Seasonal Spirits

Merry mixologists add traditional holiday ingredients to these festive cocktails.
Photographs by Cybelle Codish
Recipes courtesy of Justin Vaiciunas, ZIM’s Vodka mixologist (

ZIM’s Naughty Santa

2 ounces Zim’s 81 Vodka
1 ounce Disaronno
(fruity amaretto)
1 ounce heavy cream
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
2 sugar cubes
1 lemon slice

DIRECTIONS: Add all ingredients in metal shaker. Shake 20 times until all mixed. Pour into martini glass and garnish with cinnamon and nutmeg.
ZIM’s Lite Christmas: Substitute ZIM’s 59 vodka (lower calorie, gluten-free) for the 81 and replace the heavy cream with light cream.
Note: Zim’s Vodka is imported from Poland by Grosse Pointe-based The Rebel Spirits Group.

Recipes adapted by Sandy Levine of The Oakland: Art Novelty Company, Ferndale (

Café Brûlot de l’Oakland

3 sticks cinnamon
15 whole cloves
Peel of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons sugar
2 ounces Lemon Heart 151
6 ounces Force 53 Cognac
6 cups strong black coffee
1 whole orange peel, studded with whole cloves

DIRECTIONS: Put the cinnamon, cloves, lemon peel, sugar, rum, and cognac in a small fireproof bowl and heat on an open flame. When the cognac is hot, but not boiling, ignite with a match. Use a ladle to stir and pour the liquid around the bowl. Using tongs, hold the end of the orange peel so that it hangs over the bowl. Carefully ladle the flaming liquid over the top of the peel, causing the flame to ride down the spiral peel. Do this for a couple of minutes, then drop the orange peel into the bowl and pour the hot coffee into the flaming cognac and ladle the mixture into demitasse cups. (Serves 8-12)

Likely Doubtful

1 1/2 ounces Angostura bitters
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
(1 part sugar to 1 part water)
1/4 ounce Batavia Arrack
van Oosten
1/4 ounce Pierre Ferrand
Dry Curacao

DIRECTIONS: Combine all ingredients in a shaker and add ice. Shake and pour (without straining) into an empty rocks glass. Top with seltzer water. Says Levine: “The winter spices of Angostura bitters offer a warm complexity that fits with the cold weather.”

Recipe courtesy of founder David Landrum of Two James Spirits, Detroit (

Best “Real” Eggnog

A dozen eggs, separated
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Slightly less than a pint of Two James Spirits Grass Widow bourbon
Slightly less than a pint of cognac
3 pints of heavy cream
1 pint of half and half (to thin out for drinking, if desired)

DIRECTIONS: Whip egg yolks with booze, sugar, and salt. Whip egg whites until stiff. Whip cream until stiff. Mix together and chill. Real eggnog is supposed to be eaten with a spoon, but if you want to drink it, cut it with a pint of half and half. Add micro-planed fresh nutmeg and you have the best eggnog on the planet.

Recipe courtesy of co-owner Bryan Chin, Mon Jin Lau, Troy (

Spiced Asian Pear Sour

1 1/2 ounces shochu
1 1/2 ounces Rothman & Winter Orchard Pear Liqueur
1 ounce (or more to taste)
fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Dash of five spice powder

DIRECTIONS: Shake shochu, pear liqueur, and lemon juice vigorously with ice for at least 20 seconds; strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of five spice and enjoy. It has an Asian flair because of the five spice and shochu, but it is also perfect for the holidays with the pears.

Recipes courtesy of Dave Kwiatkowski of The Sugar House, Detroit (

Hot Buttered Rum

1 ounce Black Strap Rum
1 ounce Gold Rum
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Boiling water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Fresh nutmeg

DIRECTIONS: Fill a 10-ounce mug with boiling water. In a separate glass, combine the rums and simple syrup. Discard water from the heated mug, pour in the rum and syrup, and top with boiling water. Drop in the spoonful of butter and mix briefly with a spoon. Grate fresh nutmeg on top and serve.

Cranberry Smash

1/2 ounce fresh lemon
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces London Dry Gin
Half a dozen cranberries
Sprig of rosemary

DIRECTIONS: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, combine lemon, simple syrup, and cranberries. Muddle until the cranberries are broken. Add gin and ice, and shake. Strain over new ice in a rocks glass and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Root Beer Flip (Web Exclusive!)

1 ounce Black Strap Rum
1 ounce Art in the Age Root Liqueur
1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup*
1 egg

DIRECTIONS: Combine everything in a shaker and shake hard without ice (dry shake, to emulsify). Add ice and shake again. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with grated cinnamon.

*To make cinnamon syrup, combine two cups of water and four whole cinnamon sticks in a saucepot, and reduce by half. Remove from heat, add one cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. Strain and bottle.

Turkey Dinner Old Fashioned (Web Exclusive!)

2 ounces Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon
3/4 ounce cinnamon sweet potato syrup*
Cranberry bitters
Fresh thyme sprig

DIRECTIONS: Combine everything in a rocks glass over a few cubes of ice and stir for 20 seconds. Fill the glass with the rest of the ice and stir a bit more. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

*To make sweet potato cinnamon syrup, bake a sweet potato covered in cinnamon and brown sugar for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven, allow to cool, and blend in a food processor. The consistency should be a bit thicker than traditional syrup, but if it’s too thick you can add extra simple syrup for dilution.

Recipes courtesy of bartender Carl Gerych at The Lark, West Bloomfield Township (

Appy Daze

1 ounce Apple Jack Brandy
1 ounce vanilla vodka
1 ounce apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
1 apple slice

DIRECTIONS: Mix the brandy, vodka, and cider in a shaker; pour into a glass. Take the apple slice and dip it in sugar; garnish the drink with the apple slice and cinnamon stick. Serve this drink either hot or cold, depending on how you like to drink your cider.

Nog Gon

1 ounce Anejo Rum
1 ounce Frangelico
4 ounces eggnog
1 teaspoon whipped cream

DIRECTIONS: Mix the rum, Frangelico, and eggnog in a glass. Rim the glass with a combination of sugar and nutmeg. Serve the drink chilled and top with a teaspoon of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Tea Night (Web Exclusive!)

1 ounce Kahlua
1 ounce cognac
6 ounces green tea (hot or cold)
1 lime

DIRECTIONS: Combine all the ingredients and squeeze the wedge of one lime into each drink.