Restaurant folk across the city are hanging up their aprons for some well-deserved time off this Christmas. Take a peek inside the winter traditions of your favorite bartenders as they dish on what to drink with their go-to holiday movies.
“It’s a Wonderful Life is on repeat at my house right now,” says Shepard’s Ryan Sullivan. I picture a nice, full-bodied red with it, or maybe even a mulled wine.” Makes sense—something to warm your belly as George Bailey’s emotional journey warms your heart. Or, for lighter cinematic fare, “You can always watch Elf and crush some eggnog.”
That sentiment is shared by some of Sullivan’s contemporaries. Says Miz Martinez of Cornwall’s Pub: “Elf, duh! Pair with a green Chartreuse smash!”
And The Butcher Shop’s Dominga Ruiz de Jesus agrees. “Either Elf or The Family Stone,” she says. “With Elf, I’d do a boozy hot chocolate. With The Family Stone, probably a nice red wine—maybe Burgundy.”
There are some who think a happy-go-lucky movie like Elf and its playful pairings don’t always fit the bill for a holiday viewing. What does Rob Hoover of La Brasa like to watch? “The Snowman, for sure. It’s a cartoon with no words, only music. The snowman comes to life and befriends a boy. They fly away to a fantasy snowman land. The snowman melts, the boy cries. I would pair Evan Williams White Label, because nothing complements isolation like bonded whiskey straight from the bottle.”
Keeping with the kids’ classics is John Baker of Steel and Rye: “One of my favorites is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” What does he pair with a tooth-happy elf, a warm-hearted yeti and a gold-hungry prospector? “Scotch,” he decides. “I would drink plenty of Scotch with this epic 60s flick.”
“I love A Christmas Story,” says Picco bartender Cassie Baxter. “‘You’ll shoot your eye out,’ isn’t that the saying? I’d drink a shot of Jameson consumed via ice luge.” (With a whiskey projectile, who needs an official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle?)
On board with A Christmas Story is John Benevides, who spent time behind the bar at No. 9 Park and Alden & Harlow before joining the opening team at SRV. He recommends hot chocolate with green Chartreuse, “also known as a Charles de Gaulle.”
Anglophiles can rest easy—the Brits get their share of screen time this Christmas, too. James Lamont of backbar suggests Love Actually be enjoyed with a Cherry Shakewell in hand (see below for the recipe). “It’s no surprise that I’ve paired a very British Christmas movie with a cocktail inspired by a very British treat,” he says. “The Cherry Shakewell is a bakewell tart in liquid form, and I really enjoy pairing this cocktail with Love Actually because they both have something for everyone: the cocktail is just the right balance of sweet and tart, light and filling, and has an underlying nuttiness that just feels Christmas-y. Similarly, Love Actually has a wonderful balance of comedy and drama, romance and heartbreak that will keep the whole family entertained.”
Lamont’s colleague Kobie Ali deviates from the feel-good genre with his nomination of Bad Santa. “I’d like watching it while sipping on High West Rendezvous Rye,” says Ali. The high-octane spirit is an obvious match for the movie’s adult language and dark humor.
And to round out the field, Harvest bartender Kelly Unda provides us with a recipe for grownups looking to pair something with Seuss: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas was one of my favorite movies as a kid and I still watch it every year. This drink is a take on an alcoholic eggnog. It’s a throwback to childhood with a little something special.”
Give these cocktails a try, whatever you do—they’ll give you the strength of ten Grinches, plus two.
Kelly Unda’s Eggnog
1 1/2 ounces Bulleit Bourbon
1/2 ounce Becherovka
1/2 ounce honey syrup
2 ounces chai tea milk
Stir and serve in a highball. Garnish with grated nutmeg.