Cruisin’ for Cocktails at the Holidays

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If you think the drinks on cruise ships are all watered down Piña Coladas for fuddie duddies, then think again. Cruise ships are sailing with a wide and deep array of fine wines, craft beers and state-of-the-art cocktails.

Consider Celebrity Cruise Solstice-class ships with their 21 bars and two-story wine tower in the main dining room. There are the pool bars, of course, but the Martini Bar with an “iced” counter and bartenders who “flare” by juggling bottles evokes a big city vibe. Cellar Masters samples some of the 450 wines on board and Michael’s Club pours 50 craft beers.

When you head to the Molecular Bar, you may be “Coming up Roses” with a cocktail made with pear and rose essence, sage and Champagne. The Celebrity Molecular Bar is overseen by Junior Merino, a Miami-based cocktail consultant. Known as The Liquid Chef, Merino taps into his chef training for the freshly squeezed juice, grilled fruits, house-made infusions, and use of agave syrup rather than plain sugar. Merino adds a splash of liquid nitrogen in his signature Dragonfly cocktail with dragonfruit juice, hibiscus syrup and the splash of nitrogen to produce a haze of “cloud” as if the dragonfly is taking off.

We may not all have the opportunity to cruise into the New Year, but Merino and Celebrity beverage staff share ideas for holiday entertaining. Merino offers several simple ways to celebrate at home with panache. Put the eggnog in the freezer, he says, for a fun iced treat. Mix with a shot of espresso for a coffee cocktail and garnish with gingerbread cookies.

For the holiday drink at the Molecular Bar, Merino opted for a low-tech drink, the Autumn Breeze. Made with Berenzen Apfel apple liqueur, date infused VXOP Cognac and pumpkin-spiced syrup. This drink may bring a glow to everyone’s holiday persona.

During the holidays, Celebrity bartenders are pouring the Sparkling Stolichnaya Blueberry Bramble with Stolichnaya Blueberi vodka, lemon juice, white cranberry juice, blueberries, and sparkling wine and the Hendrick’s Holiday Fix with Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain liqueur, lemon juice, and simple syrup topped with sparkling wine.

The beverage managers on the Celebrity line share these tips also available in the cruise line’s new book, “Excite the Senses”. In addition to the essential spirits and beer, stock Champagne or sparkling wine, brandy and liqueurs such as vermouth, orange, cream and coffee and non-alcoholic mixers. Ice at one pound per guest—and remember that a few large cubes will melt more slowly than many small ones. Lay out two or three signature recipes for alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails. For holiday sparkle, string clear mini-lights around the area. Display a clutch of battery-operated light strings in tall, clear glass pillar vases.

Check out these festive recipes, stock the bar, turn on the sparkle, gather your friends, and savor the holiday spirit:

* photo courtesy of Deborah Grossman

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