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3 South American-Style Cocktails That’ll Impress Your Guests This Holiday Season

Looking for holiday cocktail inspo? We’ve got you covered. As much as we love indulging in a classic Hot Toddy or sipping on mulled cider by the fireplace come holiday season, we’re not about playing it safe. That’s why we tapped Toronto-based mixologist and bar manager at Leña Russell Morrison to show us how to whip up a few of his signature South American-style cocktails. Salud!

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Photography by Cindy La

Brisa de la Costa

Ideal for ringing in the New Year, this fizzy libation features notes of grapefruit and apple, and a combination of cava and gin. “This is a sparkling cocktail, but I find that a liquor adds a nice depth to it,” says Morrison. The result? A “refreshing, light and approachable” drink.

In a shaker with ice, combine 1 oz. gin, such as Hayman’s, 1/2 oz. Monin’s ruby red grapefruit syrup and 5 drops Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit bitters. Shake for 5 seconds and strain into a champagne flute. Top with chilled cava (or a similar Champagne-style sparkling wine) and garnish with a dehydrated lime wheel.

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Photography by Cindy La

Mobranca

A portmanteau of mojito and Branca Menta, this cocktail is essentially “a funky, muddle-less mojito,” says Morrison. A dash of demerara sugar syrup imparts a smooth caramel flavour, and mint—stems and all—gives the drink a bitter kick. The best part is the swift prep time, which means your guests won’t be waiting 20 minutes for their drinks to arrive.

Add 1 ¾ oz. Havana Club Añejo three-Year-Old Rum, ¼ oz. Branca Menta (or Fernet-Branca), 1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice, ¾ oz. Demerara sugar syrup, two mint sprigs and ice into a Boston shaker. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds and pour the contents of the shaker (including ice) into a tall glass. Top with tonic water and garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

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Photography by Cindy La

Leña

Inspired by the Old Fashioned, this drink features Cocchi Vermouth. Morrison creates warmth by infusing the vermouth with cocoa powder and house-made charred cedar bitters. “Argentina is known for its barbecue culture,” he says. “I wanted to incorporate that into a drink without being really weird; I wasn’t going to throw some steak in there!” A sour-cherry reduction is added (it’s also high in antioxidants), along with orange bitters and scorched cherries. Perfect for warming up your guests when they come in from the harsh cold weather.

In a shaker with ice, combine 1 oz. gin, such as Hayman’s, 1/2 oz. Monin’s ruby red grapefruit syrup and 5 drops Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit bitters. Shake for 5 seconds and strain into a champagne flute. Top with chilled cava (or a similar Champagne-style sparkling wine) and garnish with a dehydrated lime wheel.