean Hutchinson have continued the tradition of a thoughtful and well-executed cocktail list at their second restaurant, Hacienda de Mesilla. Chris and his sister Elena Hutchinson have continued, and even elevated, the creativity in both the culinary and beverage programs at Hacienda de Mesilla and have a talented and inspired staff that continues to crank out delicious ideas. They’ll mix a Christmas Margarita for you at La Posta or you can make your own.

The Christmas Margarita

.75 ounce Siete Leguas silver tequila
.5 ounce Grand Marnier
.75 ounce cranberry juice
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce spiced cranberry simple syrup
¼ sugar
Cinnamon stick
3 – 4 fresh cranberries

Method: In a mixing glass, combine tequila, Grand Marnier, juices, and simple syrup, fill with ice, and shake vigorously. Rim a cocktail or martini glass with sugar, and garnish with the cinnamon stick and cranberries.

575 Cruces Craft Cocktail Lounge

The 575 Cruces Craft Cocktail Lounge is the coziest venue of the Amador complex in the heart of Downtown Las Cruces, and the bar is committed to shaking up excellent liquid artistic expressions for every season. 575 Cruces Craft Cocktail Lounge is also host to the 575 Cocktail Classic, the largest cocktail competition in the state of New Mexico, representing 10 New Mexico cities with 32 bartenders last year.

According to Bar Manager Melissa Serrano, 575 specifically offers its experienced staff the opportunity to create exciting and unique handcrafted cocktails at a slower pace than the rest of the venues within the Amador umbrella. “What I find exciting about creating new cocktails for every season is that it pushes my mixology skills to a new level,” Melissa said. “Every drink has got to be better and different than last season’s cocktails.” Here is one example in Melissa’s winter line-up.

winter wonderland martini

Winter Wonderland

1.5 ounces Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka
.5 ounce Rumchata
.5 ounce homemade vanilla or nutmeg syrup
Pinch of ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons vanilla frosting put on a plate
Red and green sprinkles

Method: In a mixing glass combine vodka, Rumchata, and syrup, fill the glass with ice, and shake vigorously. Rim a cocktail/martini glass with frosting, then dip the glass in sprinkles, fill it with the chilled cocktail and sprinkle ground nutmeg on top.

Hire a Pro

Hiring professional private bartenders is another option to consider when planning winter shindigs. One great option for hire is BooziBees, LLC for small or large events. Owner Sarah Boothe has created a network of experienced bartenders that will do an excellent job for your Yuletide soiree. You can contact BooziBees, LLC on its Facebook page or email [email protected].

Jon Johnson is another well-known and accomplished bartender that has emerged as an excellent private bartender with his Phenomejon brand. Jon has won several awards for his cocktails over the years, has twice been runner-up at the 575 Cocktail Classic, and has a unique passion for creating tailor-made cocktails for each of his clients. Phenomejon can be reached by phone at 575-313-5119 or email at [email protected]. This is one of Jon’s signature winter drinks.

Pumpkin Pie Perfection

2 ounces Absolut Vanilla vodka
.5 ounce Ole Smoky Pumpkin Pie Moonshine
1 bar spoon of pumpkin pie puree
1 ounce half and half
2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
Whipped cream
Pinch of cinnamon

Method: In a mixing glass, combine vodka, moonshine, half and half, and pumpkin puree, add ice and shake vigorously, pour ingredients into a graham cracker-rimmed cocktail/martini glass, and top with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Wherever you celebrate your winter holidays, we hope you have a safe and happy season. And of course, drink responsibly!



Story by Daniel Gonzales | Photography by Amanda Gonzales

Originally published in Neighbors magazine.

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