Bartending is the full spectrum of exertion. Between the countless recipes, ingredients, measurements, descriptions, and special requests. It’s not for the fainthearted. This doesn’t scratch the plethora of knowledge that goes into the profession nor the physicality involved. How do I know? I used to be one. A bottom of the totem pole, a mediocre one, but I held the title nonetheless. However, I was never a mixologist, a term that is loosely thrown around as if it comes with the territory of being a bartender. There are two disciplines behind the counters, the slingers and the magicians – sometimes you’ll find all in one.

You’ll know when you’re in the company of a mixologist. You’ll see fresh ingredients tucked away in compartments, house-made juices, sweeteners, and garnishes, base spirits, liqueurs, and cordials from obscure locations of the world. The craft cocktails will stick out – usually because you’ll have questions about what you’re about to drink. Every aspect of the cocktail serves a purpose – the time-consuming ingredients, the techniques used for preparation, the glassware, and that pretty garnish that sits on the rim, or floats delicately in the concoction. Most importantly, the food that is served sees eye to eye with the beverage program, drastically bolstering the dynamics – keeping guests in tune to see what they’ll do next.

Cooks & Soldiers on 14th Street and Howell Mill Road in West Midtown is home to several mixologists. The Castellucci Hospitality Group owned establishment pays homage to Basque Country, a region that rests between the border of Spain and France. Basque Country’s culinary world is pintxo driven, the incorporation of the Spanish and Basque language meaning spike. Spike is a reference to the skewering of food with a toothpick in the region. The restaurant’s menu holds true to its inspiration, leaving room for creativity on both the culinary and beverage side.

You’ll see arms slowly rising above one’s head while serving Txakolina – a dry and slightly effervescent wine that fizzes more from a higher pour. Cava – the champagne of Spain is a toasted gold color that shimmers in a flute glass, and of course, the Spanish perfected Gin Tonic. I had the pleasure of speaking with Doug Snow and Tyler Bonn, who’ve had their hand in creating craft cocktails for the establishment. They were kind of enough to share four of their own creations for the holiday season.

 

Holiday Cocktails

“The Devil and the Blacksmith”

Doug Snow: “It’s a seasonal riff on a Basque whiskey sour incorporating Spanish Brandy, Licor 43, and Patxaran. So it has completely Spanish and Basque ingredients. There are notes of vanilla and sloe berry. The lemon brings a bright acidity and blackstrap Bitters balances it out. There are fall and warming spice notes and the crushed pink peppercorn adds a floral notes to the nose and a slight heat to the palate. It’s smooth balanced, boozy, and a little spicy. The name ‘The Smith and The Devil’ is from a European fairytale. The Blacksmith makes a deal with malicious being, the devil. The Smith sells his soul but tricks the devil out of his prize. There’s actually Basque film based on the tale called Errementari.”

Drink

  • 1 ½ oz Torres Brandy
  • ¾ oz Licor 43
  • ½ oz Patxaran
  • ½ oz Lemon
  • Black Pepper Tiaxtore
  • Dash of Blackstrap Bitters

Garnish

  • Crushed Pink Peppercorn

 

“Burning Passion”

Tyler Bonn: “This is my baby. It was inspired by an amazing gentleman, the person who taught me how to bartend seven years ago. He was the one who really got me into craft cocktailing, further motivating me. He taught me how to cold smoke ginger. He had his own recipe that I then doctored, and played with – eventually coming up with this version. It’s a smoked ginger syrup made in house with a blend of Mezcal, Tequila, fresh lime juice, and a splash of Amaretto just to balance it.”

Drink

  • 1 ½ oz Smoked Ginger Syrup
  • 1 oz Mezcal
  • ½ oz Tequila
  • ½ oz Lime
  • ¼ oz Amaretto

Garnish

  • Slice of Ginger

 

Holiday Mocktails

“Everything Nice”

Doug Snow: “This is inspired by holiday season. It’s a non-alcoholic Gin Tonic but Gin is welcome to join the party. We make an in house maple Pumpkin Spiced Tonic, winter spice syrup with “everything nice.” To top it off, we have a burning cinnamon stick for aromatics.”

Drink

  • Maple Pumpkin Spiced Tonic
  • Winter Spice Syrup
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Lemon

Garnish

  • Burnt Cinnamon Stick

Optional: Gin

 

“Hot Buttered Cider”

Tyler Bonn: “We took a spin-off of a hot buttered rum recipe that we will be selling in house and removed the rum. So we do a base of hot Apple Cider, made an in house buttered rum mix with nutmeg, all spice, star anise, cinnamon and a brown sugar simple syrup. It’s perfect for a cold day.”

  • House Made Apple Cider
  • Brown Butter Syrup
  • Shaved Nutmeg
  • Star Anise

Optional: Buttered Rum

 

All of these beverages are available behind the bar at Cooks & Soldiers in West Midtown for the holiday season. So go be in the company of people who know what they are doing, and will make it easier to get along with your family.

For more information, visit www.cooksandsoldiers.com.

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