Holiday Cocktails: Flowers For Sonja (and the Calla Lily)

Flowers For Sonja cocktail.

As we move towards the holiday season, we are always working on new cocktails for entertaining. And cocktails really are a great option for holiday parties, particularly if you include punch in the definition of “cocktails”. But holiday celebrations differ, both in scope and availability of designated drivers, so we decided that it would be good to have a full repertoire of holiday aperitif-style cocktails along with knock-your-effin-socks-off “potent” toddies and punches.

With the goal of a lighter holiday cocktail in mind, we looked to some of our favorite spring cocktails for inspiration. And it didn’t take long for us to use the Calla Lily as a foundation (see here or below for the recipe). The Calla Lily is the creation of Paul Manzelli from Bergamot in Somerville, Massachusetts (near Boston). We found this cocktail at Cocktail Virgin Slut, Fred Yarm’s awesome cocktail site, and the recipe is also in his book “Drink and Tell” (good holiday gift for the cocktail enthusiast). The Calla Lily is a dry vermouth-based cocktail that combines the vermouth with Lillet Blanc, Benedictine, lemon juice and a dash of absinthe. The Calla Lily has bright, balanced flavors that, as Fred Yarm notes, suggest a lighter version of the Corpse Reviver #2. High praise, a good starting point, and a cocktail that is just a bit more potent than a glass of wine.

Our next step was to add some fall and winter notes to this already solid recipe, and after some fun experimenting we created the Flowers For Sonja. And with cocktails, this is all part of the process. Similar to cooking and baking (and unlike wine or beer where you really can’t tinker), once you have a good cocktail recipe, you can riff on it with usually good results. In this case, we wanted sweeter and spicier flavors for the holidays. So in the Flowers For Sonja we include a bit more Lillet blanc, orange juice and substitute allspice liqueur for the absinthe. The drink is still light and balanced, but with the sweet, orange spice that clearly suggests the holidays. And if you don’t have allspice liqueur, a few dashes of Bittermen’s Tiki bitters or Angostura bitters will give you the spice notes you need. What you get is a light drink with plenty of flavor, but a lot less booze. And if the party goes on for a while, this can be a very good thing….

So how did we get the name? A good friend asked us to work on a cocktail for a holiday party and we brought this recipe over to test it out over a lovely dinner. Not only was the company great, but our host has one of the most beautiful gardens we have ever seen. Sharing a drink and walking through her garden is always a delight. Her flowers fill the eye and calm the soul. We hope this cocktail does the same.

Flowers For Sonja:

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin)
  • 3/4 oz. Lillet blanc
  • 1/2 oz. Benedictine
  • 1/2 oz. fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes (about 1/8 oz.) allspice liqueur (St. Elizabeth’s) or Angostura bitters

Assemble:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled flute or wine glass. Serve.

Calla Lilly:

(Adapted from Bergamot and “Drink & Tell“)

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin)
  • 1/2 oz. Lillet blanc
  • 1/2 oz. Benedictine
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes absinthe or pastis

Assemble:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled flute or wine glass. Serve.
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17 thoughts on “Holiday Cocktails: Flowers For Sonja (and the Calla Lily)

  1. As always, very well done and great name for the drink… I just haven’t heard of half of the ingredients in it! Thanks for expanding my horizons!

  2. Your drinks … are so full of temptation and .. loveliness and goodies. Spirits I never heard of before – what a learning curve this is for me .. thank god, I don’t drink when I’m alone.

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