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Get Into the Holiday Spirit with Cocktails from Local Distilleries

Sonoma County's craft distillers are shaking things up with flavorful cocktails that offer a taste of the merry weeks ahead.

The holiday season is in full swing, and what better way to get into the festive spirit than with a warming, seasonal drink? Local craft distillers are shaking things up with flavorful cocktails that offer a taste of the merry weeks ahead. Much like chefs, they are inspired by the changing seasons when spicing up their menus for fall and winter.

We asked a handful of Sonoma distillers to share recipes for their go-to cocktails for the holiday season. From a hot, decadent chocolate and vodka concoction to a bright red cranberry, clove and gin libation, here are five drinks that are easy to mix up at home and will make your night more jolly with just a sip. These cocktails are also available in the distillery tasting rooms until the end of the year.

Barber Lee Spirits, Petaluma

Sicilian Sting: This martini-like, grappa-based cocktail from Barber Lee Spirits (120 Washington St., Petaluma) is made with honey, lemon juice and egg white and is finished with a chamomile sugar rim.

Why it’s good for the holidays: Inspired by the coziness of a cup of chamomile tea, the Sicilian Sting is calming, bright and refreshing. It is served cold and is a nice compliment to Barber Lee’s warmer winter cocktails.

“For us, grappa is very much tied to the holiday season as we make (ours) from the pomace from our winery at the end of harvest and release it through the distillery at the end of the year,” said Michael Barber, co-owner of Barber Lee Spirits. “A good holiday cocktail should have some warming spice to it, so this grappa cocktail checks all boxes.”

Sicilian Sting cocktail at Barber Lee Spirits in Petaluma. (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)
Aaron Lee, co-owner of Barber Lee Spirits, pours a Sicilian Sting, a mix of grappa, honey, lemon juice, egg white, with a chamomile sugar rim. (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)
How to make it at home:

Ingredients

1 ounce Barber Lee Spirits Grappa

⅟₂ ounce honey

⅟₂ ounce egg whites

Juice of half a lemon

Organic chamomile tea and white sugar for the glass rim

To make chamomile sugar: Grind chamomile tea in a spice grinder. Sieve the tea and separate the powder from the stems that remain. Mix the powder with white sugar for the glass rim.

Shake all ingredients together except the chamomile sugar until a froth starts to form. Add ice and continue to shake until chilled. Rim the edge of a coupe glass with the chamomile sugar. Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass, making sure to shake out the foam as well.

Griffo Distillery, Petaluma

Cranberry Clove: This vivid-red drink from Griffo Distillery (1320 Scott St., Suite A, Petaluma) is a blend of gin, cranberry shrub, cardamom-clove syrup, fig shrub and club soda. Skip the gin and it’s a snazzy mocktail.

Why it’s good for the holidays: Loaded with flavor, this versatile cocktail is a crowd-pleaser that brims with yuletide cheer. The cardamom-clove syrup is from FloraLuna Apothecary and Trading Co. in Petaluma (122 Kentucky St., floralunaapothecary.com), the black mission fig shrub is from INNA in Emeryville (innajam.com) and the cranberry shrub is from Som Cordial in Portland (somcordial.com).

“This is the perfect holiday cocktail because the cranberry is so bright and seasonally delicious when combined with the cardamom and clove,” said Jenny Griffo, who owns the distillery with her husband, Michael. “It’s what I’ll be drinking all winter.”

The Gin Cranberry Clove cocktail at Griffo Distillery and Tasting Bar in Petaluma. (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)
The Gin Cranberry Clove cocktail kit includes Griffo Scott Street Gin, Cranberry Som Shrub, FloraLuna Cardamon Clove Syrup, INNA Mission Fig Shrub, and Fever Tree Club Soda. (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)
How to make it at home:

Ingredients

1 ⅟₂ ounces Griffo Scott Street Gin

1 ⅟₂ ounces Som Cranberry Shrub

⅟₂ ounce FloraLuna Apothecary and Trading Co. Cardamom Clove Syrup

⅟₂ ounce INNA Black Mission Fig Shrub

Fever-Tree Club Soda

Shake together the first four ingredients, strain into a glass and top with club soda. For fun, top with a few fresh or dried cranberries.

