Holiday Cocktail Countdown #1: Cinnamontini at Aya Sofia

Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.

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Kristie McClanahan
Cinnamontini at Aya Sofia.
​There's a point during the holidays when you're delicately munching on pecans or taking a respectable portion of white-meat turkey and you think, "I'm actually doing all right, calorie-wise." Conveniently erased are the memories of devouring an entire gingerbread village Godzilla-style while throwing back shots of sticky, sounds-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time peppermint schnapps.

That's when it's time for a Cinnamontini from Aya Sofia (6671 Chippewa Street; 314-645-9919), a drink that seems comparatively good for you, while keeping your holiday buzz aglow.

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Holiday Cocktail Countdown #2: Abraxas Cinnamon Shake

Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.

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Stephanie Tolle
​Beer lovers, are you feeling neglected by our Holiday Cocktail countdown? Well come here and give Gut Check a hug. We love you, too! Perrenial Artisan Ales (8125 Michigan Avenue; 314-631-7300) does not actually serve cocktails at their bar (they do have wine, whiskey and scotch, though, in addition to seven of their own beers on tap, and several more by the bottle), but as a holiday treat, they made Gut Check a milkshake out of their Abraxas beer, a Mexican chocolate stout.

Abraxas is holiday-appropriate, with its cinnamon, spices, rich chocolate and warming 10% APV. Blending it with Serendipity cinnamon ice cream was the brainchild of Emily Wymore, who opened Perennial with her husband, Phil, about 3 months ago. Bartender Ben Mendez (pictured below) poured a snifter of the dark stout. It was teamwork at its finest...like elves in Santa's workshop. And boy, did Santa deliver.


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Holiday Cocktail Countdown #3: Xmas in December at the Crow's Nest

Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.

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Stephen Fairbanks
Xmas in December, flanked by its two main ingredients.
​When we asked for a holiday cocktail, our bartender's response was part question, part warning.

"It's strong..." said Melissa Kingsbury. "Do you like whiskey?"

The stiff drink in question is an Xmas in December, a creation of Crow's Nest (7336 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-781-0989) owner Mike McLaughlin. "Some people think we're being ironic," quipped McLaughlin, when discussing its name.

After one or two sips of the blend of Maker's Mark, Grand Marnier and simple syrup, it's hard not to begin thinking of roaring fires, holiday shopping and, well, more Maker's Mark.

The drink is served chilled, in a large martini glass, garnished with a lemon twist.
The experience of drinking Xmas in December starts with a little whiff of orange on the nose, followed by the warming bite of whiskey on the front of the palate. The finish has the lingering, smooth sweetness imparted by the Grand Marnier and simple syrup.

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Holiday Cocktail Countdown #4: Milagro's Spicy Chocolate Martini

Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.

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Stacy Anderson
​When you're shivering under a pile of blankets during the St. Louis winter, fantasies of a golden beach along the Yucatan peninsula, a frozen margarita in your hand, might help you survive.

Now, get over it. You're stuck here. Thankfully, the flavors of Mexico can still get you through -- and we're not talking about a margarita served at approximately the same temperature as the average January wind chill.

Milagro Modern Mexican (20 Allen Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-962-4300) bartender Rick Cutler, who has been with the restaurant since its opening in April 2010, threw together a concoction of ingredients on a whim one day and deemed it a Spicy Chocolate Martini. While not hot in temperature, the heat from its Mexican-themed ingredients provides all the warmth you'll need as the temperature dips below freezing.

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Holiday Cocktail Countdown #5: Monarch's Spicy Nutcracker

Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.

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Stephen Fairbanks
Monarch's Spicy Nutcracker.
​Gumbo on the menu. Shrimp and grits, too. The Meters on the radio. A pecan liqueur, praline, behind the bar.

The influence of the Big Easy is strong at Monarch (7401 Manchester Road, Maplewood;314-644-3995). Shortly after last year's shift toward New Orleans cuisine, bartender Tyler Burns created a drink called the Spicy Nutcracker.

"It's kind of a takeoff on a Sazerac," says Burns, referencing the Nawlins-born liquid legend that has experienced a major resurgence in recent years.

Whereas the original requires an absinthe- or anise-flavored component, Burns takes a festive detour while remaining true to the drink's roots by adding the praline liqueur. The result is the perfect holiday cocktail to take the edge off of a St. Louis chill.


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Holiday Cocktail Countdown #6: Cork Wine Bar's Tiramisu Martini

Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.

