The Spirit(s) of Thanksgiving and the Holidays

For most folks around the country, the month-long time from Thanksgiving to Christmas is the best time of year. And we here in New Orleans feel the same way, except we have to factor in Carnival, beginning Jan. 6, and the grand finale, Mardi Gras, coming on March 4. Then we go at it pretty hard for St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day, the latter not even celebrated by Americans or now not even significantly noted by Italians in the old country. And we go straight away into festival season, known everywhere else as April. Those celebrations include Night in Old New Orleans, Tennessee Williams, French Quarter Festival, the two weekends of Jazz Fest, and a myriad of celebrations about all sorts of topics (food, music, culture, and agriculture) staged in communities surrounding the city.

Yes, we love this current season but we mostly just love a good party and any excuse to stage one. It is in that spirit that we manage to put our own spin on every celebration that comes our way. You know if you need your car fixed, take it to a proper mechanic. If you have a toothache, head for a dentist. Bad rash, let your doctor have a look. And if you want to celebrate any occasion, be certain to include people who know how to do such things: New Orleanians.  

Anyway, usually at Thanksgiving there is a focus on what wine or beverage accompanies the many aspects of the holiday, but along with the food, there is also a social aspect. Greeting family and friends, watching football, all the conversations, and even while playing with the wee ones, a light cocktail seems to be in order. For some family gatherings, a lot of cocktails, some not so light, seem to be in order, but you can determine your own speed on these things given the circumstances in which you find yourself.

Let’s start the day properly with a hearty Bloody Bull, from the fertile cocktail mind of our buddy from New York, Dale DeGroff, "King Cocktail" and chairman of the Board of the Museum of the American Cocktail, located right here and set to re-open in spring 2014 within the Southern Food and Beverage Museum on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.

As a side note, there seems to be a rumor afoot that the Blood Bull was invented here. While that may be true, there is nothing substantive to change the rumor to a fact.

Dale DeGroff's Bloody Bull

1.5 ounces vodka
Dash of fresh orange juice
4 dashes Tabasco
Dash of pepper (and/or, my choice, Tony Chachere’s seasoning spice)
3 ounces beef broth
2 ounces tomato juice
Garnish: Orange peel

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and shake well. Strain into a goblet glass over ice. Garnish with an orange peel. If you wish, add spicy beans, pickled okra, celery or olives.


Notice how DeGroff uses orange as his citrus component instead of the usual lime. You can make your choice about whether that works for you. DeGroff also recommends an orange peel garnish. I prefer rimming the glass with Tony Chachere seasoning spice, but you may prefer another type of spice, such as Paul Prudhomme. Again, this is your drink so make it as you would like it to be.

Now, let’s move into some seasonal tastes in cocktails, both using Hennessy Cognac as a backbone, and each featuring a few ingredients that “feel” like the holidays. These cocktails would probably do well both before and during dinner.

The added advantage is that at the close of dinner, you have, readily available, fine cognac to enjoy as the perfect after-feast drink.


Holiday “Sauce"
Courtesy of Hennessy

1.5 ounces Hennessy V.S
0.5 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
Heaping tablespoon of cranberry sauce (the kind you would have with turkey)
1 dash Fee Brothers Cranberry Bitters (optional)
Garnish: Orange twist, cinnamon sugar rim
Glass: Coupe or martini

Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice, shake until well chilled. Take the coupe or martini glass and rub the rim with a fresh cut lemon, now dip the rim in a plate of cinnamon sugar (1 part cinnamon to 1 part white sugar). Strain the cocktail into the rimmed glass and garnish with an orange twist.

The Maple Man
Courtesy of Hennessy

1.5 ounces Hennessy V.S
.5 ounce Oloroso Sherry
½ a lime
1 whole mandarin orange without the skin
.25 ounce maple syrup
4 dashes of angostura bitters
Garnish: orange twist
Glass: Rocks

Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice, shake until well chilled. Strain the cocktail into a rocks glass with fresh ice and garnish with an orange twist

Moving on into the afternoon, with a full slate of football games, you might enjoy a cocktail that is being featured at Whiskey Blue in the W Hotel on Poydras Street. While our fantastic Saints are not in action, that does not dampen our black and gold spirit.


First and Ten
(as featured at Whiskey Blue)

1 piece fresh ginger
1 lemon wedge
1.5 ounces Stolichnaya vodka
0.75 ounce St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
splash of ginger beer
splash of simple syrup

In shaker, muddle together ginger and lemon wedge with a splash of simple syrup. Add vodka and St. Germain. Fill with ice, shake and strain into ice filled rocks glass. Top off with small splash of ginger beer and garnish with a lemon twist.

So go ahead with your Champagne and/or sparkling wines, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blend. Open a few cans of one of our local craft brews. Even pull the cork off of a great big American Cabernet Sauvignon, if that is your pleasure.

This is a celebratory time and anyone who would limit the way you want to have a good time needs to take a breather. Remember, there are no wrong answers.

Except one: If you have had too much to drink, don’t drive. Not ever, and really not now.

Celebrate like a New Orleanian. Have fun. Be smart. Do it your way.

Happy Holidays.



You can reach Tim by email at

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