Cocktail Chatter - Homo for the Holidays

My puritan forbears would be aghast at the amount of drinking that goes on around the holidays. They’d also be aghast that I am gay, so we know how much I care about their opinion.

Thanksgiving Eve is one of the biggest bar nights of the year. But the real drinking starts the next morning for me. Several years ago Martin and I took over the preparation of the Family Thanksgiving Dinner. The Turkey Coup came after one too many overcooked (or worse, undercooked) turkeys. So the gay boys get up early and start the turkey prep. This ritual begins at about 8:00 a.m. and is accompanied by Mimosas.

Thanksgiving is the best excuse for early drinking

After the bird is in the oven we start on brunch. This is when we get the rest of the family drinking mimosas, as well. The key to great mimosas is in the orange juice. Use fresh squeezed. Much as I love Taittinger’s champagne there is no reason to use it when you are mixing it with OJ. I use Cook’s Brut: inexpensive and palatable. My ratio is two parts champagne to one part OJ. If you want to kick it up a notch spike it with a splash of Grand Marnier. And don’t forget the garnish, half an orange wheel on the rim.

As the afternoon progresses, while the more butch members of the gathering become entranced by watching football, and the rest of us engage in a Judy Garland retrospective marathon, I start mixing what I affectionately call Grandfather Drinks, like Old Fashions or Manhattans. Since we spend the holidays in Wisconsin I usually mix Brandy Manhattans. It was only after I moved away from Wisconsin that I found out that brandy is not what everyone drinks after being weaned off milk. If you want a Whiskey Manhattan I recommend Crown Royal. We got hooked on Crown Royal Manhattans on a Vegas trip years ago. Whether brandy or whiskey, the proportion is three parts liquor, one part sweet vermouth, and a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters over ice. Garnish with a cherry.

My favorite Grandfather Drink is an obscure drink my father picked up about 60 years ago in Lexington, MA, The Flintlock: 1 1/2 oz. Brandy, 1/2 oz. Apple Brandy, 1 tsp. Lemon Juice, 3 drops Granadine, a couple dashes White Creme de Menthe.

I could spend an entire column on what wine to serve with dinner. There are lots of flavors on the traditional holiday table, and no one wine is perfect. Champagne pairs well with many foods, and the acidity clears the palate for the next dish. Now is the time to break out the Taittinger’s. Pinot Noir works great with poultry. White wines that are fruit forward and have a little residual sugar, like a Riesling, are often popular.

After a huge holiday dinner we engage in the traditional run to the nearest gay bar. Even if you love your family, after a full day of football and embarrassing childhood stories I’m ready for cocktails with lots of gay people. Stick with the holiday theme and try a Pumpkin Pie Shot, made of equal parts Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Goldschlager (or other cinnamon schnapps) shaken and strained into a shot glass. This is one of those shots, like Oatmeal Cookies, that people swear tastes just like the namesake. Of course, they usually make these claims after the third shot.

Happy Holidays, and cheers!

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