Of course, in the interest of thorough reporting, SFR couldn’t visit just one local drinking establishment to sample its winter menu—so we also checked out the seasonal cocktails on offer at Secreto Bar, the cozy alcove tucked inside the Hotel St. Francis (210 Don Gaspar, 983-5700). Mixologist Chris Milligan has become known among local bartenders for his obsession with the artistry of mixing drinks (no, seriously—he spent like 10 minutes making sure the apple slices in our Big Apple Manhattan were perfectly arranged), and his creations are creative, delicious and stunningly beautiful.
Milligan even makes his own bitters—apple bitters made with local apples and osha root give the Big Apple Manhattan (coming soon to the bar menu) an inspiringly autumnal twist, and an “autumn tincture” is currently in the works—lending him the air of an old-time apothecary. That’s fitting, since one of Secreto Bar’s strengths lies in its extensive (and delightfully cocktail-nerdy) menu of vintage cocktails.
In short, whether you’re celebrating an old-fashioned Christmas or ringing in a brand new year, Milligan’s got a special drink that’s perfect for the occasion.
Named for falernum, a sweet, nutty syrup, this drink is the very essence of autumn—or, as SFR copy editor and official drink-taster Mia Rose Carbone puts it, “It’s like drinking the fallen leaves.” The combination of bourbon, falernum, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and Milligan’s house-made rim garnish of toasted pumpkin seeds and chocolate will awaken and soothe you at the same time. Say hello to fall!
Ginger’s Pear-Adise ($10)
This one’s labor-intensive, but completely worth it. First, Milligan muddles organic Bartlett pears, honey and lemon juice in a glass to make the drink’s peary, creamy base. Then he adds Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur and Black Beard spiced rum for an almost tropical drink that, as Carbone so eloquently puts it, makes you feel like you’re “drinking a pear.” It’s pretty, too.
Scarlet Punch ($9)
Milligan’s inspiration came from Thanksgiving, and this cocktail is a party animal. Ruby-red and served in a tall glass, it’s the epitome of festiveness. It’s fruity, but not overwhelmingly sweet, and the delicious tartness of the spiced cranberry-apple cider almost hides the taste of Don Q gold rum—which means that, if Milligan made this at your family dinner, you’d be in serious danger of drinking too many.
Rompompé (coming soon)
Unlike the stuff that comes from the carton, traditional Mexican eggnog—known as rompompé—is made not with the whole egg, but only the yolk. That makes it richer, Milligan explains, and totally distinct. Although this drink has enough half-and-half to make it kind of like a meal in a glass, the brandy and cinnamon add some nice balance and—as with the Scarlet Punch—an almost dangerous level of yumminess.