Love doesn’t quite cover how the team here at The Aisle Guide feels about the holidays. Of course, our toes tingle at the sight, sound and savories of anything and everything wedding but the hint of a chill in the air (yes, it does get a little cool here in Southern California), the scents of spice wafting from our seasonal lattes and, of course, the warmth of holiday cheer filling our festive glassware.
Whether you’re planning a wintry wedding, holiday work party or a small gathering at home, ‘tis the season for toasting with family and friends over fun and unique cocktails and cordials. To get the latest on what’s trending in seasonal libations, we connected with Juan Mirón at Barçon Cocktail Co. Hailing from San Diego, Barçon believes you need a good drink no matter where you are—especially when celebrating a special occasion. This full-service bar catering company is a unique marriage between the craft cocktail expertise and catering prowess held by their sister businesses, Sycamore Den and Miho Catering Co. Together, they pride themselves in offering the finest libations and unparalleled service.
When it comes to crafting a great holiday party cocktail menu, what are some things hosts should keep in mind?
Barçon: Since the holidays can be a hectic time, keep it simple with easy-to-find, seasonal ingredients. For gatherings over 15-20 people, consider making drinks in batches or punches. With punches, you can mix all of your ingredients into a bowl, adjust to taste and let the guests enjoy with every ladle-full. Have beer, sparkling wine and aperitifs like Campari, Pernod or a cognac on hand. These are always crowd pleasers. Aperitifs are a great low-abv (alcohol by volume) option and are very “en vogue” right now.
Pro Tip: All ingredients can be combined ahead of time except fresh juices, especially citrus. Ideally, you want to add citrus juices when preparing the drink. Multiply any cocktail recipe measurements by number of guests, then again by number of drinks you estimate each person to drink—generally, two.
With all the busyness of the holiday season, what are the most popular things party planners tend to overlook or overthink when it comes to the menu?
Barçon: People tend to think that the menu and preparation need to be super elaborate. In the end, a great party always comes down to good food and drinks. If you are providing the food, always prep ahead as much as possible. Focus on a menu that doesn’t require tending to throughout the party. You’re there to enjoy yourself, too! Find recipes or ready-made items that can be enjoyed at room temperature.
"In the end, a great party always comes down to good food and drinks."
On the beverage side: again, punch is a great way to go but you can also grab your fave beverage bucket and fill it up with champagne, wine and some Pellegrino, and make a dashing yet serve-yourself presentation by surrounding it with pretty yet proper glassware. Better yet, you can just hire us and we’ll take care of everything for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a turn-key solution. In fact, forget everything else I said and just go with that last one! (Just kidding, but really.)
What are some of your favorite cocktails to serve during the holidays?
Barçon: We have a lot of favorites, but some of our top holiday cheer makers bring together the traditional smells and flavors of seasonal spices and fruits with either belly-warming liquors like rye whiskey or festive, bright and bubbly blends using sparkling wines or cider. Here are a few we’re loving right now:
Baby its Cold Outside
- Rye whiskey
- Maple simple syrup
- A couple bumps of orange bitters
- Garnish with candied orange peel
- Lillet Blanc
- Sparkling apple cider
- Ginger-nutmeg simple syrup
- Garnish with lime twist or fresh grated nutmeg
- Ginger nutmeg syrup: combine nutmeg, ginger, 1:1 raw sugar/water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Store the syrup in the fridge until use and for up to 2 weeks.
Sparkling Pomegranate Punch
- 1 750 ml bottle of dry sparkling wine / champs / cava, whichever you prefer
- 4 oz gin
- ½ navel orange, ½ lemon, ½ tangerine or clementine all juiced.
- ½ cup of pomegranate sees (tip: just buy them already seeded)
- Ginger syrup to taste
- Block of ice (or better yet, pour water into a bundt pan, freeze it and that serves as your block of ice)
How can people put Barçon to work for their holiday festivities?
Barçon: The holidays are one of our favorite times of the year. Like a lot of your readers, we’ve just finished catering lots of weddings and the parties are different. We do lots of holiday events, from corporate parties to more intimate gatherings at private residences. Around this time of year, our customers are generally looking for cocktail-style services, which means heavy hors d’oeuvres and multiple stations like raw bars, small composed plate stations and caviar (loads of caviar). They want more options for their guests and an intimate ambiance with a slower, casual pace so everyone can enjoy the jolly at their leisure.
What would you say sets your bar service apart?
Barçon: We’re really focused on creating and delivering custom experiences. We have a client who has hired us for her last 4 holiday parties and, every year, we create a completely new menu for them. This year, we devised “Après Ski”, inspired by the slopes, ski fashion (is that such a thing?) and the warmth of a cozy chalet. She encouraged her guests to come in costume so we wanted to match the theme and their wintry wardrobes with hearty foods like German Meatballs and roasted brussel sprouts with lardons, and cocktails that would melt away the frost from their last “downhill run”. Of course, it wouldn’t be wintry without a s’mores and hot cocoa station for dessert.
What a fun party! What were some of the cocktails you served?
Barçon: Here are a couple of the drinks recipes we developed, especially for this Après Ski inspired party:
Dasher & Dancer
- Rosemary infused cranberry juice
- Lemon juice
- Simple syrup
- Club Soda
Apply of My Eye
- Tequila blanco
- Apple cider
- Fennel oil
- Cinnamon sugar rim
Are there any other fun experiences you offer?
Barçon: We also receive quite a few requests for tastings so we’ll work with the reps for the brands we sell like Fortaleza tequila, and deliver a guided tour of their full range of products, sometimes with food pairings we collaborate with their master distillers on. This always winds up being a fun surprise for the guests. Subtle twists like this or even an unexpected Aperol spritzer welcome station at the home entrance can make a terrific impact to everyone’s holiday spirits.
If you’re in the San Diego area and are in need of a fantastic catered cocktail experience, reach out to Barçon and let them bring their beautiful and boozy concoctions to your next party!