MOTAC Hosts 5th Annual Holiday Cocktail Seminar in DC

On December 11 at the Warehouse Theater in Washington, DC, the Museum of the American Cocktail assembled five of DC’s most reputable bartenders to present guests with their own holiday-themed cocktail creations. The evening featured Adam Bernbach, Aris Noble, Bryan Tetorakis, Todd Thrasher and Chantal Tseng. The seminar was led by MOTAC Co-Founder Philip Greene, author of the recently-released To Have and Have Another – A Hemingway Cocktail Companion and Victoria Vergason, author of Capitol Cocktails and owner of The Hour, specializing in the sale of vintage cocktailware in Old Town Alexandria.


From left: Arris Noble, Bryan Tetorakis, Chantal Tseng, Adam Bernbach, Todd Thrasher, Philip Greene and Victoria Vergason. Photo courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

To begin Bryan Tetorakis of Rogue 24 presented “The Machine Gun Blues” consisting of

1.5 oz Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey

1.5 oz. Bonal

Dash Celery Bitters

Dash Apple Bitters

Dash Green Chartreuse

Lemon Peel Garnish

Add ingredients to a mixing glass, stir on ice until well chilled, serve in a cocktail glass with a lemon twist.

The Machine Gun Blues has herbaceous and vegetal flavors balanced well by the sweet Bonal and spicy, caramelized, earthy flavors of the rye with a slight bitterness from the Greeen Chartreuse. A distinguished cocktail.


Bryan Tetorakis stirs “The Machine Gun Blues.” Photo courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

Next came Chantal Tseng of the Tabard Inn with her “Hazelnut Toddy” consisting of:

1.5 oz. Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac

1/4 oz Cointreau

Dash of Lemon and Honey

Hot Honeybush Hazlenut Tea (can be ordered online)

Clove Studded Orange Peel

To make, build spirits in a glass cup, add the honey and lemon and mix. Top off with hot tea and garnish with the clove-studded orange peel.

The vanilla and caramelized flavors of the cognac are a great duet with the nuttiness of the tea brightened by the citrus flavors of the Cointreau, lemon and orange. The hot tea released the aroma of the clove melding the drink into a warming holiday tipple.


Chantal Tseng displays the ingredients for her “Hazelnut Toddy.” Photo Courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

Todd Thrasher of numerous Virginia-based restaurants, all part of the Eat Good Food Group, presented his “Manzanilla Con Manzana” made up of:

1.5 oz Sherry Mix (see below)

1/2 oz Apple Cider

3/4 oz Cardinal Mendoza brandy

3/4 oz Laird’s Applejack

Angostura and Apple Bitters

Build ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, stir until well chilled, serve in a coupe glass and garnish with apple balls.

With its several layers of apple flavor, this cocktail is quite appropriate for the holiday season. The Sherry Mix adds a seasoned sweetness that when combined with the brandy and applejack produces a well-rounded cocktail full of apple, spice, vanilla and citrus.

For the Sherry Mix:

2 bottles (1500 ml) Hidalgo Manzanilla Sherry

2 Oranges, Peeled

1 Vanilla Bean (Scraped)

1/2 Cup Sugar

Peel the oranges and put the peels on a sheet tray and put in a 450 degree oven for 5 minutes or until orange peels start to brown. Put the sherry in a pot and bring to a boil, add the sugar and vanilla bean and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to a low simmer, add orange peels and let simmer for 30 minutes. Strain off and refrigerate.


Todd Thrasher prepares his “Manzanilla Con Manzana.” Photo courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

Adam Bernbach of Proof and Estadio showcased his homage to Christmas with the “Die Hard”-themed cocktail “Harry Ellis” named after the cocaine-snorting, sleazy businessman who attempts to work with terrorists who take over the office, helping them find John McClane, played by Bruce Willis. “Die Hard” takes place right before Christmas.

1.5 oz Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac

Spiced Ginger Soda

Cranberry and Mint Garnish

Build ingredients on ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint and skewered cranberries.

Adam’s cocktail was a super spicy drink combining soda made with fresh pureed ginger. Combined with the cognac and mint the drink wakes up the palate with a sweet and zingy boost of energy. Perfect for negotiating with terrorists at Christmas time.


Adam Bernbach presents his “Die Hard”-themed “Harry Ellis.” Photo courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Arris Noble of SEI presented his Winter Whiskey Sour:

2 oz Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey

1 oz fresh lemon

1 oz 5 spice syrup (clove, anise, black pepper, allspice and cinnamon – for basic instructions, click here)

1 egg white (preferably fresh)

Dash Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters

Combine ingredients in a shaker and give it a hard “dry shake” with no ice to emulsify the egg white. Once emulsified, add ice and shake vigorously in order to create a foamy texture. Serve in a martini or coupe glass. With the use of the 5 spice syrup this cocktail offers the flavors of the season with a velvety texture from the egg whites and spiciness of the rye with the lemon adding a brightness and clean finish.


Arris Noble displays the ingredients for his “Winter Whiskey Sour.” Photo courtesy of Stephen Chapman.

The Museum of the American Cocktail would like to thank the wonderful people of The Passenger for assisting the bartenders and making the evening flow smoothly. Thanks also to Victoria Vergason for providing her fabulous vintage glasses and barware for use. Many thanks for the great photos by Stephen Chapman who is part of the Eat Good Food Group, and works on digital media for PX and the new bar T.N.T.

And of course, we wouldn’t be able to present these fine cocktails without our sponsors, namely Laird’s Applejack, Cognac FERRAND, Wild Turkey Rye, Chivas Regal, Fee Brothers and Cointreau.


By Matt Keller

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