Drink and Be Merry with Crowd-Pleasing Holiday Cocktails From Master Mixologist Julia Momose

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The holiday season is known as the most wonderful time of the year, but sometimes entertaining can lead to more stress and mess than fun and festivities. A little organization and planning, such as having a well-stocked home bar and a few simple beverage recipes on hand, will help to take the pressure out of the season and keep gatherings merry and bright.

Award-winning mixologist Julia Momose, owner and Bar Director of the celebrated Chicago bar Kumiko, knows a thing or two about creating crowd-pleasing cocktails and spirit-free beverages that are sure to delight family and friends during the holiday season. Momose believes that cocktail making should be fun, rather than intimidating, and partnered with the National Honey Board to create four recipes that showcase how honey is key to creating well-balanced holiday beverages while entertaining at home and at Kumiko. 

In addition to her beverage recipes, Momose shares her tips to create crowd-pleasing beverages during the holiday season and beyond!

  • Honey varietals are distinct and diverse, and you can alter the entire flavor profile of a drink by simply switching from one varietal to another. For example, you can use orange blossom honey which is soft, floral and fruity, to create lighter drinks and buckwheat honey, with its molasses and malty notes, for more robust drinks.
  • Honey simple syrup is a great way to incorporate honey into your drinks with ease. Combine two-parts honey to one-part hot water by weight using a scale and mix in a saucepan over medium-low heat until thoroughly combined. This can keep in your fridge for weeks and is an easy way to incorporate honey in cocktails and spirit-frees.
    • You can add spices when creating honey simple syrup to bring additional flavor to cocktails and spirit-frees. Try heating the water you are using to dilute the honey and add a cinnamon stick or crushed red pepper, strain, and use the spiced or spicy water to make your syrup, following the guide of two-parts honey to one-part water by weight using a scale.
  • When incorporating undiluted honey straight into a drink, it is important to remember the viscosity of the honey and to stir it into other liquid ingredients before adding ice. This will ensure that your drink will be mixed with balance and perfect homogenization of ingredients. Just like you would stir honey into your tea, you want to stir your honey into your cold drinks -- just remember it takes a little more time!
  • At a bar you will often see the bartender make drinks from pre-mixed bottle, which allows time for the flavors to meld and soften into each other. For at-home cocktails and entertaining this is a great way to serve complex drinks. Pre-mixing also ensures that richer ingredients like honey have time to be fully incorporated into the drink and makes for a well-balanced drink with less clean up after the party is over.
  • Preparing the perfect cocktail is about balancing three critical elements: sweetness, fullness and flavor. While balancing sweet with bitter or sweet with acid is a critical element to drink making, so is finding ingredients that provide a pleasant texture and roundness. 
  • Preparation is key, because you never know who may happen to drop by during the holidays. Having a well-stocked bar at home will ensure that you have the ingredients you need to create a well-balanced beverage. The must-haves for any bar include:
    • Several varietals of honey – including wildflower, clover and blueberry – help to offset the intensity of the spirit and add flavor to the cocktail.
    • Extra-credit liquor, like vermouth and orange liqueur, can be combined with mixers like sodas, tonic water, and bitters to create a beverage that feels special. 
    • Fresh citrus, berries, and herbs are easy to keep on hand and make great garnishes to put the finishing touch on a cocktail. 
  • When making a Spiced Honey Toddy, if you don't have buckwheat honey, that’s ok. Simply pair the honey varietal of your choice with a different spirit. Fruity and light orange blossom honey pairs well with vodka, and clover honey makes a great match for whiskey. Above all, have fun with it. 
  • For a festive brunch bar, set up several honey varietals with an assortment of single-origin cold brew coffees, gin, and tonic, and allow guests to pick and choose their coffee and honey for a customized coffee experience.
  • When making a spirit-free, it is all about layering flavors. Instead of using flavor-less granulated sugar, try using honey. Honey is naturally sweeter than regular sugar so you can use a little bit less but also get fantastic body and richness in your drink.