The 12 Drinks of Christmas – Ninth Drink

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to roll with the punches and appreciate the things you have. I had planned a different drink for this evening, a complicated punch from the 18th century that is honestly too troublesome to attempt, but I wanted to go over the top. Things fell through and rather than being upset, I just went with an alternate and that is just fine. It’s kind of like this year, things turned out differently than I had hoped, but it’s gonna be alright, eventually. So in that spirit, please join me for this ninth of The 12 Drinks of Christmas. Sing along at home, if you like, because, “For the ninth drink of Christmas, Uncle Monkey made for me, a Holiday Margarita”.

The good news is, instead of a complicated thing with a dozen eggs, a bottle of brandy and a bottle of rum, that no one was even going to try to make at home anyway, we are getting an excellent holiday themed riff on the classic margarita. We need a special ingredient to make this one so we’ve got to prep that first. Grab a sauce pan and add 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of whole cranberries. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally until the cranberries begin to soften and “pop”. This took me longer than I had expected, but your mileage may vary. Then add 3-4 cinnamon sticks, 4-5 star anise, 1/2 a teaspoon of cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of allspice. Stir gently and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool before straining to remove the solids. Pour into a resealable container and store for up to two weeks in the fridge. Now that you have Spiced Cranberry Syrup, we are ready to make the drink.

Grab your tins and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of a nice tequila, 1 ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice, 3/4 of an ounce of your spiced cranberry syrup and 2-3 dashes of Cardamom bitters. Add ice and shake to the beat of Jose Feliciano’s classic “Feliz Navidad“. When well chilled, find a suitable glass, rim the top with sugar and salt and strain the drink into it over some artisanal ice cubes. Garnish with a dehydrated lime, some whole cranberries, maybe a tiny bit of Christmas tree, whatever works for you.

Well, isn’t that lovely? Classic margarita flavor, but with an awesome holiday twist. That spiced cranberry syrup is definitely a thing. I am going to have to play with it some more. I am almost certainly having a cranberry old-fashioned later, for the children.

I am having a moment with that glass, though. I have had that one for what seems like forever and rediscovered it recently as we were cleaning out some stuff from storage. It came from La Golondrina in L.A. at least a lifetime and a half ago on a cool California evening when my dear friend Sage and I danced on the plaza to the house mariachi band. Sometimes with each other, sometimes with the older ladies and gentlemen in the crowd, sometimes with ourselves and the spirits of joy swirling around. That evening sticks in my mind for a lot of reasons, but mostly because we both danced with a reckless and innocent abandon, perhaps fueled by the margaritas we shared in this glass or one of the many others we refrained from bringing home. That was another evening that did not turn out quite as planned, but was wonderful in its own different way. Nothing huge, just a rough day at work on a bad business trip, with missed connections turning into late night dinner with an old friend. Then we danced and we sang and all the background and extras wished they could be us, for just a little while. We were so young and carefree with nothing to lose but our troubles. Then we played the grand piano in the Bonaventure till early into the morning and it was just enough magic, but that is another story for another evening. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay festive, my friends.