6 Holiday Cocktails From L.A. Bartenders to Drink at Sips & Sweets This Weekend

Karen Grill's Holiday in the Sun
Karen Grill's Holiday in the Sun
Sassafras Saloon

Without sugar, there would be no alcohol. This is, of course, a bit of an oversimplification, but the fact is that, during fermentation, yeast breaks down sugars to produce the beer, wines and spirits we drink. So, it's not much of a leap of faith that we would pair sweets and booze.

At the L.A. Weekly's holiday shopping, dessert and cocktail party Sips & Sweets this weekend, you can partake in both sugar and alcohol, either separately or together. We already profiled six of the sweet pastry chefs who will be cooking up special treats for the event. Now here are some of the bartenders to look out for, as well as their featured concoctions.

Take note: We may count down to No. 1 here, but these are alphabetical in order — it's impossible to choose a favorite.

Robin Chopra's Pélon Punch
Robin Chopra's Pélon Punch
Corazon y Miel

6. Robin Chopra, Corazon y Miel
There's a reason David Wondrich named Corazon y Miel one of Esquire's best bars in 2014, namely the irreverent but expertly prepared cocktails made by managing partner Robin Chopra and bartender Darwin Manahan (also mixing at Sips & Sweets). The two share duties at Corazon and PUNCH Bar, whose cocktail programs have made a lasting impression on the City of Angels. Chopra's sipper for the event is Pélon Punch, a sweet-spicy combination of Tesoro tequila reposado, fresh lime juice, brown sugar, an oleo saccharum for a citrus zing, tamarind and chili tea and the unexpected addition of habañero shrub. “The savory and spicy notes of this cocktail contrast beautifully with the sweetness of dessert," says Chopra. "The subtle hints of cocoa and tamarind complement the sweetness to make a perfect pairing for Sips & Sweets.”

Danielle Crouch's Pumpkin Colada
Danielle Crouch's Pumpkin Colada
Caña Rum Bar

5. Danielle Crouch, Caña Rum Bar
Hiding inside an office building's parking structure downtown, Caña has made a name for itself by serving up classic and modern takes on potent rum cocktails. For Sips & Sweets, general manager Danielle Crouch has a festive take on a familiar tropical favorite. Not piña but Pumpkin Colada is the word of the day, with Makers cask-strength, Jim Beam rye, Cruzan 151 rum, house-made coconut cream, pumpkin butter and just the right amount of spices. 

4. Beau Du Bois, Corner Door
There's a reason that Eater named Beau Du Bois its L.A. Bartender of the Year. As the man behind the Corner Door's innovative bar program, he continues to push the cocktailian limits by experimenting with intriguing new flavors that have old-school underpinnings. A perfect example — his French Exchange Student, which pairs classic (Cognac, Earl Grey tea, lemon juice) with surprising (Orgeat and a lavender tincture). According to DuBois, "The flavor combination of Orgeat [almond syrup], lavender and Earl Grey tea seemed like a subtle nod to the fresh-baked desserts while playing nicely in this sidecar variation."

Karen Grill's Holiday in the Sun
Karen Grill's Holiday in the Sun
Sassafras Saloon

3. Karen Grill, Sassafras Saloon
As the new beverage director at Sassafras Saloon, Karen Grill is making her mark on L.A.'s bartending map. Don't miss her Holiday in the Sun at Sips & Sweets, her version of a Coquito. In Grill's take on this Latin-style eggnog, she blends Cruzan aged light rum, evaporated cane simple syrup, coconut milk, evaporated milk, cinnamon, vanilla bean and egg. Grill explains that Coquito is "typically made in Puerto Rico. This version with Cruzan rum is silky and tropical, which pairs well with rich chocolate and fruit." Rich, but so worth it. 

Peter Lloyd-Jones's Southern Sling
Peter Lloyd-Jones's Southern Sling
1886 Bar

2. Peter Lloyd-Jones, 1886 Bar
The bar team at 1886 Bar at the Raymond is one of the top reasons to drive out to Pasadena, and bartender Peter Lloyd-Jones is part of that stellar team. His offer for Sips is the Southern Sling, which blends Basil Hayden bourbon, Angostura bitters and a homemade Benedictine (infused with rosemary and lemon zest) for a simple but zingy take on the classic sling. 

Darwin Manahan's Royal Vice City
Darwin Manahan's Royal Vice City
PUNCH Bar

1. Darwin Manahan, PUNCH Bar
Pulling double duty at Corazon y Miel and PUNCH Bar, Darwin Manahan has spent a good deal of time playing around with punch recipes. In fact, he and Chopra (managing partner of Corazon y Miel) admired David Wondrich and his book Punch so much that they named PUNCH Bar in honor of it. No surprise that Manahan's drink choice for Sips & Sweets is a punch. Sour, sweet, strong and weak — the elements of punch — come together with lemon, an oleo saccharum, Cruzan rum, Giffard Pamplemouse Rose, fresh cucumber water and Sencha green tea. 

Sips & Sweets will take place on Sunday, Dec. 7, from 2 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $40 for those over 21 and $25 for those under 21. This includes unlimited food and eight sample cocktails (there will be non-boozy drinks, too), plus access to shopping. Click here to get tickets.


Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book Gin: A Global History. Her book The 12 Bottle Bar, co-written with David Solmonson, was released on July 29. Email her at ljsolmonson@gmail.com. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

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