While I could have just offered up a boozy egg nog to be served in the classic glass moose mugs, it seemed too easy—akin to getting a Christmas tree at a lot instead of tromping out into the frosty majesty of the winter landscape to cut one down yourself. I thought long and hard, watched the movie a few more times while drinking heartily, and devised a drink that captures the holiday spirit of the whole film.
I could have gone a lot of ways with this one, but most of them would have ended up on the less-appetizing end of the scale. So don’t worry, there’s no non-nutritive cereal varnish, desiccated turkey, cat food jello mold, fried pussycat, or squirrel involved. This is a truly tasty cocktail that you can stir up quickly, leaving you enough time to brush your teeth, feed the hog, do some homework, pay bills, wash the car….
This honey of a cocktail starts with that most important of Christmas symbols, the tree. Yes, the one in your living room, not in your yard. Snip a few fresh sprigs off the branches—you won’t need a saw, just a regular pair of scissors or even your bare hands. If you do have to sneak outside to get some pine sprigs, do it quickly before your eyes are frozen, and don’t let a squirrel into the house.
Those fragrant sprigs are going into a honey-sweetened syrup that will magically infuse the cocktail with spruce—it’s much more preferable than a lotta sap. The pine flavor gets even more prominent when paired with gin: pick one with a strong juniper profile, like Plymouth or Tanqueray, or if you really want to do something special, get your mitts on a bottle of St. George Terroir Gin. It’s distilled with Douglas fir for an extra hit of pine.
Italian Prosecco makes the drink sparkle more than 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights, and you won’t even have to check all the bulbs to make sure you feel the glow. A few shakes of aromatic bitters remind us that it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery.
Save a few pine sprigs for garnish, and for a final touch and homage to my two favorite characters in the film, send an icicle shard flying into each drink. They’re easier to make than actual ice cubes: just fill a zip-top bag with enough water to make a thin layer of ice and freeze on a baking sheet. Break apart with your hands, and don’t drop them all over the carpet, unless you want this to happen:
Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, kiss my ass. Kiss his ass. Kiss your ass. Happy Hanukkah.
Honey of a Tree, Clark: A Christmas Vacation Cocktail
Prep time:15 minutes
Total time:15 minutes plus 1 hour steeping time
Makes 2 drinks
- Spruce-Honey Syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 4-6 fresh spruce sprigs, each about 3 inches long
- 2 fluid ounces (1/4 cup) piney gin, such as St. George or Plymouth
- 2 fluid ounces (1/4 cup) spruce-honey syrup (from recipe above)
- 2 fluid ounces (1/4 cup) Prosecco
- aromatic bitters
- ice shards and fresh spruce sprigs for garnish
Make the syrup:
Heat the water, sugar, and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar and honey dissolve.
When the syrup starts to bubble, add the sprigs and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat, cover, and steep for 1 hour.
Remove the spruce sprigs. If not using immediately, refrigerate the syrup in a lidded container such as a Mason jar for up to 1 month.
Make the cocktail:
Fill a Boston shaker or pint glass with 5-6 ice cubes. Pour in the gin and spruce-honey syrup and stir to mix and chill.
Strain the cocktail through a Hawthorne or julep strainer into 2 4-ounce cocktail glasses—if for some indefensible reason, you don’t have moose-shaped glassware, I guess you can use martini glasses or coupes instead.
Pour a float of Prosecco into each glass and shake a few drops of bitters into each as well.
Garnish with ice shards and fresh spruce sprigs, if desired. Hallelujah, holy shit, where’s the Tylenol?