Cocktail therapy

A Sidecar at Big Orange

A Sidecar at Big Orange
Nov 20

Desperate for a drink? Pull out the dusty bottles in grandma’s liquor cabinet, and mix happily with relatives on Thanksgiving Day.

As turkey visions start to dance in our heads, so do the realities of another holiday at grandma’s.

Long drives, questionable casseroles, interrogations over life choices, general lack of available sleeping space. Who needs a drink? Everyone.

But when it comes to your grandma’s liquor cabinet, the choices can be a dusty mess. Frangelico, brandy, crème de menthe, Scotch, Kahlua — it’s a desperate situation, but it’s no reason to panic. Take inventory of what you have, and turn to throwback recipes to get you through.

For Little Rock bartender Lee Edwards, a Sidecar is a good place to start.

“This is a drink that should be easy to make at a family gathering with a decent bar,” said Edwards, who serves as bar manager for the recently-opened Local Lime. “The Sidecar features brandy with Cointreau and fresh lemon, served up in a sugar-rimmed glass.”

No brandy? Try aged rum or cognac (1 1/2 ounces). No Cointreau? Grand Marnier (3/4 ounce) works. Add 3/4 ounce lemon juice, shake and strain.

If a bottle of crème de menthe is staring you in the face, reach for it. It’s more versatile than you think. John Ingram, bartender at Peabody Hotel bar Mallard’s, declared the stuff a “grandparent’s drink” at one time, but a customer changed his mind. The customer ordered a Gin Stinger, made with crème de menthe (1/2 ounce) and gin (1 1/2 ounces) and served over ice.

“I thought it was going to be disgusting,” Ingram said. “But it’s really refreshing.”

Revelers with a lucky streak might still be able to mix some of their favorites with the stock at grandma’s. But don’t panic if you can’t find the mixers you rely on at home.

“Back in the day, we didn’t have prepared sour mix for our margaritas and things,” said Veo Tyson, bartender at So. “Just use a squeeze of lime and some sugar.”

Need more options? Check out these desperate holiday cocktail suggestions from Little Rock bartenders:

Spike it

No harm in slipping a spirit into the prepared drinks found at holiday gatherings. Veo Tyson, bartender at So, suggests a mix of brandy and Kahlua to perk up coffee.

Bars at The Peabody Hotel are going retro this fall with crème de menthe-based cocktails on the menu. Bartender Christy Henry mixes hot cocoa with 1/2 ounce crème de cacao, 1/2 ounce crème de menthe, and 1/2 ounce Rumple Minze for a buzzy dessert drink. No fancy liqueurs on hand? Plain crème de menthe or Khalua works just as well.

If Thanksgiving weather swings to the warmer side, reach for unsweetened iced tea as a base instead. Joel Allenbaugh of Lulav creates a Hole in One by adding 2 ounces bourbon to 3 ounces tea, 1 ounce honey and a squeeze of lemon. Serve over ice.

Go classic

“When I think of a drink from a grandmother’s cabinet, I really think of a Scotch Milk Punch,” Tyson said. The mix calls for 1 1/4 ounces of scotch, 3 ounces of cream (or half and half), 1/2 ounce simple syrup and a few drops of vanilla extract. The drink should be shaken with ice and strained. Feeling generous? The recipe can easily be multiplied for a crowd.

If your grandmother happens to be a whiskey drinker, Tyson suggests trying your hand on an Old Fashioned, a cocktail he made often at Cajun’s Wharf in the ‘70s. Muddle a cube of sugar and a few dashes of bitters (found at most liquor stores) with an orange slice at the bottom of a glass. Top with ice, add 3 ounces of bourbon and stir.

Even Frangelico has a classic — or at least well-known — use. Mix the hazelnut liqueur with Bailey’s and you’ve got a Nutty Irishman, said Ingram. Sure, it sounds cloying but what’s a holiday gathering without a sugar rush?

Bring it with you

Even the most well-stocked family bar may not have what you’re craving during your visit. If you’re hoping to delve into some major holiday mixology, bring a few bottles with you. Neil Pedrick, bar manager at Ciao Baci, likes to keep it local, and created a spiked apple cider around Rock Town Distillery’s Apple Pie Lightning. Mix 1 ounce of rum with 1/2 ounce butterscotch liqueur and 1 ounce of Apple Pie Lightning. Fill the rest of the glass with apple cider and you’re set. As for that leftover Apple Pie Lighting — just call it a hostess gift.


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