Thanksgiving has passed and the Christmas countdown has begun, and with it comes the annual list of 25 cocktails from Italian hot spot Bibiana in Washington, D.C.
Now in its fourth year, the 25 cocktails list, which beverage director Michael King began conceptualizing at the end of July, unveils a new alcoholic drink each day this month. Some, like the Christmas Cookie (espresso, Prosecco Grappa, lemon air), are clearly full of holiday cheer; others, like the Sazerac and Aged Negroni, are more classic sippers.
On Dec. 1, only the first cocktail on the list is available; on Dec. 2, both the first and second cocktails are available; and so on, all the way through Christmas. The strategy, King says, encourages guests to return to Bibiana multiple times during the holiday season.
"We have some people that will come in five, six, eight times during the run-up to Christmas just to try what's next and what's new, what they may not have tried yet," he explains. "It's fun and exciting to come up with the list, try new things, and to get our guests' feedback and see which ones they enjoy the most."
From year to year, classics such as the Vin Brulé, Hot Buttered Rum, and Hot Chocolate (made spicy this year) will make repeat appearances on the list. But generally, King says he tries to make the offerings new each year. As he plans the list, he takes into account the produce that will be in-season in late November and December.
"If we want to use an ingredient like figs or blood oranges where there's a one day- or two day-window when we don't have it, we put those cocktails toward the end [of the list], so we know those ingredients are available," King says.
Bibiana has a 12-seat bar and 24-seat lounge, and the cocktails pair nicely with the food, King says, because they work alone, as starters, or even as desserts. "Hot chocolate would be great with dessert, but it's not going to go with any of the food items. So, you come in, you're cold, you have a hot chocolate, and then maybe we'll get to wine or another cocktail. Or, have it with dessert—or as dessert."
At the conclusion of the 25 days, Bibiana picks the 10 cocktails that guests enjoyed most and carries them over to the winter cocktail list, extending the magic.
King's personal favorite is the Classic Eggnog with a Twist, which he says is unlike most eggnog out there. "We actually take each ingredient and prepare it separately," he explains. "For example, we'll beat the egg whites, we'll beat the cream, and we'll fold it together. It makes it really light, more like an eggnog foam than eggnog, so it's not thick and heavy. I like that because it can change peoples' mind about what eggnog is."
The libations are priced at $12 each.
The complete list:
- Vin Brulé: Mulled Wine, Spices Served Warm
- Spicy Hot Chocolate with Brandy, and House Made Cardamom marshmallow
- Sbagliato: Campari, Cochi Vermouth, Prosecco
- Christmas Cookie: Espresso, Prosecco Grappa, Lemon Air
- Hazelnut Old Fashion: Hazelnut infused Filibuster Bourbon, Orange, Cherry
- Hot & Cold Gin Fizz: Lemon, Gin, Hot Gin Foam
- Sazerac: Rye, Bitters, Absinthe
- Carino: Boyd and Blair, Quince & Pear Jam, Lemon, Honey
- Affogato Martini: Boyd and Blair, Kahula, Espresso, Gelato
- Italian 75: Blood Orange, Prosecco, Gin
- Classic Eggnog with a Twist: Pedro Ximenez, Benedictine, Buffalo Trace
- Amari Cup: Cucumber, Averna, Fernet Branca, Lemon, Lime, Gassoza
- Sanguinella: Bourbon, Lemon, Pumpkin-Cinnamon Syrup
- Hot Buttered Rum: Rum, Butter, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon
- Speciale: Ginger Infused Vodka, Grapefruit, Cherry Bitter, Rosemary Tincture
- Fichi: Maker’s Mark, Pureed Figs, Maple Syrup, Vanilla Sugar
- Passione: Vodka, Aperol, Grilled Pineapple Juice, Passion Fruit, Lime
- Francesca: Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Creme de Violette, Luxardo Maraschino, Lemon
- Bassano: Buffalo Trace, Amaro Bassano, Orange
- Forte: Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Orange, Ginger, Maple, Lemon
- Belladonna: Bourbon, Apple Cider, Cranberry
- Aged Negroni: Barrel Aged for 12 months
- Variopinto: Prosecco Grappa, Orange, Honey, Fig, Ginger, Rosemary Tincture
- Acero Sprezzatura: Buffalo Trace, Maple Syrup, Nonino Amaro, Orange
- Vespa: Ketel One, Bombay Sapphire, Cochi Americano, Tangello Bitter, Ginger
By Sonya Chudgar