Get your fill of holiday cheer with these festive Durham drinks
By Matthew Lardie and Hannah Lee | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Who knows if we’ll get snow this year, but at least we can sidle up to a bar or grab a table and pretend like there’s white stuff on the ground while we wrap our hands around a warming beverage. Whether it’s physically hot or it just gives you those tingles that take the chill off, these drinks from some of our watering holes are sure to chase away any shivers.
Jack Tar & The Colonel’s Daughter
Is it truly the holiday season without any eggnog? Patrons at The Colonel’s Daughter, the cozy, speakeasy-style bar attached to Jack Tar, can once again treat themselves to The Colonel’s Nog, a blend of Durham Distillery’s Conniption Navy Strength Gin, dry Curaçao, lemon, walnut orgeat syrup and egg that will turn even the Grinchiest of Grinches into a full-fledged Kriss Kringle. This year’s holiday bar also features an outdoor space on Jack Tar’s patio, which will be decked out in lights and holiday décor “where our guests can safely celebrate the season,” says chef/owner Gray Brooks. There are other innovative holiday cocktails on offer, like the Sugar Plum Fairy (five-spice plum puree, Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye Whiskey and lemon), and the JT Hot Cocoa – made with the rum of your choice, Aleppo pepper and porcini mushroom powder – as well as one- and two-year aged versions of the eggnog. No word yet on whether the nog can be enjoyed Clark Griswold-style in a moose mug.
The newest star in the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group constellation of restaurants is Chef William D’Auvray’s LuluBangBang, a joyful mashup of Pan-Asian street food and Tiki drinks that make it the perfect place to find a bit of brightness on a drab, cold day. The tropical-tinged drinks will transport you (at least in your mind) to a breezy beach bar, and this time of year, William likes to turn to his time in Florida for the inspiration behind his Purple Pom Frost cocktail. “I spent five years in South Florida, so I always consider winter [to be] citrus season,” he says. “Pomelo has always been my favorite, and this drink and its color take me back to that South Florida vibe. When choosing a pomelo, look for the ugliest ones, as they tend to be the sweetest.”
Let’s be honest, North Carolina winters tend to trend more gray and rainy than winter wonderland these days, and one of the best things to do is to make like the Brits and chase away the chills with a steaming hot cuppa. Jeddah’s Tearoom serves up ethically sourced teas from around the world, like the spicy, Somali-inspired Daallo blend. With cardamom, black peppercorn, ginger, clove, cinnamon and Ceylon tea, it has chai notes with an extra kick – get it as a tea (pictured), or try it as a chai latte. Native Durhamite and General Manager Adam Bilal Issa-Hege is also happy to recommend just the right brew for any mood. Bilal has worked for owner Morgan Siegel since before Jeddah’s opened in its physical location downtown and is a trained barista, coffee roaster and tea master.
Ponysaurus Brewing Co.
Most folks don’t go to a brewery for their wine selection, but the glühwein at Ponysaurus will be almost as popular as their beer this winter. The warm, spiced red wine is a European tradition, often found at outdoor holiday markets and festivals. “A warm mug of glühwein by a fire pit in the beer garden is a favorite winter activity,” says owner Nick Hawthorne-Johnson. “Our two-story patio is outfitted with heaters for guests to sip hot drinks, stay warm and enjoy the season.” Pair your glühwein with a s’mores kit while you take in the brewery’s very own holiday light spectacular, dubbed “Ponysaurus Wonderland.”
Rubies on Five Points
When all else fails on a bone-chilling day, there’s nothing quite like a familiar favorite to rejuvenate you – in this case, a classic winter bourbon cocktail. And where better to cozy up – boozy beverage in hand – than at downtown’s newest bar, Rubies on Five Points? Open seven nights a week, the upstairs bar, which doubles as a live music and event venue, offers its take on an Old- Fashioned.The Coal and Coke (a tribute to the Bluefield Coal and Coke Co. that occupied the space up until 1928) blends fernet, rye whiskey, Coke syrup, angostura bitters and lemon juice, and is garnished with a lemon peel and bourbon-soaked cherries.The equally sweet and strong drink is meant to taste like a “wintery wonderland in Italy,” says Rubies partner Rob Montemayor. This – plus the bar’s DJs on the weekends – will surely wake you up from hibernation.