We know all about the ever-growing list of Christmas ales and winter warmers available at our local breweries, but what else can a Northeast Ohioan sip for their annual fill of holiday cheer?
Assuming quality gets you going, the establishments in and around Cleveland have you covered. It's a different story when it comes to quantity, but that's not exactly a bad thing.
"We're a beer town, there's no hiding that," says Joseph DeLuca, founder of the Cleveland Chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild. "I really don't understand why we don't see the biggest upswing in holiday cocktails."
DeLuca, who also runs the beverage consulting company Dr. Drink's Traveling Apothecary Show, believes we're missing out on the range of hot toddies, Tom and Jerry blends and spice-infused punches he sees in other Midwest markets like Chicago and Milwaukee. Still, you don't get the sense the industry veteran would trade the offerings of Velvet Tango Room, Spice and others if given the opportunity.
"What I don't see out there is the whole picture [of hand-crafted holiday cocktails], but we are blessed with some great ones," he said.
Here are some of DeLuca's suggestions and where to get them, mixed in with places that tipped us off to their special egg nogs, martinis and more. Check out these awesome drinks around the region. Cheers!
Christmas Candy Cane Martini
Billy's - A Cappelli Martini Bar
7338 Industrial Park, Mentor
Hint of white crème de cacao
A little bit of crème de menthe
Crushed candy cane rim
This wintertime cocktail is a family tradition passed on to owner Kelsey O'Brien from her parents, who previously owned the martini bar off Route 306.
"It's to die for," she says. "It's definitely a holiday item you can't miss out on."
Cuppa Good Cheer
The Woods | 21919 Center Ridge Rd., Rocky River
Crème de cacao
Just a little bit of cream
The fittingly titled cocktail is one of six on The Woods' "Seasonal Sippers" menu, owner Chad Chillemi says. Here are two more merry mixes on that list:
Candy Cane Twist
Splash of 7 Up
Drop of grenadine
Served with a candy cane
Holidays in Manhattan
Spice Kitchen and Bar | 5800 Detroit Ave., Cleveland
Punt e Mes
The fruits are strained and the ingredients sit in bourbon for about two weeks before serving, bar manager Dave Hridel explains.
The crew on Detroit will also serve up the cava-inspired Five Star Sparkler and the Girly Drink Drunk, which is comprised of house-spiced rum, organic ginger liqueur, lemon juice, brown sugar syrup, black walnut bitters and candied ginger.
Homemade Egg Nog
Velvet Tango Room | 2095 Columbus Rd., Cleveland
The VTR's website proclaims it the best egg nog in town, and you'll get no argument from DeLuca, who mentioned it one millisecond after being asked about local holiday drinks.
Hot Bourbon Cider
Toast | 1365 West 65th St., Cleveland
OYO honey vanilla vodka
The Gordon Square hot spot is celebrating its first holiday season by adding a hot bourbon cider, homemade egg nog and housemade Irish cream to the mix, says bar manager Amy Williams.
Olivor Twist | 4061 Erie St., Willoughby
Godiva white chocolate liqueur
Rimmed with a crushed candy cane
General manager Dennis Rieder says the Infusion has been around for the past few years. The downtown Willoughby restaurant and martini bar offers 40 martinis in all, including another holiday selection: the Egg Nog Martini. It's a mix of vanilla vodka and Amaretto di Saronno with a cinnamon rim.
Nighttown | 12387 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights
Traditional egg nog
Candy cane garnish
"It's creamy, a little bit spicy, delicious and housemade here," bar manager Amanda Silverstein says.
Wonder Bar | 2044 East Fourth St., Cleveland
Bailey's Irish Cream
Housemade whipped topping
Wonder Bar serves a few seasonal ciders and coffee-based drinks this time of year, but the Kiss is the most popular for fortifying before those frigid walks down East Fourth Street.
"One of our biggest things — and we write it on our board outside — is to just come inside and warm up with a cocktail," menu developer Rob Biehl says. "It's the warmness of the drinks that'll bring you in."
Warm Mulled Apple Cider
Fire Food & Drink
13220 Shaker Square, Cleveland
Local apple cider
Laird's apple brandy
Fire begins offering its cider each fall, keeping it around until the New Year. While manager Michael Kittle prefers bourbon in his, he's confident you'll enjoy it either way.
"It's pretty spot-on delicious," he says. "It's beyond delicious."