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Wherefore art thou, cocktail?

Get into the holiday spirit(s) with recipes that will have you buzzing



Just where did the word cocktail come from? One legend dates back to the American Revolution, in which an innkeeper served after-dinner drinks to French and American officers passing through for the night. The drinks were said to be garnished with feathers from a neighbor's chickens. The drinking and celebrating continued into the wee hours, accompanied by cheers from the Frenchmen, exclaiming, "Vive le cocktail!"

Another account suggests the word cocktail originated after an Aztec princess, Xochitl, offered a mixed drink to a visitor, who in turn confused her name for the drink itself. And yet another has guzzling horserace-goers coining the term after observing that the spoons used to mix drinks reminded them of the docked tails of horses, which were known as cocktails.

Though we will never know the true origin of the word, it remains indisputable that cocktails have come in and out of style throughout history. From the Prohibition, when they were a statement of both fashion and social dispute, to the beginning of World War II, when their popularity waned somewhat until the '70s. Today, the cocktail tradition continues with inventive craft drinks and the mixologists who take pride in keeping the history alive through their art.

Of all times of year to embrace cocktail culture, the holidays are the best. After all, while it may be the most wonderful time of year, it can be even more wonderful with a little help from behind the bar. Here are a few festive cocktail recipes, courtesy of bars and eateries from Dilworth to Plaza Midwood, that will get you into the spirits.

Sweet Potato Smash
Fran's Filling Station owner Fran Scibelli describes herself as a "cocktail artist" rather than a mixologist. A lawyer-turned-restaurant owner, she enjoys making her concoctions using creative ingredients with a bit of a bite. "They're all strong," she admits. "But they might not all taste the same each time."

For this seasonal drink, Scibelli added local sweet potato juice from Viva Raw to the mix. Scibelli thinks the Smash appeals to those who are willing to try something new. "I think it could work for anyone with a sense of adventure who likes brown spirits. I mean, I definitely think it's gender neutral."

(Warning: The name is exceptionally fitting for the strength of this potion.)

-2 oz. bourbon
-1.5 oz. Solerno Blood Orange liqueur
-2 oz. Sweet Tater juice (courtesy of Viva Raw)
-1 oz. simple syrup
-Splash of ginger ale
-Turbinado sugar with ginger and all spice for rim
-Maple pumpkin seed brittle as garnish

Homemade Gingerbread Milkshake with Cognac and Green Chartreuse Dust
Though its base is frozen, this cocktail will leave you feeling warm. Served with cognac in a mug or dark rum in a shot glass, pick your poison wisely as Chartreuse is 110 proof. Bistro La Bon owner and chef Majid Amoorpour says this concoction is particularly pleasing as a special-occasion drink.

"Because of the rich history of green Chartreuse being distilled since the 18th century by Carthusian monks, and the fact that it's blended with 130 different ingredients, this is a cocktail that's really special," Amoorpour says. "It would be most appealing after a nice meal."

-2 scoops vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream
-Green Chartreuse dust
-1 3/4 oz. cognac
-Homemade gingerbread cookies
-Molasses and gingerbread powder
* Directions for making the chartreuse into dust: Pour Chartreuse on to flat plate; set it out for two days or until it dries; put remains in a mortar and pestle; grind into dust.

Santa's Joyful Fix
Mortimer's Cafe and Pub isn't a place you'd typically expect to find a festive cocktail, but even this Uptown pub likes to get in the holiday spirits. Bartender Sammi Francis usually calls the shots when it comes to the mixing. This season, she came up with her own recipe. When asked who this particular mixture would appeal to, Francis jokes, "Anyone with female parts. No, I think it's a really good after-dinner drink, which typically coffee drinks are." Served in a glass mug, with no visible feminine frills like a sugar rim, this is a drink that could really work for anyone looking to warm up.

-Equal parts UV Cake Vodka
-Baileys Irish Cream
-Topped with coffee
-Peppermint pieces as garnish

Eggnog and Apple Pie-Infused Bourbon
Bob Peters, the head mixologist at Pisces, consistently comes up with new recipes to cater to the season. Peters latest is his homemade eggnog, finished with Pisces' own apple pie-infused bourbon. He believes this drink would appeal to everyone except the Grinch. "Anyone who enjoyed drinking eggnog as a child would love this drink." He adds that it's "delicate, well-rounded and balanced." Just for gals? He doesn't think so. "The bourbon appeals to guys and eggnog is universal. It stretches over any sexual barriers."

-Equal parts of Pisces Apple Pie infused Bourbon and homemade eggnog (maybe Grandma's!)