[Graphics by BUILD LLC]

As the holiday season reaches its peak this week, we here at BUILD decided to shake things up this year. In lieu of our tradition of launching a modernist / urbanist / non-consumerist persnickety gift guide, we’re veering off course and sharing something a bit more personal.

Our favorite holiday (or anyday) drinks.

While it may seem like affinity for brown liquors is a requirement to being an architect, as far as we know, it’s not. But, it doesn’t hurt. Here’s the rundown of what Team BUILD likes to imbibe. Share your favorites in the comments below.


Proper Manhattan
3 parts rye* or bourbon*
1 part sweet vermouth
Dash of bitters
Orange peel
Gently shaken in crushed ice

With only five ingredients, one poor choice can ruin the bunch. Use pure/fresh ice, navel orange for citrus, angostura or similar bitters (drink can go wrong here) and (this is key): *liquor from Kentucky or Tennessee (Willett, Weller, Pappy, Basil, Four Roses, and, the old standby, Buffalo Trace). Forget everywhere else, they just don’t have the history/technique to match.

The appropriate type of glass depends on the occasion. If you’re out on the town with your sweetheart go up with a slender and sleek Martini glass. If you’re getting together with the fellas, on the rocks in a low-ball with a heavy base is recommended like the Libbey.

Andrew BUILD-LLC-AvL-bw
Cubed Old Fashioned
3/4 ounce cognac
3/4 ounce rye
3/4 ounce aged rum
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Dash of bitters
Stir and strain into chilled rocks glass and garnish with orange zest.

As far as classic cocktails go, this recipe is fun to tinker with around the holidays. I recommend Bulleit Rye or something equivalent from Kentucky or Tennessee. The Cognac can be substituted with Grand Marnier for more of a citrus kick. Lately, I’ve been bumping up the portion of bitters and using Gammel Dansk (a recent retrieval from Denmark) for more of an earthy, herbal flavor. Big thanks to Canon for the base recipe.

The preferred glass is none other than the Iittala Aarne tumbler designed by Göran Hongell in 1948.

Bart BG
Bulleit to the Head
1. Get your favorite glass. Must feel good in the hand have a nice lip-feel.
2. Fill glass with ice or your favorite faux ice to avoid contamination.
3. Pour a generous amount of Bulleit bourbon into favorite glass.
4. And enjoy at home or at pretty much any bar in the U.S.

Scotch Neat
1. Open a bottle of Ardbeg double dram.
2. Pour the desired amount into a Scotch glass.
3. Enjoy it at home with good company.
4. Or, head to MacLeod’s Scottish Pub in Ballard.


4 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce Fernet Branca
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes bitters
Stir over ice until well-chilled (about one minute). Strain. And garnish with orange zest.

My first Toronto was at Knee High Stocking Company in Seattle. I fell for it right away, and it’s become one of my favorite go-to cocktails. Drink it up in a classic coupe or in a low ball glass. Recipe courtesy of one of my favorite food writers, David Lebovitz.

Charles BUILD-LLC-CC-bw
Mexican Hot Chocolate
3 parts whole milk (heavy cream is ideal)
1 part bitter chocolate
Brown sugar to taste
2 dashes vanilla extract
1 dash ground cinnamon
1 dash cayenne pepper
Top with cinnamon- or cayenne-infused whipped cream. Drink it in your favorite mug.

A holiday drink need not contain alcohol, but if that’s the case, it’s best to provide a kick in another category. Mexican hot chocolate can give a nice spice when you’re out going door to door, performing your Bauhaus-inspired carol adaptations for anyone who will pretend to listen!

Carey CM-Icon-2
Hot Toddy
1/2 ounce honey
4 ounces hot water
3 ounces bourbon
1 strip lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick
Stir honey and water in mug until honey dissolves. Add bourbon (or better yet, homemade spiced bourbon, in which case you’ll use half the amount of honey). Twist a strip of lemon peel over the drink. Stir with a cinnamon stick and enjoy!

And if that wasn’t enough for the drink geeks of architectural ilk among us, check out one of our earlier posts that catalogs an impressive array of cocktails in one handy blueprint.

Cheers and Happy Holidays from Team BUILD