A cranberry clove cocktail kit ($95) with gin, shrubs, syrup and club soda can be purchased at Griffo Distillery and online at griffodistillery.com. Makes 12 cocktails.

Hanson of Sonoma Distillery, Sonoma

Hanson Espresso Hot Chocolate: This boozy and caffeinated hot chocolate from Hanson of Sonoma (22985 Burndale Road, Sonoma) is a heated twist on the classic espresso martini. It melds seasonal organic espresso vodka with hot cocoa, heavy cream and your favorite holiday treats.

Why it’s good for the holidays: A holiday staple in the Hanson family home, this decadent drink has a way of making you feel very merry, especially when topped with festive candy canes. It is a great companion on a chilly afternoon or evening.

“Enjoyed best by a warm fire with family and friends, this cocktail is hard not to love,” said Darren Hanson, head of production at Hanson Sonoma.

The Hanson Espresso Hot Chocolate cocktail from Hanson of Sonoma. (Courtesy of Hanson of Sonoma)
How to make it at home:

Ingredients

1 ounce Hanson Organic Espresso Vodka

5 ounces hot cocoa

³⁄₄ ounce heavy cream

Marshmallows and candy canes, for garnish

Make a hot cocoa of your choice. Pour in the vodka and heavy cream and serve warm in a mug. Garnish with your favorite holiday treats.

Spirit Works Distillery, Sebastopol

Whiskey Winter: This not-too-sweet drink from Spirit Works Distillery (6790 McKinley St., Suite 100, Sebastopol) features whiskey, blood orange shrub, lemon juice, a few drops of cinnamon tincture, cherry syrup and simple syrup and a dash of chocolate bitters.

Why it’s good for the holidays: Imagine one of those chocolate oranges you only find on candy store shelves during the holidays, but soaked in whiskey and dusted with chile spice. Thirsty yet?

“We created the Whiskey Winter cocktail for the holidays because the blood orange and hint of cinnamon feel reminiscent of mulled wine, something we often have at home during the holidays,” said Ashby Marshall, co-owner of Spirit Works Distillery.

All those holiday flavors also make this cocktail a good choice for non-whiskey drinkers. (The cinnamon cocktail spice is made in Seattle by a company called Addition and can be purchased online: drinkaddition.com.)

The Whiskey Winter cocktail from Spirit Works Distillery in Sonoma. (Courtesy of Spirit Works Distillery)
How to make it at home:

Ingredients

1 ⅟₂ ounces Spirit Works Straight Wheat Whiskey

³⁄₄ ounce blood orange shrub

³⁄₄ ounce lemon juice

10 drops Addition Cinnamon Cocktail Spice

1 bar spoon (5 ml) Luxardo cherry syrup

1 bar spoon (5 ml) simple syrup

A dash chocolate bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin with ice. Shake for 10 seconds, then strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Top with a dash of chocolate bitters, then garnish with a rosemary sprig.

Young & Yonder Spirits, Healdsburg

Dirty Harry: Your favorite childhood mocktail, the Shirley Temple, is the inspiration for this drink from Young & Yonder Spirits (449 Allan Court, Healdsburg). Similar to a Dirty Shirley, it combines straight bourbon whiskey with lime juice, ginger ale and housemade grenadine.

Why it’s good for the holidays: Despite its name, the Dirty Harry is refreshingly light. The bourbon’s presence in the cocktail is subtle but it packs enough punch to keep you warm on a chilly December night.

“What we like about this cocktail is its combination of warming bourbon notes, accompanied by sweet ginger balanced with the flavor of pomegranate (from the grenadine),” said Joshua Opatz, who owns Young & Yonder Spirits with his wife, Sarah. “The tart berry and warming spices remind us of the holidays.”

The Dirty Harry cocktail from Young & Yonder Spirits in Healdsburg. (Courtesy of Young & Yonder Spirits)
How to make it at home:

Ingredients

1 ⅟₂ ounces Young & Yonder Straight Bourbon Whiskey

³⁄₄ ounce lime juice

⅟₂ ounce grenadine

3 ounces ginger ale

Cherry, for garnish

Shake together all ingredients but the ginger ale. Pour into a highball glass, top with ginger ale and garnish with a cherry.

Young & Yonder’s homemade grenadine and everything else you need to make a Dirty Harry can be purchased at the tasting room in Healdsburg.

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