By STEVEN DESALVO
For Montclair Local
Editor’s note: Nothing says “party” like festive drinks, and at holiday time, from mulled
wine to egg nog, there’s a long tradition of them. But you know about those two standbys already. So we asked food writer Steven DeSalvo to taste test some new drinks whipped up by Montclair bartenders for us.
Steven has a degree in hospitality business management from the University of Delaware, and has worked extensively in restaurants and hotels. If there’s something you want to know how to make, or you’ve eaten a dish at a local restaurant you’re dying to make at home, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been a huge fan of cocktails for a number of years now. So when this opportunity arose to sample cocktails and visit a few of our local bars here in Montclair, I jumped on it. What fun to experience the different vibe and enjoy the ambiance of each place: bantering with the bartender, speaking with neighbors, enjoying the festive feel of the holiday season. Each venue I visited provided me with its favorite winter cocktail.
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I don’t necessarily recommend doing these all in the same night.
These are three completely distinct examples of cocktails that are perfect for the cold weather. Each of these drinks expertly serves quite a different purpose.
At Montclair Social Club, the Old Fashioned with a twist pays homage to a classic American cocktail that has the ability to warm you from the inside out; the mint chocolate chip martini from Just Jake’s is a play on one of my all-time favorite desserts — mint chocolate chip ice cream — that is the perfect amount of sweet; and the bourbon-based ‘Happy Elf’ from The Crosby is rich in spice and texture that is thoroughly enjoyable.
- Old Fashioned with a twist
At Montclair Social Club, there is a substantial collection of craft and small-batch spirits to choose from. Admittedly I had two iterations of this cocktail. The first was with Michter’s Limited Release Bourbon, black walnut bitters, cardamom bitters, and a twist of lemon and orange. This was incredibly delicious, smooth, and perfectly balanced.
The bartender, Caine, described the next one as “warmer.” This iteration included a barrel-strength bourbon, called Old Ezra, at 58.5 percent alcohol. This one had cassia bark bitters and apple bitters. It was warm, to say the least.
Also in this version, the twist of lemon and orange had been blowtorched, adding an entirely new element to the experience.
- The Mint Chocolate Chip Martini
Just Jake’s, this neighborhoody bar favored by many MSU students, is a casual spot. The Mint Chocolate Chip Martini is an amazing dessert-style drink. A blend of vodka, Kahlua, Bailey’s, and crème de menthe account for a truly mint chocolate chip cookie flavor. The crème de menthe provides a satisfying green color. This cocktail is super approachable for someone who is looking to step into the cocktail game, with a number of pleasing flavors and serious drinkability. The bartender was Nicole.
- The Happy Elf
Finally, at The Crosby, a trendy venue along Glenridge Avenue, I had a drink that bartender Jodie called “The Happy Elf.” This delicious holiday-inspired cocktail is infused with cloves that provide a delicious spicy nuttiness; it is nicely balanced. This, shaken over ice with bourbon and honey syrup, while being finished off with a dash of cinnamon, is an exceptional example of mulling spices. It brings flavor and aromatics to a cocktail and compliments itself beautifully.
What a pleasurable experience. Thanks to the bartenders at each of the venues. I recommend all of them wholeheartedly, although again, perhaps you should visit them on different evenings.
Enjoy your holiday season and stay tuned for more in the New Year!
In this article:
- Montclair Social Club
499 Bloomfield Ave.
- Just Jake’s
30 Park St.
- The Crosby
193 Glenridge Ave.