Cocktails to thaw a Grinch's heart

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Tap House bartender Charles Morris strains a holiday cocktail called The Grinch.

How did the Grinch steal Christmas?

With a jigger of Midori melon, vodka, Cointreau, a splash of sour mix and a dash or two of red sugar on top.

That's the Grinch as poured into a martini glass at the Taphouse on Historic Third Street , and it's a mean one -- it easily steals the show for Christmas cocktails in the Rochester area and is a Four Stars winner.

The Taphouse has eight seasonal cocktails, including one called Santa's Dirty Secret, which I'll get to in a minute, but the Grinch is a perfect blend of sweet and sour -- sort of like the Grinch himself -- and the drink even matches the peculiar yellow-green hue of the Dr. Seuss cartoon version. (Let's not talk about the Jim Carrey movie .)

Natalie Victoria, of Victoria's Ristorante & Wine Bar fame and co-owner of the Taphouse, says they change up their cocktail list about five times a year, and for Christmas they wanted festive, fun, probably fruity drinks, since those have been most popular. "We're a craft beer bar, that's our number one beverage of choice," Natalie said, but destination cocktails aren't far behind, ahead of wines. Her business partner, Christine Stahl, came up the Grinch recipe for mellow melon and orange, tempered with sour.


Just as refreshing as the Grinch ($7) is the Mistletoe Mojito ($8) -- white rum, pomegranate syrup and lime juice, charged with soda, with a handful of gem-like pomegranate seeds at the bottom of the martini glass. Mint leaves float on top as a non-toxic substitute for mistletoe. Natalie said the mojito is a holiday version of their blackberry mojito, which is big during summer months.

Santa's Dirty Secret is at the dessert end of the spectrum, with vodka, Kahlua, Bailey's and green creme de menthe, poured into a martini glass drizzled with chocolate on the sides. And there are others, both naughty and nice, including one called the Naughty & Spice, but I'll let you explore those and tell me how they are.

Just a few doors to the east, at Sontes, bar manager Paul Koernerhas come up with a refreshing drink called Frosty Lost His Nose ($8). Mint vodka is the inspired fire power in this one, made frothy with White Godiva Chocolate liqueur, Fra Angelico and a hint of amaretto, the hazelnut liqueur that's appropriate to this Nutcracker season.

It's served in an elegant coupe glass, and floating on top is an angle of orange twist that looks remarkably like a snowman's nose.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and Paul says he invented this drink in part because Sontes is closing and they need to address their inventory, "so I just played around with some of the more seasonal flavors," he said. "I like to add a little citrus, so I floated the twist on top and one of our servers said it looked like a carrot," hence the name.

As anyone who's had dinner at Sontes knows, the bar's craft beer selection, extensive list of wines by the glass and creative cocktails are a big part of the restaurant's appeal. "It complements what the restaurant stands for," said Paul, who'll become general manager of the brew pub that will replace Sontes next spring.

At Salute, the Italian restaurant and wine bar in the Marriott, they have something called Gluhwein ($7), pronounced glow-vine -- burgundy wine with amaretto, mulled all day in a silver pitcher with orange peel, a cinnamon stick and cloves. It's a traditional German-Austrian warmup on a cold winter day, and if you're lucky, Cindy will be the bartender -- she tends to add a little more amaretto than the recipe calls for.

And no column on Christmas season cocktails in Rochester would be complete without the Tom & Jerry ($4.95) at Michaels. What better way to top off the season than a cup of hot rum and brandy buried in Michaels' proprietary T & J mix, a rich, chewy froth speckled with aromatic nutmeg.


They've been serving these at Michaels forever -- maybe not since the restaurant opened in 1951, but close -- and though they're closing on New Year's Eve, George Pappascheerfully declined to share the precise formula, other than to say it's an old family recipe that involves eggs, sugar and vanilla.

"Right now we're doing about 50 a day but by the end of the Christmas season, we'll be up to 100 a day," George said.

After that, it's all over. Assuming Michaels reopens in the new retail center to go up on that site, you can be sure they'll have Tom & Jerrys during the holidays.

If you haven't made a reservation yet for a final dinner at Michaels and/or Sontes, the hour is late. Call now or be like all the Whos in Whoville crying "Boo, hoo!" And if you know of a hot toddy, wassail, eggnog or other Christmas classics in the area, let me know and I'll add to next week's column.

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