Top Holiday Drink Ideas From Connecticut Mixologists

December 19, 2012 8:00 AM

(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

Jeanne Badiola of Kelly’s Restaurant & Bar in New Haven and Nick Salerno of Hartford’s Dish Bar and Grill know their customers, and their customers know them. Both are creative, veteran mixologists for whom this season is a special time that requires special and unique drinks.  Here are five of their best creations, all of which are designed to heat up the holidays.
Jeanne Badiola
Kelly’s Restaurant & Bar
196 Crown St.
New Haven, CT 06510
(203) 776-1111

Is there a better and more traditional way to warm your insides before or after dinner than with an old fashioned Hot Toddy? At Kelly’s in New Haven, bartender Jeanne Badiola makes a toddy that she says “will knock the cold right out of ya.” And she doesn’t just mean the winter chill, but also the other kind of cold, the physical ailment for which your grandmother (sometimes too eagerly) took this “cure.”

“Knock the cold right out of ya” Hot Toddy

  • 2 tea bags
  • 1.5 ounces brandy
  • 5 lemon wedges
  • One (or two) tablespoons honey

Jeanne says that many people swear to her that after one of these toddies, “I’ve made them better.”

First, steep two bags of tea – preferably English Breakfast but any good tea on hand will do, says Jeanne. When the tea is ready, pour into a pint glass (not a mug or a cup) and add the brandy. She uses Christian Brothers, as Hennessy or Courvoisier is “just too expensive” (and something of a waste) to use in this concoction. Squeeze the lemon wedges over the glass, spoon in the honey and there you have it. With the honey, she says, it is “sweet enough” that you don’t need sugar or syrup, like other barkeeps use.

Jeanne’s credentials are not the kind you can hang on a wall; her mixology skills were learned on the job. With more than 20 years behind the bar, she’s still learning. Her newest recipe is an experimental holiday drink she calls the Muddled Pear. Her instructions begin with “first, find a muddler,” which after much coaxing she defines as basically anything you can use to pound a sliced pear. The pear should be thoroughly “muddled” as you will need both the juice and the pulp.

Muddled Pear

  • 1 good pear
  • 2 ounces unoaked bourbon
  • 1 shot sweet white vermouth

Skin, core and slice the pear. Muddle the pear slices as described above, then strain it and pour the juice into a rocks glass. Mash and muddle the pear into a drinkable pulp and add it to the glass. Pour in un-oaked bourbon (it is less toasty and less finished than fine-aged bourbon whiskies) and add a shot of sweet white vermouth.

There are many other fine holiday specialties on the bar menu at Kelly’s, a cozy, warm place where “comfort food” takes on a whole new meaning. As the Christmas season approaches, one of Jeanne’s favorites is her special Egg Nog Martini (and no, there are no olives or onions in it). Jeanne admits that she does use commercial pre-made egg nog, but from there on this drink is all her’s.

Egg Nog Martini

  • One cup egg nog (commercial or home-made)
  • 1.5 ounces rum
  • Green/red sugar

First rim a martini glass in green or red sugar (or a mix). Mix the egg nog and rum and then “just pour” into the martini glass.

Related: Top Restaurants That Pair Beer With Food In Connecticut

Nick Salerno
Dish Bar and Grill
900 Main St.
Hartford, CT 06103
(860) 249-3474

Dragging your feet from holiday shopping? Feeling fuzzy and out of focus? Got a wintry chill deep down in your bones? Well, if you are anywhere near the old landmark Sage Allen Department Store on Main Street in Hartford, go inside and pull up a chair or stool at the Dish Bar and Grill. If you need to get back out there for some more shopping, tell the barkeep that you’re looking for an Espressotini.

“It’s the perfect thing to wake you up and get your night going,” says Nick Salerno, inventor of the Espresso Martini. A graduate of the Boston Bartending School, Nick created this “little pick-me-up.” Described as an “up-liquored” drink by Justin, one of the managers at Dish, it is a favorite after-dinner drink, as it is a dessert, a coffee and an aperitif all in one.

According to Ann Kendall, who began as a server at Dish five years ago, an Espressotini is best served chilled in a martini glass (hence the “tini”) but can also be ordered hot. Although not always on the featured drink menu, adds Ann, if you ask for it, she or one of the bartenders will make it.

Espresso Martini or the “Espressotini”

  • 2 ounces espresso
  • 1 ounce Stoli vanilla vodka
  • 0.5 ounces Tuaca (a vanilla-citrus liqueur)
  • 0.5 ounces dark crème de cocoa
  • 0.5 ounces Tia Maria

Pour a demitasse of fresh-brewed espresso into a shaker. Add the vodka and the liqueurs and either shake and serve while still “piping hot” in a mug or, before pouring, add ice to the shaker, shake gently (so as not to bruise the liqueur) until it’s cool enough to pour into a martini glass.   Garnish with a lemon twist.

Nick has invented many drinks, and for those who want something hot rather than sweet, he recommends the Hot and Dirty Fruit-Infused Vodka Martini. While it is “something of a curiosity drink,” admits Nick, “if you like a dirty martini” or something with a little “heat,” but “not enough to make you sweat,” then this is the drink for you.

Hot and Dirty Fruit-Infused Vodka Martini

  • Jar of olives
  • 2 habanero peppers
  • One gallon SKYY vodka

Cut up the peppers. Soak the peppers and olives for 48 hours in a gallon of SKYY vodka. Ladle into a pitcher. Pour gently into martini glasses, using the olives and a little bit of the pepper as garnish.

Related: Top Hot Drinks In Connecticut

Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at

Listen Live