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Stephanie Tolle
Brad Gittemeier mixes up a Tiramisu Martini
​What better place to get a holiday cocktail than at the North Pole? Okay... Ferguson isn't that far north, but Cork Wine Bar (423 South Florissant Road, Ferguson; 314-521-9463) does hold the key to your Christmas dreams: more than 100 wines, 25 of which are available by the glass; wine flights for those who want to learn; 30 different beers by the bottle, plus four rotating draft beers (they currently have Southern Tier Pumpking on tap, for instance). Cork also hosts a jolly assortment of friendly strangers who will become fast friends in this laid-back, warm neighborhood bar.

And then there's the Tiramisu Martini. It contains "RumChata", a popular new horchata-influenced liqueur, and some house-infused espresso vodka. Corner Coffee House right down the street is where Cork gets the espresso for its infused vodka. Bartender Brad Gittemeier explains that Cork adds some ground espresso beans to 360º Vodka, lets it sit for 30 minutes, and then strains it.


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Holiday Cocktail Countdown #7: The Silver Ballroom's Silver Ball Toddy

Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.

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Mabel Suen
The Silver Ball Toddy from this season's drink menu at The Silver Ballroom
​Individuals suffering from sniffles and sneezes this season need not look any further: The Silver Ballroom (4701 Morganford Road; 314-832-9223) bar manager Andy Gosney, who has tended bar at various south city establishments over the past eight years, has just the drink to cure those winter woes. For those who'd rather be taking brew shots than flu shots, he presents his Silver Ball toddy, sure to clean any Kleenex-ridden clock.

All the proper components for cold symptom recovery are present here including honey à la Bärenjäger liqueur to coat a sore throat, fresh lemon juice to cut through, an herbal remedy from a healthy dose of Green Chartreuse and of course, an intense warming feeling brought on by Buffalo Trace Bourbon and some steaming hot water. Even if you're not feeling ill, there's no harm in, erm, taking preventative measures...right?


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Holiday Cocktail Countdown #8: Danno's Miracle on 34th Street

Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.

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Mabel Suen
A whole lot of alcohol warms body and soul this season in this mixed drink at Danno's American Pub.
​In true St. Louis style, cold temperatures snuck in this season, but don't let sporadic chills slow you down. Counter them with saucy thrills by warming up on the inside and out with a holiday cocktail reminiscent of Rudolph in both body and spirit, complete with a bright red maraschino cherry likened to his sweet, shiny nose.

At Danno's American Pub (7895 Watson Road, Marlborough; 314-395-3000), named "Best Neighborhood Bar (Mid-County)" in the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis 2011, self-titled "intoxicator" Jon Hellwig puts his own spin on a classic drink, the Manhattan, with a classic Christmas name: the Miracle on 34th Street. This New York-inspired, amber-colored concoction provides a glow of its own.


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Holiday Cocktail Countdown #9: Mangia Italiano's The Grinch

Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.

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Mabel Suen
"The Grinch" at Mangia Italiano
You're a mean one, St. Louis winter. But those who sympathize with Mr. Grinch can learn to love again thanks to bartender Jason Hutto at Mangia Italiano (3145 South Grand Boulevard; 314-664-8585). Gut Check headed down to the south side watering hole to cure the bitter, bleak-weather blues with this sweet minty treat.

After one slow, smooth sip of Hutto's holiday invention, the Grinch, Gut Check decided to pass the drink around for fellow barflies to enjoy as well. After all, isn't sharing and caring what this time of year is all about?


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Holiday Cocktail Countdown #10: Al Waha Restaurant & Hookah Lounge's Hot Spiked Cider

Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.

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Mabel Suen
Fireball cinnamon whiskey instantly takes any glass of apple cider up a notch or two or three.
​Life can be pretty complicated, but that doesn't mean your drink has to be. Sometimes, it just takes the simple things to unwind, especially during this season of cold weather grieving. Take mulled apple cider over mulling things over with this pleasant drink that's as easy and delicious as apple pie, harkening back to the familiar flavors of childhood creature comforts.

Server and bartender Stephanie Dinges at Al Waha Restaurant & Hookah Bar (3191 South Grand Boulevard; 314-664-3940) asked owner Riyad Alwadi to add hot spiked cider to the drink menu after being introduced to Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey at HandleBar last year. This easily sippable spirit enhances your own holiday spirit with two simple ingredients. Follow the jump to get to a recipe for instant holiday stress relief success, and stop in at Al Waha for their other seasonal specialty: the Cafe Royale, another simple mix containing Bedouin coffee and Patron Coffee Liqueur made with tequila.

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