Tis the season...for boozing, that is.
To celebrate, more than a dozen downtown Phoenix restaurants and bars are taking their holiday concoctions into the battlefield in a six-week competition to see who can come up with the Most Spirited Holiday Cocktail of 2012. The seasonal libations vary from sugary sweet martinis to holiday bombers that would probably leave us reeling.
This week Chow Bella's holding our own contest, pitting the creations from the bars at two downtown hotels against one another in a holiday cocktail showdown. Who will make the nice list?
In this corner: Santa's Bellini from District American Kitchen and Wine Bar
The Drink: Fresh Cranberry Compote (made in-house), Simple Syrup, Splash of Frangelico Hazelnut Liquor, Top with Gloria Ferrer Sparkling Wine and garnished with Mint
The Setup: District American Kitchen is a favorite happy hour spot for many downtown diners and drinkers. On a Tuesday afternoon at the mostly empty bar we got the full attention of a cheerful bartender who actually tried to discourage us from ordering the holiday cocktail in favor of one of his own creations. (In his defense, the drink he mixed up for our day drinking date was totally delicious.) Otherwise, it's your typical hotel bar.
The Good: The dark pink drink featured brightly colored berries that danced in the glass as they rose with the bubbles of the sparkling wine. Unlike most winter holiday libations, Santa's Bellini was a light cocktail that could actually have been enjoyed all year long.
The Bad: Mixing berry and hazelnut liquor produced an arresting flavor combination...at first.
The Price: $10
In the other corner: "Winter in Rio" Dulce de Leche Martini from Province
The Drink: Dulce de leche liqueur (made in-house), Disaronno Amaretto, Whipped Egg White and a pinch Vanilla Cinnamon Fleur de Sel
The Setup: Province, located in the Westin Phoenix Downtown, opened in March 2011 inside the Freeport-McMoRan Center. Compared to the giant Hyatt and Sheraton hotels, the 242-room Westin feels small yet cosmopolitan. The bar, more dark and swanky than bright and airy, is the perfect setting for after work drinks or a pre-dinner snack.
The Good: The dulce de leche martini looks and feels like a winter drink. The dash of whipped cream sitting atop the drink reminds us of a mug of hot chocolate - if hot chocolate had a cold, alcoholic sibling.
The Bad: For some reason, the mixture of flavors just didn't jive the way it should have. We picked up the caramel and we noticed the amaretto but rather than blending together in holiday drink heaven, the flavors resulted in a less than stellar combination.
The Price: $9
The Winner: Apparently the big guy in red has great taste in booze. We have to pick District's Santa's Bellini over the Latin-influenced holiday drink at Province. If nothing else, District gets points for going the creative route by ditching the heavy holiday standard for a light and bubbly treat, perfect for day drinking December away.
To see the rest of the drinks in the Downtown Phoenix Partnership's Spirits of the Season competition, visit the Holidays in Downtown website. Voting closes on December 20. The drinks will be available through December 31. Follow Chow Bella on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest.