The Christmas season has its own cachet for those who want to enliven
cold, dark winter days with lit-up trees, carols and presents for
friends and family.
In the West, the holiday is marked by
festive eating and drinking — traditions that Chinese holidaymakers well
embrace. This is a season when the air is filled with the heady aroma
of cinnamon and allure of chocolate in hot beverages.
winter are often bold to awaken senses numbed by the cold. IDEAL talked
with two mixologists in Shanghai about perfect cocktails for the
season, from time-honored old favorites to daring new concoctions.
The Christmas spirits
Winter cocktails often feature brown liquors, heavy creams and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
winter, people prefer drinks with stronger and more complex flavors,”
said Lu Yao, a drink specialist at Union Trading Co. “They want things
that are sweet, bitter and spiced, like chocolate, clove and nutmeg.
Whisky, aged brandy and aged rum are some of the spirits very suitable
for the winter.”
One of Lu’s creations last year was a bacon buttered rum cocktail.
buttered rum was already a very popular winter beverage in the 1980s,”
he explained. “We added maple syrup, bacon butter and crumbled bacon to
create the very sweet and savory drink that’s not at all greasy.”
Eggnog, mulled wine and Irish cream are the most popular of the classic alcoholic beverages of the season.
Mulled wine is easy to make at home. Its ingredients are red wine, citrus fruit, spices and sugar.
better with the more dry reds like shiraz and cabernet,” Lu said. “I
add orange, grapefruit, clove and cinnamon sticks as well as some Pedro
Ximénez sherry. It’s a very sweet sherry with a special jujube flavor
that can replace sugar to add sweetness to the mulled wine.”
pops up everywhere. Apart from mulled wine, the spice is also used in
cocktails like hot toddies. In Europe, there’s also a tradition of
burning a cinnamon stick in brandy and hot water to create a winter
Pumpkin spice — a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and
cloves — is used in many pie and latte recipes. It can also be used in
Lu created his Pumpkin King cocktail using pumpkin and
pumpkin spice. The drink is named after the 1993 film “The Nightmare
“I use homemade pumpkin spice rum with port
wine, homemade ginger beer and egg white,” he explained. “Ginger is a
good winter ingredient, and the egg white helps to make the drink
In winter, people are more receptive to stronger, even bitter flavors.
“But the bitterness must come from the ingredients and spices themselves, like in arugula or herbed spirits,” Lu said.
In Shanghai, strawberry is a popular ingredient and can be paired with balsamic vinegar.
“It’s a classic combination,” Lu said. “The sweetness of the berries balances very well with the acidity of the vinegar.”
When preparing winter cocktails at home for adult guests, don’t forget to whip up something special for children.
simply infusing a favorite children’s breakfast cereal like cinnamon
toast crunch or Reese’s Puffs in milk and adding sugar to taste. Then
drain the cereal out.
For some extra fun, you can wrap the cereal
in a tea bag and serve with a cup of warm milk, producing a
caffeine-free milk “tea” that saves the trouble of draining the cereal.
Daring hot cocktails
Tailor Bar is a well-hidden cocktail lounge run by Eddy Yang. This
winter, the bar is offering more than 20 kinds of hot beverages, with
some jaw-dropping creations that combine spirits with hot tea and even
chicken or beef soup.
“Because we have no set drinks menu, our hot
beverages are very versatile,” Yang said. “We pair oolong tea or
Japanese matcha tea with sake, soju and whisky.”
Tea is no
stranger to cocktail creations, but savory soups like chicken and beef
broths are a bit harder to imagine in cocktails.
“The soups are
combined with spirits like whisky, brandy or aged rum,” Yang said. “The
soups are prepared beforehand with the right amount of seasoning and
When the cocktail is served, the spirits are poured
into a pre-warmed glass and then warmed up again. Finally, the simmering
soup is added.
“I got the idea a few years back,” Yang said. “We
are doing it again this year on a limited basis of about 20 to 25
glasses on Friday or Saturday nights.”
Coffee or coffee liqueur is
often used in cocktails like the espresso martini. But Yang lends his
own twist by adding spirits to cappuccinos and lattes, and even to
yuanyang, the Hong Kong-style coffee milk tea. He uses several kinds of
black teas from Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.
Yang also does a
cocktail inspired by hot and sour soup, using balsamic, apple or
pomegranate vinegars and sour flower and fruit tea for the acidity.
have very different tastes,” Yang said. “In the West, people prefer
sweet drinks like the hot toddy and eggnog. Chinese people have
different preferences depending on which region they come from.”
Where to go for winter drinks
American restaurant and bar, Southern Belle offers classic hot drinks
like hot buttered rum, hot toddies, Irish coffee and mulled wine in
Address: 433 Changle Rd
Jade on 36 Bar
restaurant in the Pudong Shangri-La offers a barrel-aged Manhattan, a
mix of bourbon and sweet vermouth that is aged in a barrel for 36 days.
Address: 33 Fucheng Rd
Boxing Cat Brewery
seasonal offering at Boxing Cat Brewery features three ales. The
Southpaw Winter Warmer is a malty English brown ale with a twist of star
anise, orange peel and coffee added in the recipe. The Brawlin’ Belgian
Witbier is a classic unfiltered beer with subtle flavors of orange,
citrus and spiciness in a crisp dry finish. The Spiced Pumpkin Ale is
brewed with fresh pumpkin and pumpkin spice mix.
Sinan Mansions store: Sinan Mansions, Unit 26A, 519 Fuxing Rd M.
Yong Fu store:
82 Fuxing Rd W.
The Place HQ, 100 Zunyi Rd
House of Flour
you are feeling the urge for some chocolate, House of Flour offers a
Bailey’s Hot Chocolate that mixes chocolate with Bailey’s Irish Cream.
Address: 30 Sinan Rd
Tel: 6093 2058
A mulled wine recipe by Lu Yao
1.5 liter dry red wine
750 ml Pedro Ximénez sherry
4 oranges, cut in quarters
Zest of one lemon
5 cinnamon sticks
6 star anise
2 vanilla pods
all ingredients to a pot, bring to boil and simmer for one hour. Turn
off the heat and let the covered pot sit for 30 minutes before serving.