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The Holiday Cocktail For 2018: The Clove & Sherry


When Robert Siegel retired this past January after 30 years in the ALL THINGS CONSIDERED host chair, I inherited his job, also his office, his spare laptop, a drawer crammed with power cords for appliances that became obsolete in the 1990s, etc. And I inherited a few of his favorite assignments, such as the annual holiday cocktail interview.



It's very fruity, and it's a rum.


SIEGEL: Now comes the sake.


SIEGEL: What's the name of this drink?


SIEGEL: Maraschino liquor.


SIEGEL: Cheers.

KELLY: Now, Robert did a few different versions of this hardship assignment over the years. They usually culminated, though, in his imbibing a martini or, in one case, a fruity rum Slurpee in the studio. So I thought let's take this segment in a different direction, which is how I ended up at a bar two blocks from the White House on a recent morning, learning how to properly shake a cocktail.


JOHN MCCARTHY: The important thing is to bend your knees.

KELLY: OK (laughter).

MCCARTHY: Breathe, and then you're going to shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it.

KELLY: That's my guide, the mixologist John McCarthy.

MCCARTHY: You're chilling the drink. You're adding water dilution. Water is actually the most important ingredient to any cocktail, and you're also imbuing it with life.

KELLY: That's right, with life.

I got the knee bend going. Here we go. Ready?


MCCARTHY: Yeah, there you go.

KELLY: John McCarthy has a new book out, "Be Your Own Bartender: A Surefire Guide To Finding (And Making) Your Perfect Cocktail." In other words, it's designed to answer the classic bartender question, what'll it be? McCarthy wrote the guide along with Carey Jones, who is not just his co-author.

CAREY JONES: We are married.

MCCARTHY: And - funny story - we met when Carey reviewed me. I had done a cocktail list, and Carey came in because...

JONES: The cocktails were so impressive, I wanted to write about them. And the joke now is that the cocktails were so good, I married you.

KELLY: (Laughter).

MCCARTHY: That's the drink that started it all.

KELLY: I mean, there are a million bartending books, cookbooks for cocktails. Why - why does the world need this one?

JONES: Well, we think what's so exciting about this book is we really try to walk you through the world of cocktails and not just give you a bunch of recipes. We really hope, with this book, the flowcharts really help you find the best drink for you.

KELLY: Yeah, you heard that right - flowcharts. Carey and John have devised a series of questions to select a drink based on your mood and the occasion and what ingredients you happen to have at hand. Each section begins with a series of prompts, such as, is there a chill in the air, or does egg white weird you out? It's basically a booze-your-own adventure.

JONES: We're actually throwing a cocktail party next week featuring a drink from the book. And I was sitting there like, what drink are we going to make? Are we going to do a vodka? Are we going to do the whiskey? And then I thought, we made a chart for that.


KELLY: So I steered them towards the seasonally appropriate winter holidays chart. Carey walks me through it.

JONES: The first question is, do you want something hot like a hot toddy, or do you want something - just a conventional, chilled cocktail?

KELLY: I'm going to go with a traditional chilled.

JONES: Great.

KELLY: Warm fire, cold drink.

JONES: Perfect. The people you're making this drink for - and this could be yourself or this could be other folks - would you describe them as adventurous drinkers, a little more conservative-traditional or somewhere in between?

KELLY: Let's go adventurous.

JONES: What time of day is this, afternoon or evening?

KELLY: Late afternoon, blending into early evening.

JONES: Let's call that evening.

KELLY: I need to stay awake for a couple hours.

MCCARTHY: (Laughter).

JONES: Fair enough. All right. So we have a drink for you called the Clove & Sherry.

KELLY: Beautiful. All right. Let's flip to this page because I'm going to make it.

First ingredient, clove-infused bourbon.

JONES: It might sound fancy when we say that it's infused, but that really just means adding cloves to bourbon and then taking them out.

MCCARTHY: Dump it right into the shaker.

KELLY: All right. Here we go. (Laughter). Are you allowed to lick your fingers first before you get there? Here we go.

MCCARTHY: Yeah you're definitely allowed to lick your fingers or even sip while you're making a drink.

KELLY: Bourbon is in.

MCCARTHY: Bourbon is in.

KELLY: Add to the shaker a dash of bitters and some Oloroso sherry.


KELLY: Sherry in.

MCCARTHY: All right. Now we're going to start using our juices.

KELLY: That would be fresh orange and lemon juices. Pro tip here, John says if you strain the seeds and pulp, that juice will last longer.


MCCARTHY: It'll last a couple of days in your refrigerator without going bad.

KELLY: I never knew that.

MCCARTHY: The cellulose will start breaking down, and that, it will turn the juice quicker.

KELLY: Next into the shaker, some simple syrup, which I was worried would make the drink too sweet. Not so, says John.

MCCARTHY: Sweeteners are not to sweeten the drink. They're a binding agent.

JONES: Yeah. We like to compare it to using salt in baking. You're not necessarily making it salty. It's just to heighten the other flavors.

KELLY: OK. Here we go.

MCCARTHY: So now it's time to shake your shaker. And just like everybody has their own walk and everybody has their own dance, everybody has their own shake.

KELLY: Here's what mine sounds like.


KELLY: Strain into a tall glass with ice and lastly some club soda. And since we're at a bar, we get to use the soda gun.

MCCARTHY: Soda gun.

KELLY: I've never gotten to do this. So exciting.

MCCARTHY: There you go.

KELLY: The finishing touch, the garnish.

MCCARTHY: And this, we're doing just a little half-moon of orange.

KELLY: Moment of truth.

MCCARTHY: (Laughter).

KELLY: All right. I'm going to make you taste. See how I did.

MCCARTHY: It's there.

JONES: Well done.

KELLY: Hang on. I'm grabbing this back from you while we talk.

MCCARTHY: (Laughter) It's your drink. You should drink it.

KELLY: It's really good.

You do really taste the bourbon and the cloves and the lemon. This drink is citrusy without being too fruity. Carey Jones and John McCarthy, this has been really a lot of fun. Thank you very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you so much.

JONES: Cheers.

KELLY: They are the authors of "Be Your Own Bartender: A Surefire Guide To Finding (And Making) Your Perfect Cocktail." And I think I just found mine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.