Ready to get festive? Local restaurants are making it easier than ever for you to enjoy the holiday season, as one of the most exciting trends has emerged from behind the bar instead of the kitchen. Signature cocktails have joined craft beer as some of the most popular items on the menu.
To help keep the good times flowing, area bartenders are serving up bold, flavorsome concoctions, displaying finely honed skills and spreading abundant cheer.
We recently caught up with two of the best in the business: Roni Ganoe of Cary’s Bonefish Grill (2015 Maggy Award winner for Best Cocktails) and Myles Bacon of BlackFinn Ameripub in Morrisville. In a conversation with Cary Magazine, both mixologists share essential insights about what they will be shaking, pouring and drinking during the next several months.
At parties or home gatherings what do you typically serve?
Bacon: I used to work at a martini bar in college, and I still love experimenting and making different types of martinis.
Ganoe: Friends are always asking me to make drinks such as sangrias and mojitos. I also create twists on espressos like chocolate and mint drinks.
What’s a favorite seasonal drink at the restaurant?
Ganoe: The Fall Fresh Apple martini. It features red apples infused with cinnamon sticks, vodka and a ginger liqueur and contains apple juice, lemon juice and homemade sour mix. We sprinkle cinnamon on top.
Bacon: The Backyard Sangria is our year-round bestseller, even during the holidays. It’s made to order, and the fresh-squeezed juices really set the drink apart.
What’s new behind the bar?
Bacon: We’re seeing a more health-conscious trend these days, so that’s somewhat new. More people are asking for lighter drinks like skinny margaritas and gluten-free beers. Agave syrup is also popular.
Ganoe: At Bonefish, we have something called the big rock, which is essentially a large ice cube. Drinkers who enjoy scotch, bourbon and vodka like the big ice cube because it doesn’t melt as fast. The Moscow Mule (made with vodka, ginger beer and lime juice) is also something new for us.
Fall Apple Martini
(Bonefish Grill’s exact recipe is proprietary.)
2 ounces Apple Cinnamon Vodka Infusion, recipe below
½ ounce ginger liqueur
2 ounces apple juice
½ ounce honey
Add all ingredients into a 16-ounce pint glass. Add ice until glass is full. Shake vigorously and strain into chilled martini glass. Top with an apple slice. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top for a little extra fall flavor!
Apple Cinnamon Vodka Infusion
1 liter vodka
4 red apples
3 cinnamon sticks
Slice the apples, and combine with cinnamon sticks and vodka. Allow to infuse for 24 to 48 hours. Strain and pour into a glass bottle.
Roni Ganoe, a native of Goldsboro, has been mixing drinks for more than 20 years. She’s been at Cary’s Bonefish Grill since it opened.
Years behind the bar: More than 20
Favorite drinks: Lemon Drops (vodka, triple sec liqueur, lemon juice, sugar) and dirty martinis (olive juice and vodka)
Off-duty pursuits: Exercise and playing sports like volleyball and softball.
Suprising fact about job: The amount of time it takes to squeeze all the fresh juices and make infusions. “It’s a lot of work.”
Words of wisdom: “Live every day to its fullest because you are not guaranteed tomorrow.” Ganoe’s younger brother wrote this in a card to his girlfriend shortly before he was killed in a car accident.
Winter White Cosmopolitan
(Bonefish Grill’s exact recipe is proprietary; all measurements approximate.)
2 ounces Reyka vodka
½ ounce St. Germain liqueur
½ ounce Cointreau liqueur
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 ounces white cranberry juice
Combine ingredients over ice in shaker tin. Shake 20 times and strain into chilled martini glass. Top with three frozen cranberries.
BlackFinn Ameripub bartender Myles Bacon likes to mix up interesting cocktails for his friends, even when he’s not working.
Bartending experience: More than 10 years
Favorite drink: Crown Royal Regal apple whiskey with Vernor’s ginger ale. “It tickles all the way down. “
Outside interests: Coaches men’s and women’s team handball at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Words of wisdom: “Always keep your options open. When it comes to drinking, people do themselves a disservice when they fail to try different things.”
(BlackFinn’s signature recipe is proprietary; name brands of alcohol withheld by request.)
2 ounces cabernet
¼ ounce brandy
¼ ounce peach schnapps
½ ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
½ ounce cranberry juice
½ ounce pineapple juice
1 orange slice
1 lime wedge
1 lemon wedge
3 maraschino cherries
1½ ounces Sprite
Combine first six ingredients in shaker tin. Squeeze orange, lemon, lime and cherries, drop in shaker and top with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into wine glass. Top with ice and Sprite. Garnish with lemon wedge, lime wedge, orange slice and cherry on prism pick.
HOLIDAY HINT: Any of these cocktails can be made in large batches for parties!
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