“It Tastes Like Liquid Cinnamon Roll” – A Christmas Cocktail Courtesy of one of Omaha’s Best Bartenders

You need a Christmas cocktail, and Clark Ross is here to help.

The co-owner and cocktail impresario behind Mercury – my favorite Omaha cocktail bar – agreed to share a holiday drink recipe with you, (print the recipe here) the loyal readers of sarahbakerhansen.com. Consider it the holiday bookend to the Thanksgiving cocktail, the Mr. November, that I shared a few days before that holiday. (Which of course you can still make now, as it doesn’t suddenly expire when November ends.)

But this Clark Ross drink here is as late December as they come. It’s an early present under the tree, a little spreading of some boozy Yuletide cheer, a friendly tiding as we trudge, separate but together, through the darkness of the Covid Christmas season. 

He calls it…Backdoor Santa.

You know, because Santa uses the backdoor when there’s no chimney. Jesus of Nazareth, people, pull your minds out of the gutter, this is a family food blog.

Anyway, the cocktail in question starts with two of the most holiday flavors imaginable, brown sugar and rosemary.

To make the rosemary syrup that you will put into the drink, do the following: Put four large sprigs of rosemary into one and a half cups of water. Boil the water in a sauce pan. After a few minutes, when you have a good rosemary flavor going, pull the sprigs out. Now dump in four cups of light brown sugar which, yes, will make you say “wow this seems like way too much brown sugar.” But trust me, or rather, Clark.

When the brown sugar is dissolved, cool and put into a plastic squeeze bottle or other easily pourable container. Stick those rosemary sprigs back into the container as well to get a full-on rosemary punch. Chill for a bit in the refrigerator and, voila, your syrup is ready.

When we made this syrup, Sarah Baker Hansen herself said, “it tastes like a liquid cinnamon roll.”

Indeed it does.

Now it’s time to make the drink, and there’s really only one option for your base spirit.

“What complements those holiday baking spices better than bourbon?” Clark Ross asks.

The answer is nothing, which is why the simple holiday cocktail recipe goes as follows:

BACKDOOR SANTA

  • 2 oz bourbon (Note: Clark recommends the affordable and no-bs Elijah Craig bourbon if you need to buy a bottle.)
  • ¾  oz brown sugar rosemary syrup (Note: Use a full ounce if you like things really sweet, and a half ounce if you are more of a grim Gus like myself)
  • ½ oz Campari 
  • ½ oz lemon juice

Shake with ice in a shaker, and pour into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel. 

It’s a Backdoor Santa! You have just unlocked the backdoor and let a jolly white-bearded stranger into your home. But it’s fine, because he’s bearing gifts. Or something. 

The drink is simple enough to make. Super quick after you have that syrup made, too. It’s also a crowd pleaser, the sort of drink that will get the thumbs up from experienced cocktailers and newbies alike. 

“The Campari and lemon bring a little bit of sour and better to round off the sweet notes from everything else,” Ross says. “It seems like an appropriate day off cocktail. Not too stiff, and it’s not like an apertif. It’s definitely a drink that holds its own, but also would be enjoyable to relax with and be a daytime sipper.”

One of the many things I like about Mercury is the bar’s ability to serve you drinks that are unlike anything you have ever tasted before…and, on the very same menu, other drinks that fit as comfortably as your favorite pair of winter mittens. That sort of versatility is what makes the 16th Street bar maybe the best cocktail spot in Nebraska.

Sarah and I aren’t eating or drinking inside bars or restaurants right now, but luckily for us, and for you, Mercury is doing its annual Miracle drink menu to go as well. Over the holiday break, we are going to drive over, get a few drinks to go and post some photos. In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday. Here’s to a New Year when, at some point, we can all crowd elbow-to-elbow into a small, sweaty bar and drink together, safely and happily.


Backdoor Santa

Category

A simple syrup made with brown sugar and rosemary is the backbone for this holiday-centric Campari and Bourbon cocktail. Recipe courtesy Clark Ross, Mercury.

Yields1 Serving
Prep Time5 minsCook Time5 minsTotal Time10 mins

Ingredients

For the rosemary simple syrup
 4 sticks fresh Rosemary
 4 cups Light brown sugar
 1 ½ cups water
For the cocktail
 2 oz Bourbon
 ¾ oz Rosemary simple syrup
 ½ oz Campari
 ½ oz Lemon juice

Directions

For the simple syrup
1

Add rosemary and water to a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Let rosemary sit in syrup briefly, then remove. Add brown sugar and simmer until dissolved. For a more pronounced rosemary flavor, leave the herbs in the syrup longer.

When ready, chill.

For the cocktail
2

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake. Serve over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Note: if you prefer a sweeter drink, use 1 oz. of syrup. Likewise, if you prefer a less sweet cocktail, reduce to 1/2 oz.

Ingredients

For the rosemary simple syrup
 4 sticks fresh Rosemary
 4 cups Light brown sugar
 1 ½ cups water
For the cocktail
 2 oz Bourbon
 ¾ oz Rosemary simple syrup
 ½ oz Campari
 ½ oz Lemon juice

Directions

For the simple syrup
1

Add rosemary and water to a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Let rosemary sit in syrup briefly, then remove. Add brown sugar and simmer until dissolved. For a more pronounced rosemary flavor, leave the herbs in the syrup longer.

When ready, chill.

For the cocktail
2

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake. Serve over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Note: if you prefer a sweeter drink, use 1 oz. of syrup. Likewise, if you prefer a less sweet cocktail, reduce to 1/2 oz.

Backdoor Santa

12 Comments

Leave a Reply