Ask a Bartender: Holiday Cocktails

Local bartenders Philip Taylor and Carlos Garcia from Brooklyn’s on Boulder tackle holiday mixology and party ideas, plus how to send a beverage back.

Ask A Bartender

Where bartenders answer your questions on cocktails, bar etiquette or the mysteries of life—and give recipes for DIY holiday cocktails.

Should you tell a bartender if you don’t like the drink they made?
Elizabeth Stonehill

Frank Frey: I would prefer a guest tell me they don’t like their drink than pretend they are enjoying it. I have pulled and dumped drinks I could tell guests didn’t like but weren’t telling me. Once they have something they like in front of them, they are much happier. I don’t want you leaving my bar saying what a terrible drink you had. Give me a chance to fix it and provide a better experience. One of the best parts of bartending is turning negative experiences into positive ones.

Philip Taylor: Absolutely, I don’t think any bartender wants a guest to drink something they don’t enjoy. If you don’t like it, you should let your bartender know. Some guests feel like they’re supposed to like certain drinks. This happens a lot with Negronis. People want to like it because it’s a classic, but [it’s a strong drink.] That’s OK; you don’t have to like everything. Of course, it always helps to be polite about how you tell a bartender you don’t like it.

Carlos Garcia: Yeah, there’s no reason to be rude. Think about what you didn’t like about the drink. A good bartender will turn it into an opportunity to make something for your taste. I want my guests to love their drink, not just like it. Sometimes people are afraid of insulting the bartender. Most bartenders know they made the drink properly—it just isn’t to the guest’s liking.

What should I serve at my holiday party?
Hayley Lundgren

PT: Any sort of cocktail that uses spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or clove. Think about holiday spices, and use them in a cocktail. Make a large batch of a cocktail, and let guests serve themselves—this will let you enjoy your party without having to bartend.

CG: Eggnog is a classic, and it’s pretty easy to make. Experiment with warm drinks as well, like ciders or hot buttered rum. Use a crockpot to keep large batches of cocktails warm. It’s like a heated punch bowl.

FF: I love to batch cocktails for parties. Find a recipe for a warm cocktail that uses pie spices, maybe a hot toddy with a little apple and cinnamon. Remember to make adjustments for your tastes. And don’t worry about following the recipe exactly.

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Here are a couple DIY holiday drinks to try:


Makes 15-20 servings
8 eggs, separated
24 ounces cream
12 ounces milk
1 ½ cups of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• Beat the egg whites to a stiff froth.
• Beat the yolks until thin as water.
• Mix yolk, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla extract.
• Fold egg whites into mixture.
• Chill before serving.
• Add ¾ ounce of brandy per punch glass.

Ask A Bartender
Apple Cinnamon Hot Toddy

Apple Cinnamon
Hot Toddy

Makes one serving
4 ounces apple cider
¼ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce cinnamon simple syrup
2 ounces bourbon

• Build in a footed mug.
• Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Cinnamon Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2-3 cinnamon sticks
• Boil all ingredients until sugar dissolves, then simmer for 10-15 minutes.
• Turn off heat; let steep for 45 minutes.