"Holiday drinks are the comfort food of cocktails," says Olympia bartender Katie Rains.
With her long red hair and bright smile, Rains - a fixture at Cicada Restaurant & Lounge - exudes warmth and festivity. As we chat, she is animated and excited about her craft - creating alcoholic delights. She has spent the last week preparing holiday drinks specifically for our interview, and as she begins to explain her designs, I know I have chosen the right bartender for the job.
"The change of seasons leans us toward warm drinks," says Rains.
And like Santa on a cold snowy night, Rains delivers. But rather than slippers and fruitcake, Rains gives us what we really want - the recipes for some tasty, boozy holiday drinks.
The first drink is a Chamomile Hot Toddy. Rains uses her favorite whiskey, Basil Hayden's, but says while the whiskey is a crucial ingredient, the fun part is preparing the honey.
To create this chamomile honey cordial, explains Rains, you simply boil one and one-half cups water, then steep with four chamomile tea bags. After the bags have had plenty of time to release their herbal potency (about 10 minutes) remove the bags and add half to one-cup honey - depending on taste. This mix will stay good in the fridge for about a week. For a single serving, place about a teaspoon of the honey mix in a glass. Add hot water. Then add your ounce of whiskey (or more if you're feeling really festive) and two to three lemon wedges.
The final garnish is a twist of lemon peel for the flavorful oil it produces. Yum!
The next drink Rains has concocted will definitely be at my holiday party. For now it's been dubbed "Mexican Holiday Coffee Drink."
"I can't name a drink right away," confides Rains, "It's like a car or a pet - you have to get to know it."
We laugh over this practicality and Rains dives into the ingredients and preparation.
First, give your glass a cinnamon sugar rim. You do this by dampening the lip of a glass and dipping it in a sugar mix. Start with an ounce of silver tequila, like Milagro, and then add a round of Mexican chocolate. Next is agave syrup, which you can spice up by letting five or six cinnamon sticks brew in it for a couple days. Top the drink off with good coffee and fresh cream and you'll soon be feeling the "Feliz Navidad" intended.
While Rains favors warm drinks, she threw in a delicious cold drink for good measure. Keeping in line with the spirit of the season, she chose a recipe featuring classic flavors of apple, brandy, ginger and cinnamon.
This drink, also nameless, uses one part apple brandy to one half part ginger liqueur over ice. Top it off with any flavor Cider Mills Farm apple cider, a splash of soda water and a cinnamon stick garnish. It's easy and delicious!
Try these recipes at home this holiday season. Or, even better, visit Rains at Cicada Bar in downtown Olympia, where she says, "I'll make you these drinks anytime!"
Cicada Restaurant & Lounge
700 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia