This winter, your Friendly Skurnik Spirits Team trades pages for pictures, switching out our Books & Booze Cocktail series for a collection of libations inspired by a few of our favorite holiday films. Net-mix and Chill? That’s right—we said it. Here’s wishing you and yours a cozy holiday full of festive viewings with a delicious drink in hand.
Justin Lane Briggs, Spirits Specialist & Educator
Bill Murray’s ubiquitous drink might be a Tab & Vodka throughout Michael O’Donoghue & Mitch Glazer’s cynical 1980s corporate redux of the classic fable by Charles Dickens, but that just doesn’t seem to do his arrogant protagonist—or the season—justice by modern standards. Let’s face it, times have changed.
Presumably Frank Cross (the Murray character in the film) is drinking Tab because it’s Sugar Free (its only real selling point) and so, to honor both the holiday season and the improbable challenge of aspiring health-consciousness while guzzling liquor, we figured the most appropriate drink must be a vegan Flip. Tab & Vodka was almost trendy at the time, and Frank Cross today would probably be ordering whatever spirit is trendy again, so our Flip is made with mezcal! Or, more accurately, mezcal’s trendy cousin, sotol. Finally, Frank is a bitter, cynical man so this must be a bitter, cynical drink. (OK, it’s hard to make a drink cynical, but you get the idea—the backbone must be bitter.) So, this is a split-base Flip with a Haitian chocolate & coffee bitter liqueur. Because it fits! And because it’s delicious.
The Frank Cross Dead Cross Flip
Combine ingredients in mixing tin and shake to incorporate; add ice & shake again. Strain and serve up in a coupe. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
*Thin maple syrup by combining warm water with Grade A maple syrup (1 part water : 2 parts maple). Stir until fully integrated, then chill before use.
Krista Farrell, Spirits Sales
Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (1977)
One of the most defining facets of Emmet and Ma Otter’s relationship is their penchant for spontaneous and joyful ditties. With ice on the river and snow in the fields, Emmet and Ma Otter row into Frog Town Hollow and dream of ways to make ends meet. While having few resources, the Otters still owned a washtub that bore no holes; one of Ma’s prized possessions. In this wintery, anthropomorphized world, the catchy number “Ain’t No Hole in the Washtub” sets the stage. The washtub becomes symbolic of the joyful sacrifices the family Otter welcomes in the spirit of giving.
Cookies in the kitchen
when there ain’t no hole in the washtub.
If this doesn’t beg for a cranberry shrub, I don’t know what does! “Cookies in the kitchen” recalls aromas of warming baking spice, which pairs blissfully with bourbon, sugar, and tart berry. The greenery of a mint garnish dusted with powder aloft this cranberry-hued cocktail reflects the holiday season and whimsy of Frogtown Hollow and its inhabitants.
Ain’t No Hole in the Washtub
- 2 oz Pinhook Bohemian Bourbon
- ¾ oz cranberry shrub*
- ¼ oz J.M Sirop de Canne (or substitute rich simple syrup)
- 1 dash Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters
- 1 dash orange bitters
Combine ingredients in mixing glass with ice. Stir well and strain over fresh ice in double rocks glass. Garnish with mint, cranberries, and a light dusting of powdered.
*Cranberry Shrub (yields 3 cups)
- 1 cup water
- 2 ¼ cup frozen cranberries
- ¾ cup sugar
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s or a non-distilled preferred)
In saucepan heat water, cranberries, sugar, cloves, and cinnamon until it comes to a boil. Reduce and simmer until cranberries are soft (5-8 mins). Remove from heat and pass through a mesh strainer, draining liquid into a bowl. Lightly press the berries to release extra juices, careful not to release solids. Add vinegar to syrup and store in a covered jar or container and refrigerate. Shrub keeps several months.
Amanda Elder, Spirits Content & Education Manager
Love, Actually (2003)
It wasn’t one of my favorite holiday movies that immediately came to mind for this post but, instead, one I despise. Let it be known; I hate Love, Actually. No amount of full-of-feels music or shots of idyllic, snow-covered London streets can make up for its absurd plotlines, lazy character arcs, or sparkling misogyny. Frankly, the only impressive thing about this film is its ability to bring together so many respected actors and then flatten their collective talent into the cinematic equivalent of an overbaked sugar cookie; full of delicious ingredients yet utterly dissatisfying to the point of inciting anger because of the wasted calories.
Okay, fine. Do I get a small spark of pleasure seeing Hugh Grant do his silly dance at 10 Downing in the split-second I let go of the NUMEROUS issues with that storyline? Of course, I do. And do I find the sound of Bill Nighy’s proper British swearing to be as pleasant to my ears as feisty bird song? Well, I’m only human. And Emma Thompson…
…when she realizes her husband has purchased jewelry for another woman and a long scene ensues in which she cries to the soundtrack of Joni Mitchell, only to then put on a brave face in time to watch her daughter play a lobster in the Christmas pageant…am I heartbroken? Oh, yes. Even this wretched movie can’t snuff out the beauty of a perfect actress and a perfect song representing a timeless ache.
Very well, then. I’ll concede a moment or two of genuine feeling within this otherwise offensive ode to holiday pandering. And in that spirit, I dismiss my initial notion to submit an overly bitter cocktail garnished with a snort of derision in favor of a riff on the classic Stinger. This Calvados variation reminds me of a cold, winter morning with the smell of apple pie from a neighbor’s window wafting on the wind. Or, with its piercing mint underlined with comforting baking spice, maybe it’s simply the cocktail equivalent of a Joni Mitchell song on Christmas Eve.
Both Sides Now
- 2 oz Manoir de Montreuil Calvados ‘Selection’
- 1 oz Giffard Menthe Pastille
- 5 drops Bittermen’s Mole Bitters
- 2 drops Bittermen’s Celery Shrub
- 1 spring mint
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir well with ice. Double-strain into a coupe or Nick & Nora.
Jake Cahill, Spirits Sales
Home Alone (1990)
When I was growing up, I had a handful of movies that were always in HEAVY rotation come the holiday season. And while I, too, was obsessed with Christmastime legends such as Santa Claus, Ralphie, The Grinch, and John McLean; there was no one I connected with more than Kevin McCallister.
Kevin is a man of ceremony. He appreciates the process of things coming together and the beauty of simple pleasures. You can tell by the way he smells that cheese pizza before eating it that he knows the importance of the WHOLE experience. Any 8-year-old who can curate a gauntlet of death in an hour to slow down the Wet Bandits is clearly not afraid to put in the work.
So now, I watch Home Alone every year. But instead of the bowl of ice cream and a soda that used to grace my lap as a child while watching this film, I find myself sipping a whiskey and snacking on some popcorn. And then a thought comes to me. How does adult Kevin McCallister enjoy watching HIS favorite childhood holiday movie, Angels with Filthy Souls?
My best guess is that Man Kevin McCallister, 30 years after shoving ice-cream into his face while watching Snakes (guy’s name, not actual snakes) get pumped full of lead, would be sipping on a very well-crafted cocktail that is boozy, stirred and served on a fat old rock. Our boy has definitely learned to appreciate the art of crafting a cocktail and savoring every sip. But I promise that our fearless Wet Bandit torture king hasn’t gone full snob on us. On his lap is a freshly popped bag of microwave popcorn…all for himself.