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A holiday-themed cocktail part of Opal's seasonal cocktail program.
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6 Sensational Holiday Cocktails You’ll Want to Sip

These holiday drinks – part of Opal’s specialty holiday cocktail program – aren’t just liquid works of art: They’re complex symphonies of flavor. And they’re available for you to sample and savor across Opal restaurants this season.


Give Peter Mathieu a cocktail ingredient – any random single ingredient, say Frangelico or apple juice or vodka or Angostura bitters – and he’ll compute several different recipes in his head within mere seconds that he knows are winners. That’s because he’s extremely well-studied in flavor combinations, both classic and newer. “My uncle is a chef, and I used to study his cookbooks,” he says. “But the books that were always my favorite were about flavor profiles – understanding them, what other flavors they best pair with, and why they work together.”

But rather than funneling that knowledge into a career as a chef, he went a more liquid route, becoming a mixologist specializing in the art (and science) of why certain combinations produce the best cocktails. Which is why – as the mixologist for Opal Grand Resort & Spa’s Drift restaurant – he was a natural pick to dream up the slake-worthy libations for Opal’s holiday cocktail program that is being rolled out (as of fall of 2023) across restaurants within the resort collection. We’re talking specialty seasonal cocktails for autumn, Christmas and New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, even Easter and St. Patrick’s Day – all trialed and tested in Drift last year.

“We are always brainstorming new ways to elevate our guests’ dining experience,” says Opal’s Corporate Beverage Director Millie Wilkinson, calling out examples like designing intimate, semi-private social event spaces within a restaurant venue, signature iced seafood towers, and open-concept chef’s bars. “Our holiday cocktail program is another one of the essential ways we do that.”

Here’s a peek at the fall and winter program’s most sought-after sensational sips – now coming to an Opal near you.

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APPLE BUTTER OLD FASHIONED

If you’re looking for a classic cocktail with a seasonal twist, this is it. “The robustness of the apple butter pairs beautifully with the subtly sweet flavors of bourbon and apple juice,” says Mathieu. “Then the orange bitters further evens out the flavors to balance the drink perfectly.” The result is a refreshing cocktail loaded with all things warm and cozy – and, with a dehydrated orange slice, cinnamon stick, and dusting of powdered sugar as the finishing garnish, it’s also beautiful, to boot.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. Knob Creek Bourbon
  • 2 oz. apple juice
  • 1/2 tbsp. apple butter
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice, and shake well
  2. Double strain into a rocks glass with a single large ice ball or cube
  3. Garnish with a dehydrated orange and cinnamon stick

AUTUMNS UP

A twist on a whiskey sour – just with a larger dose of bitters to add depth and complexity – this silky-smooth cocktail delivers a deft balance of tart and rich. “People typically only do a couple dashes of bitters, but we do more, then well blend it with the lemon and whiskey. Blending is key here: We shake it twice (once without ice, then once with ice),” says Mathieu. “Because bitters naturally cleanses the palate, this is a perfect before-dinner drink – a ‘palate prepper,’ if you will.”

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. Knob Creek Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. Demerara Syrup
  • 1 1/4 oz. Angostura Bitters
  • 1 egg white

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients into a shaker and dry shake (without ice) well for 30 seconds
  2. Add ice and shake well again
  3. Strain into a chilled martini glass
  4. Garnish with a cinnamon stick (or a sprinkle of the spice) and star anise

GINGER JOY

“This drink is something of an ode to my best friend who lives in Canada, where sipping on fresh ginger is a commonplace thing,” says Mathieu. But not just any old ginger beer will do: Mathieu handmakes fresh ginger wort by grinding the root, blending it with brown sugar and lemon juice, then straining it. Any of the ginger residue left over in the strainer, he dries and bakes in the oven, then mixes with salt to rim the glass. “The result is a ginger-forward cocktail, but again, balance is key here,” he says. “You also get notes of blueberry from the Crème de Cassis and vanilla from the Anejo Tequila.” While Crème de Cassis is an often-overlooked liqueur, Mathieu says they could barely keep it in stock last season as this drink was in such high demand.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz. Patron Añejo Tequila
  • 1 oz. Creme de Cassis
  • 1 oz. fresh ginger wort
  • 1/4 oz. Demerara Syrup

Instructions

  1. And all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake well
  2. Strain over a single large ice ball or cube
  3. Garnish with dehydrated lemon, candied ginger, and cranberry

SANTA SPARKLER

This refreshing and delightfully simple-to-make cocktail was inspired by one of Mathieu’s regular bar guests who is originally from Boston. “He loves cranberries, pomegranate, and champagne, but not necessarily all rolled into one, so that’s what I did here,” he says. “Just make sure you use a dry, brut style of champagne because you want a nice balance of sweet from the juice and dry from the champagne.” This is also one of those drinks that once one person orders it, it sets off a domino effect at the bar. “It’s the garnish that does it,” says Mathieu. “I take a rosemary sprig and skewer a couple of fresh cranberries on it, roll it in simple syrup and sugar, then freeze it. It looks like freshly fallen snow on a Christmas tree.”

Ingredients

  • 1/2 oz. Chambord
  • 1 oz. pomegranate juice
  • La Marca Prosecco

Instructions

  1. Add Chambord and pomegranate juice into a shaker with ice and shake well
  2. Strain into a chilled sugar-rimmed coupe glass
  3. Top with prosecco or champagne
  4. Garnish with sugared cranberry and rosemary

VIXEN

Think this drink was named solely after Santa’s reindeer? “We also named it this because – like a vixen in the traditional sense – it can be an intimidating drink,” says Mathieu. He’s referring to the unique pairing of vodka with egg whites. “When you think egg whites, it’s normally in regards to bourbon or gin. Not vodka. And that can be kind of daunting for some.” Those who give it a shot find that the silky cocktail wins their heart over pretty quickly: Slightly similar to a Clover Club, it’s a complex and well-balanced flavor profile, featuring notes of citrus (from the lemon juice and orange bitters), botanicals (from pomegranate and sage), and just a hint of sweetness.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz. Tito’s Handmade Vodka
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 oz. pomegranate juice
  • 3 sage leaves
  • 2 dashes of orange bitters
  • 1 egg white

Instructions

  1. Add vodka, simple syrup, lemon juice, pomegranate juice, bitters, and egg white into a shaker and dry shake (without ice) for 30 seconds
  2. And ice and sage leaves and shake well again
  3. Double strain into a chilled martini glass
  4. Garnish with a few pomegranate seeds on a sage leave

THE GRINCH

“This drink is a riff on my grandmother’s favorite cocktail, the Grasshopper,” says Mathieu. “Which is a perfect holiday cocktail because the mint flavor [from the Crème de Menthe] really warms you up, from the inside out.” The difference in his version is that it’s more complexly flavored thanks to the inclusion of vanilla vodka and the use of dark Crème de Cacao (instead of light) for a richer, dark chocolate flavor. A chocolate ganache is also drizzled within the glass and frozen before pouring the libation within.

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Grey Goose La Vanille Vodka
  • 1 oz. Crème de Menthe
  • 1/2 oz. Crème de Cacao Dark
  • 1 oz. half and half

Instructions

  1. And all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake well
  2. Drizzle glass with chocolate ganache (including the rim)
  3. Strain over mixture over fresh ice into the glass
  4. Garnish with mint sprig, chocolate stick, and chocolate shavings
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