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Published December 10 2012

Special drinks bring spice, color, flavor to holiday season

FARGO – The mostly mild weather and just a light dusting of snow might not bring visions of sugarplums dancing in your head.

But thankfully there are other ways to get into the holiday spirit, such as seasonal cocktails both warm and cold. Using festive spices, flavors and colors, area bartenders have created plenty of unique drinks worth trying over the next few weeks.

The new street-level cocktail lounge at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Fargo, for example, offers a limited-time seasonal drink menu (with each drink on the list only $6).

Lounge Manager Peter Cowan says he wanted to base that list off of flavors and images that he – and patrons – would associate with the holiday season.

“A lot of it was thinking about what reminds me of Christmas, and what can I make to remind other people of Christmas,” he says.

Such seasonal cocktails rely more heavily on liqueurs with peppermint or creamy flavors, Cowan says, than at any other time of the year.

Try the Merry Irishman, made with Jameson, Kahlua and mint schnapps, which has the kind of traditional, festive flavor Cowan describes.

The Grinch, a bright green drink made with Midori melon liqueur and lemon juice and topped off with a cherry offers a much sweeter taste for the season.

The Spiced Silverbell, which is Cowan’s seasonal favorite, is made with tequila, lime juice, cranberry-spiced syrup and ginger beer.

“That’s a really interesting one, because it’s made with tequila and you don’t see that very often,” Cowan says. “It’s my favorite because it has a distinct lime flavor to it, which is great.”

The seasonal list at the Radisson lounge doesn’t have any special hot drinks on it, but Cowan says bartenders there can always whip up a Hot Toddy, made with brandy, whiskey or rum and hot water, or any other hot cocktail.

The HoDo Lounge, meanwhile, doesn’t have any seasonal specials like the Radisson, but it does have some year-round cocktails that are guaranteed to warm you up on cold nights.

Manager Jason Laub recommends trying Uncle Paul’s Spanish Coffee, made with Tia Maria coffee liqueur, Cointreau triple sec and coffee, served with a sugar rim, toasted cinnamon, nutmeg and cream.

Such a combination of flavor and spices in a hot drink is perfect for the holidays, Laub says.

“That hits what goes really well with the season,” he adds.

Patrons can also try the HoDo Cider, with Grey Goose pear vodka, hot apple cider, pomegranate liqueur, honey, cinnamon, clove and orange zest.

Or for those who prefer to keep your drink simple, Laub thinks whiskey, bourbon and scotch are all good bases for a holiday or winter drink.

“They all go pretty well” with this time of the year, Laub says. “A good old bourbon on the rocks will warm you up.”

So whatever the flavor or whatever the base, it’s not hard to fool your taste buds into thinking it’s the Christmas season, even if the weather outside is anything but festive.

Other drinks to warm you up this holiday season

Peppermint Patty (can be ordered hot or cold): 1 oz peppermint schnapps, ½ oz dark crème de cacao, 1 teaspoon crème de menthe, hot chocolate, whipped cream and shaved chocolate for garnish

Hot Buttered Rum: 1 small slice soft butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice), vanilla extract, 2 oz dark rum, hot water

Tom and Jerry: Egg, 1 teaspoon powdered sugar, 1 oz dark rum, 1 oz cognac or brandy, hot milk or hot water, nutmeg

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535