Franklin County bars, restaurants get creative with winter cocktail menus
|Published: 12-22-2023 12:57 PM
With winter just beginning, bars and eateries across Franklin County are inviting people in for specialty drinks inspired by the cold season.
Each venue, with changing menus, has a different take on what winter cocktails mean. But all are showing up in an effort to get people warm and cozy to brace themselves for the season ahead.
From cocktails inspired by local ingredients to wine mixes, here is a sampling of seasonal cocktails available across the county.
Since it reopened in Bernardston this summer, The Farm Table is experiencing its first winter serving up seasonally inspired drinks.
When I walked into the warmly colored restaurant with a long bar featuring a brick pizza oven, I was greeted by Ethan Bray, the front-of-house manager who showed me three cocktails he designed to get his customers in the holiday spirit.
The Crimson Nova cocktail is crafted using elderflower gin, cranberry and sage shrub, and lemon. It is topped with a Spanish sparkling wine named cava that is similar to champagne.
Bray said what makes this cocktail special is its vinegar-based syrup, called shrub. The shrub gives the cocktail a tart taste elevating the drink from one made from a syrup mixture.
The next featured cocktail at The Farm Table was a Ginger Sage Margarita with a cinnamon sugar rim. This drink, similar to a classic margarita, has ginger and sage incorporated into its traditional housemade margarita sour mix. It also features a ginger liqueur instead of the traditional orange one.
The cinnamon sugar rim gives this drink a classic winter reference, but also features a heavily fragrant herb, sage, making people think of the cold season in a glass.
“Overly spiced things make me think of winter,” Bray said.
A third drink, the Bogger’s Delight, features a cranberry-infused vodka made in Franklin. Once brought to The Farm Table, staff further infuse peppercorns into the vodka, giving the drink a spicy and peppery holiday flavor.
It also features Massachusetts cranberries, crème de cassis (a sweet, dark red liqueur made from black currants), lime and simple syrup. It was inspired by the cranberry-orange heavily spiced jam people give as gifts around Christmastime.
The Ashfield Lake House offers a variety of ever-changing seasonal cocktails. When I stopped by, co-owner Dre Hynes chose to feature a wine cocktail called Start Winning.
“It is nice to be able to sip something without a ton of alcohol,” Hynes said. “I love wine cocktails because you can get creative without just mixing tons of booze.”
The cocktail takes a low-intervention natural red wine, that Hynes described as having a “holiday Dr. Pepper vibe,” and mixes it with bitters, campari, club soda and fresh lemon.
As I sipped the drink out of a whisky glass with one large ice cube and a lemon twist, I felt the winter sun stream in through the large windows lining one side of the restaurant overlooking the glistening Ashfield Lake.
At the Ashfield Lake House, staff like to use brown alcohol, or drinks people think of as “warming,” for the many other winter cocktails they offer. They keep the bar packed in the winter with their many events such as the karaoke party they hosted earlier this month with a special holiday cocktail pop-up.
The new speakeasy-themed bar owned by restaurateur Michaelangelo Wescott in Shelburne Falls, called Le Peacock, opened its doors serving winter cocktails right from the start.
“When I think of winter cocktails, I think of eggnog,” Wescott said. Le Peacock’s Smoked Eggnog drink features a house blend of dark and light rum, housemade eggnog, cacao liqueur, chicory smoke, cream sherry and nutmeg.
Bar manager Mariel Olcoz described the drink as a heavy, nice dessert drink.
The bar, located in the basement space beneath Boswell’s Books, has blue-painted walls and is heavily decorated with feathers, paintings and other decor that creates a warm and cozy feeling for the winter.
Olcoz said while eggnog is classically associated with winter, when she thinks of winter cocktails she is inspired by snow. Therefore, she wants to make drinks that are bright and sparkly.
This leads to the house’s signature cocktail called a Peacock Named Frank, named after the recently deceased Shelburne Falls painter Frank Rozelle, who painted the bar’s interior.
This drink has port, gin, orange liqueur, elderflower liqueur, lemon, egg white and absinthe poured over crushed ice with crème de violette on the bottom and edible glitter on top.
“It has a nuttiness that is great for the holidays,” Olcoz said.
The French restaurant in Whately has been around for more than 50 years and changes its cocktail menu about twice annually to present seasonal offerings to diners.
The cozy wooden bar at The Whately Inn has a variety of winter drinks available, including the Sugar Cookie Martini and the Peppermint Chocolate Martini.
The Sugar Cookie Martini includes vanilla vodka, crème de cacao, amaretto, Bailey’s Irish cream liqueur, and a red and green sprinkle rim. The Peppermint Chocolate Martini includes vanilla vodka, peppermint schnapps, V-1 chocolate liquor (made in Hadley) and a crushed candy cane rim.
The eatery also serves Mapleline Farm’s eggnog from Hadley, with a drinker’s choice of rum or bourbon and a poinsettia with prosecco, cranberry juice and a sprig of rosemary.
The restaurant welcomes drinkers at the bar, or people can pair these special drinks with a five-course meal.
Reach Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579 or firstname.lastname@example.org