With its complex citrusy botanicals and strong scent of juniper berries, gin always reminds Chelsea Johnson of Christmas. So when the bartender at Nixs Ten Center Street in Newburyport started planning a drink to serve at her mother’s Christmas party, her thoughts immediately turned to the spirit.
“That piney aroma just makes me think of the holidays,” says Johnson, who took over the task of developing the drink for the annual festivities a few years back. “I am banned from the kitchen,” she says with a laugh, but mixing drinks—and inventing new ones—is right up her alley.
“I love playing around with flavor profiles,” she says, adding that cocktails need a really good balance of acid and sweetness. To amp up the festive flavors and aromas in her drink, Johnson knew rosemary would be on the menu.
“Gin and rosemary always go so well together,” she says. After experimenting with muddling the woody spice, however, she settled on simple syrup infused with rosemary to boost the Christmas tree notes. “I wanted the rosemary to be more of a key player,” she says. Cranberry juice and a squeeze of lemon provide bright acid, while a hint of mint brings freshness. Don’t muddle the mint, she warns—that could overpower the drink.
The result is a tart and sweet quaff that smells like a Christmas tree but will marry well with holiday nibbles. General manager J. W. Beane especially likes the drink, which will appear on the menu at Nixs this winter, along with the restaurant’s mushroom flatbread—the juniper in the gin complements the earthy mushrooms.
For a holiday party, batch the gin, simple syrup, and cranberry juice in advance and shake with the mint leaves and lemon juice to order. At her mother’s party, Johnson will be serving her cocktail invention straight up in a martini glass, garnished with frozen cranberries. In the restaurant, Beane plans to serve the drink on the rocks, garnished with some dried cranberries and a torched sprig of rosemary. nixstencenter.com
RECIPE: Home for the Holidays
makes one drink
2 oz. Beefeater gin
.25 oz. Rosemary simple syrup
.25 oz. Cranberry juice
3 Mint leaves
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Place mint leaves in cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Add remaining ingredients and shake vigorously for a few moments. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass or a martini glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and/ or three frozen or dried cranberries. (To torch the rosemary for added essence, carefully place over stove burner or use a culinary torch. It only takes a few seconds.).
Rosemary Simple Syrup
Combine equal parts water and sugar and bring to a boil, and then simmer until sugar dissolves. Place a few sprigs of fresh rosemary in the sugar water, turn heat to low, and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove rosemary and cool completely. Simple syrup will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.