Making Spirits Bright with our Bartenders & Chefs

Making Spirits Bright with our Bartenders & Chefs
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By Virgin Hotels

Holiday celebrations will look very different this year, but we know one thing for sure: we certainly won’t be social distancing from amazing food and cocktails. So consider making the best out of extraordinary circumstances and raising a glass with your friends and family virtually while sipping cocktail recipes from Virgin Hotels’ bartenders and cooking up household meals chef-style.

Our bartenders and chefs from Virgin Hotels Dallas and Virgin Hotels Nashville, have curated holiday cocktails and dishes to lift your spirits as you toast to happiness and the hope for a better year ahead.

Virgin Hotels Dallas

Commons Club Bartender Kiyoko Kinoshita

Q: When you think of making a holiday cocktail at home, what immediately comes to mind?

A: I think of all of the holiday goodies that come along the time of year. Candy canes, cinnamon apples, gingerbread, hot cocoa, and apple cider! It gives me a warm feeling inside knowing all of those memories are associated with spending this special time of year with friends and family.

Q: Do you have a specific memory associated with the cocktail you’re sharing here?

A: I actually have two recipes to share! They remind me of the times we all got together during the holidays. Our friends and family would all gather in the living room, play instruments, sing songs, all while having our favorite holiday libations in hand. My aunt would play the keyboard while my brother and uncle played guitar and all the cousins would sing. It was so much fun, and something I hope to do with my family once we can all get back together.

Q: What is a cocktail you recommend people make at home?

A: I have two I love. The first is called “That Warm Fuzzy Feeling.” Here is the recipe:

  • 25 oz bourbon (or your favorite whiskey)
  • .75 oz Berentzen apple liqueur
  • .25 oz lemon juice
  • .5 oz maple syrup (adjust to preferred sweetness)
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 dashes of walnut or pecan bitters
  • Top with hot water
  • Garnish with a cinnamon stick

*I really like to throw in my favorite teabag as well like Earl Grey or caramel apple, but you don’t have to.

The second cocktail is called “Santa Cup of Joe”. The recipe is:

  • 25 oz vodka
  • .5 oz Tempus Fugit Creme de Cacao (my favorite cacao liqueur)
  • .25 peppermint schnapps
  • .75 oz coffee liqueur (St. George NOLA, Kahlua, Patrón XO)
  • 1 oz espresso

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake hard with ice. Strain into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with Ande’s chocolate mint shavings or crushed candy cane pieces.

Commons Club Executive Chef Matt McCallister

Q: When you think of making a holiday dish at home, what immediately comes to mind?

A: For Christmas, it is always my mom’s green chile cheesy potatoes! It’s a hearty casserole and super tasty.

Q: What is the recipe and how many does it serve?

A: I have never actually had the recipe written down (can you believe that?) but her old-school ingredients are essentially the below! This was a fun exercise for me; I really want you to experience what I grew up with!

  • 1 lb of frozen square-cut hash browns or tater tots
  • 10 oz can spicy green hatch chiles
  • 4 oz sour cream
  • 24 oz cream of chicken (2 cans)
  • 1 rotisserie chicken (fresh roasted from your local grocery store)
  • 10 oz can queso blanco, white cheese sauce
  • 1 oz chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 oz grated sharp white cheddar


Begin by crisping the hash browns or tater tots by your preferred method.  You can either fry them crispy on the stovetop (350 degrees with canola oil) or lay them out in a single layer in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

While you’re doing this, pick the meat from the rotisserie chicken and dice to uniform size.  Warm the queso blanco with 4 oz grated cheddar (reserve the rest), 2 oz sour cream (reserve the rest), and cream of chicken. Once warm, fold in the green chiles, rotisserie chicken meat, and parsley.

Place crispy potatoes in a casserole dish and pour hot cheese sauce and chicken over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese on top and bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or until bubbly golden brown on top. Scoop and enjoy with a nice dollop of sour cream.  Bon Appetit!


