Say, What’s in This Drink?

Listen, I believe in the distinct celebration of all end-of-year holidays, for the most part. Halloween gets its own time for pumpkin- and skeleton-related goodness, and Thanksgiving is a food holiday unto itself. But if 106.7 Lite FM thinks it’s early enough to start playing Christmas music 24/7 on November 23, I’m not going to argue with them. I live for the day each year when I can start singing holiday songs at the top of my lungs, no matter how ridiculous the lyrics. Case in point? The eternally divisive stylings of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

chartreuse and champagne cocktail, via
I’m not debating the intentions of the lyrics here; that’s been covered, rehashed, and argued-over elsewhere on the internet. (I will, however, say that it’s quite interesting that the original filmed version reversed the gender roles, according to this fascinating history of the song on The Awl.) It’s really that one line—”Say, what’s in this drink?”—that’s simultaneously creepy and hilarious, and depending on who’s singing it, you can either take it as someone wanting to get completely blotto or something a lot more sinister.

A number of duos have been taking a crack at the song recently, attempting to displace the classically lecherous Dean Martin version, and let’s face it: the pairings on these songs are all a little weird. I quickly deleted Rufus Wainwright and Sharon van Etten’s plodding dirge from my holiday playlist, but I always keep the Zooey Deschanel-Leon Redbone one on repeat (because we all know how I feel about Elf), and am partial to the James Taylor version, despite the saccharine presence of Natalie Cole. Even in his silver fox years, James is quite the charmer.

So when I decided to make a cocktail that would cause my holiday guests to ask, “Say, what’s in this drink?”, I came at it from the James Taylor perspective: a charming, slightly mischievous, but still good-hearted host. I wanted to create a taste so intriguing, so curious, and still so good that my friends and family couldn’t help but ask for seconds. And yes, it would still be a festively potent mix that would get you a little tipsier than you intended. (Because if you know me at all, you know I love to get tipsy.)

chartreuse and champagne cocktail, via
And the secret ingredient here that makes you ask the all-important question? It’s Chartreuse, an botanical French liqueur still made by monks to this day. It’s a little herbal, a little sweet, and a little mysterious. If you’re a fan of vermouth and Pernod, think of Chartreuse as a more exotic cousin of that family. At the liquor store, you’ll find green and yellow versions: green is slightly more vegetal, and yellow’s slightly sweeter, so take that into consideration when plunking down money for a bottle.

In this cocktail, the herbal notes of the Chartreuse mix with homemade cinnamon syrup—so easy to make yourself—and a few splashes of bitters for balance. Both the classic Angostura bitters or orange bitters blend well here, but lavender or rhubarb bitters could be fun if you’ve got ’em. The crowning touch? Champagne, of course—it wouldn’t be the holidays without a little bubbly. If you want to cut down on the alcohol content of the drink, it’s permissible to replace the wine with ginger ale or ginger beer.

It’s time to grab a cocktail shaker and get started. Let someone put some records on while you pour, and it’s up to you if you want to divulge the secrets of what exactly’s in this drink.

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    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      If I make you one of these, will you come to Central Park with me and sing Christmas carols loud for all to hear? :)

  1. says

    One of my daughters and I start on christmas carols on october first. i know. crazy. her husband thinks she’s nuts. my husband is used to it.
    i discovered chartreuse a while back with this new mixology craze. It probably started a long time ago but i live in oklahoma. i’m very intrigued, and am thinking of doing this for my christmas party….. thanks!

  2. joan says

    Ahhh a few years someone gave me a bottle of chartreuse and I couldn’t think of anything palatable to do with it… Now I know!

  3. joan says

    Ahhh a few years ago someone gave me a bottle of chartreuse and I couldn’t think of anything palatable to do with it… Now I know!

  4. says

    While I love Zoey Deschanel’s voice, I prefer the old version–I think it’s the one with Dean Martin? No matter what, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

    I have an expensive bottle of orange bitters that I bought after your last post on bitters. I’ve been putting them in sparkling wine, and I’m going to try this cocktail now.