As a young child growing up in New England, I always loved the snow. My father and I would go sledding and ice skating and build snowmen with my mom and older sister. I even remember huddling up in my dad’s truck, four of us squeezed in the long bench seat, sipping hot chocolate while heading up to Edaville Railroad to enjoy New England’s winter wonderland.
All of this was great, but there was one wintery New England tradition our family didn’t participate in: skiing. Only after a grade school friend and his family invited me on a ski weekend did I become the sole member of my family to learn to ski. I gave it up pretty quickly and so never became very good at it, but two years ago—after many invites from some of my best friends—I agreed to give skiing another try. Luckily for my friends, I only had the patience to ski for half a day. That made me the resident drinks guy with plenty of time to prepare a specialty après-ski cocktail for the guys coming off the slopes.
I have tried to integrate my favorite New England winter flavors into the following cocktails. Some of the ingredients are pretty obscure, and I’ve offered suggestions on how to find them, or suitable alternatives. Don’t get too hung up on finding everything listed; a big part of making good cocktails is experimenting and discovering small variations on a recipe to find out what you enjoy most.
THE BEST BARTENDERS LOVE TO COOK
A lot of people I have encountered while writing this column have said that they have no experience with cocktail making, but lots of experience in the kitchen. Many of the drinks listed below are hot and thus involve a bit of cooking. Regardless if you are making the lightest sparkling drink for a summer wedding or a rich hot chocolate to warm your soul after wintertime fun, never forget what you know in the kitchen.
To me this point is most clear in the use of salt. Though it’s becoming a much more common ingredient on professional bars these days, I still have yet to see many home bartenders use salt in their drinks. Don’t be afraid to use salt, pepper or even hot sauce. And in the winter you can use the full pantry, especially warm baking spices like clove, cinnamon, cardamom, mace and nutmeg. Get creative and don’t be shy. Hopefully this practice will get us all through the cold New England winter—and maybe even through a few ski trips.
Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli honed his craft under Jackson Cannon at Eastern Standard & Drinks where he learned the art of mixology, igniting a special passion for the cultural and historical significance of the cocktail. After serving as opening bar manager at Craigie on Main, he went on to open Island Creek Oyster Bar as General Manager. When he's not developing seasonal cocktail recipes for Edible Boston or consulting local restaurants, Tom can be found tending bar at Green Street Grill in Central Square.