Virgin Hotels Nashville

Commons Club Bartender Dan Rook

Q: When you think of making a holiday cocktail at home, what immediately comes to mind?

A: Irish Coffees and Hot Toddies always come to mind as the winter cold settles in on the holiday season.

Q: Do you have a specific memory associated with the cocktail you’re sharing here?

A: Once upon a time I worked at an Irish pub on the south side of Chicago, where Irish coffee was always a reach away. Toddies are just something I’ve always enjoyed, especially as a winter elixir to remedy a seasonal cold.

Q: What is a cocktail you recommend people make at home?

A: A cocktail I now enjoy is a tasty mash-up of those two classic hot cocktails, called “The Loving Cup.” It’s as delicious as it sounds:


  • 2 oz Smith & Cross Rum
  • 3/4 oz Cynar
  • 2 oz Espresso
  • 1/2 oz Demerara Syrup (2:1)

To make:

  • Heat all of these ingredients toddy style (ingredients in small tin rested atop hot water in a large tin)
  • Ignite a Green Chartreuse soaked clove-studded orange peel and place in a coffee glass.
  • Extinguish the flame by pouring the heated up cocktail into the mug.
  • Top with hot water, whipped cream, and a dusting of nutmeg on top.
  • Serve on a small plate with a biscotti cookie sidecar.
  • For groups, simply multiply the recipe above by the number of people to be served. Heat the cocktail ingredients in a pot on the stove. Heat a separate pot of hot water.
  • Execute and plate the cocktail the same as you would a single serving.

Commons Club Bartender Zach Reister

Q: When you think of a holiday cocktail, what immediately comes to mind?

A:  Having two diverse sides of the family, I have two very different cocktails that are both good in their own right. The Manhattan is one, and that we call the “Silver Lake” due to where it originated.

Q: Do you have a specific memory associated with this cocktail you can share?

A: The Manhattan always takes me back to Christmas with my dad’s side of the family at grandma’s house. Cousins are in the game room playing pool, grandma and others are in the kitchen preparing dinner, and grandpa is at the wet bar stirring a pitcher of Manhattans for the lazier, cozier grownups who are just sitting by the fireplace.

The “Silver Lake” brings me back to a unique Thanksgiving with my mom and step-dad. We were visiting my brother at an Airbnb in Silver Lake, LA. The hosts of this Airbnb had built home music studios for artists such as Bob Dylan and were having a jam session in the living room on instruments they had acquired while doing so. Others played board games. I was the barkeep that evening and made the festive “Silver Lake” that everyone partook in a tad excessively.

The Manhattan:

  • 2 oz Rye whiskey (Angels Envy goes well)
  • 2 Dashes of bitters
  • .5 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • .5 oz Cherry Brandy

Stir with ice in a glass pitcher until diluted, strain over ice and garnish with a cherry. This makes one cocktail, however you can scale it to your needs for the pitcher.

  • The Silver Lake:
  • 1.5 oz Vodka of your choice
  • .5oz Pumpkin Spice Baileys (Regular works too)
  • .5oz Rum Chata

Shake well in a shaker tin and then strain into either a martini glass or over ice.

Garnish with cinnamon powder, whip cream, or whatever else festive treats you have lying around. This makes one cocktail as well so scale accordingly.

Commons Club Executive Chef Ryan Lachaine

Q: When you think of making a holiday dish at home, what immediately comes to mind?

A: When I’m making a holiday dish, Pierogies are the first thing that comes to mind. My mom’s side of the family is Ukrainian so Pierogies are a staple during the holidays. My mom and grandmother would spend all day making mostly potato and cheddar Pierogies. We’d serve them with some sour cream and some sautéed bacon and onions. Homemade Cabbage Rolls go great with them. They are made with rice and ground. And topped with a sweet and sour tomato sauce.


Written by: Sara Nielsen

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