Auburn bartenders mix up cocktails for New Year’s

Options abound for holiday celebrations
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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There are plenty of Auburn establishments where you can raise your glass New Year’s Eve, and an array of drinks to put in that glass.

At Dingus McGee’s, bar manager Brett Shanley said that in addition to multitude of mixed drinks on the menu year-round, the holiday season calls for some winter-themed cocktails. Those include the “Cuppa Good Cheer,” which has Skyy vodka infused with cherry flavor, white chocolate liqueur and hot chocolate – with whipped cream and a cherry on top, of course.

To view a photo gallery from Dingus McGee's, click here.

“You can also get ones like candy cane martinis,” Shanley said. “We usually make that with a peppermint liqueur and vodka, and put a candy cane inside it for a little bit of taste.”

The holiday selection also includes a “Peppermint Twist,” with peppermint schnapps, Kahlua and dark crème d’cacao, and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” made of peppermint liqueur, Rumple Minze, Bailey’s and cream. The names are as creative as the drinks, with monikers like “Santa’s little Helper” and “Charlie in the Box,” from the Island of Misfit Toys.

“We try to spice it up a little bit here and there when we can,” Shanley said.

New Year’s Eve is looking to be a busy one at Dingus McGee’s – the bar opens at 3 p.m. and in addition to drinks the restaurant will also be open.

“It’s going to be crazy, but I’m excited and looking forward to it,” Shanley said.

Across town at the California Club, Michelle Sutton said that while they’re mostly a “beer and shot bar,” the holidays are a good time to order a hot buttered rum or eggnog mixed with spiced rum.

“Things like that are very popular,” Sutton said. “Especially the hot buttered rums.”

At Bob & Betty’s One Sixty Club, co-owner Claudia Cheeseman said the bar staff serves up a variety of cocktails made with flavored vodkas. Perhaps the most popular mixed drink there, she said, is a bloody Mary concocted from an old family recipe.

Not your typical cocktail

Those looking for something a little bit different might try a wine cocktail, which is proving to be a popular option these days.

“It’s actually an older-style drink, and I’m trying to bring it back in vogue,” said Teena Wilkins, owner of Villa Castellano.

She said the recent Holiday in the Hills event, sponsored by the Placer County Vintners Association, featured the debut of Villa Castellano’s wine cocktails.

“We make very dry wines in our winery,” Wilkins said. “We’re not currently making a port or a sweet wine, nor do we make particularly fruity zinfandel.”

That means getting creative when tasters want something sweet. While Wilkins can’t serve hard alcohol in the tasting room, she can mix up a drink like the “Bordeaux Cup, a mixture of wine, simple syrup and spices that doesn’t include hard alcohol.

“One of the things I always tell people with wine cocktails is that it’s kind of similar to cooking with wine,” Wilkins  said. “You don’t want to use a wine that is exceptionally rated, but you also don’t want to use a wine that you wouldn’t drink.”

The top-tier wines, she said, taste exceptional on their own, and mixing bad wine into a cocktail won’t make the wine taste better.

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at

Wine cocktails
Teena Wilkins, owner of Villa Castellano, shares these mixed drinks made with wine

Bordeaux Cup
• One lemon
• One bottle Cabernet Franc
• 3 ounces simple syrup
• ½ cup cold water
• ½ teaspoon ground
• ½ teaspoon ground clove
• ½ teaspoon ground
• Ice cubes
Peel the rind of the lemon, leaving behind the pith.
Chop lemon into 1- to 2-inch pieces.
Combine the wine, syrup, water and spices in a large pitcher or drink server. Stir well.
Add the lemon rind and stir briefly.
Put ice into a plastic baggie and add to pitcher (to serve chilled, but not diluted). Can be refrigerated for 30 minutes before serving.

Go Ask Alice
• One bottle Cabernet Franc
• 1 cup Valencia orange juice (no pulp)
• 1 ounce simple syrup
• ¼ cup Triple Sec
• One can San Pellegrino Limonata
• Lemon twist
• Rimming sugar (optional)
In a large drink container, mix first four ingredients. Mixture can be premade and refrigerated for several hours.
Before serving, pour the mixture into a cocktail server with ice, leaving room for about an eighth or a fourth of a can Limonata, depending on your taste. Shake and strain into martini glasses and add lemon twist. Rim with sugar for a sweeter treat.