Many things can boost your holiday spirit, like the sweet taste of hot chocolate on a cold night and the sound of a young Michael Jackson singing, “Give Love on Christmas Day.” The New Haven Green lights up the town and children are on their best behavior hoping to check off everything on their gift lists. Ah, it’s the holidays and everything is as jolly as Santa! Well, sort of.
Let’s face it, your weekends after Thanksgiving are filled with crowded trips to department stores, too many plays of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and the wonderful joy of traffic. The things you are probably most looking forward to are not going to the office on Christmas morning, and watching your children fumble through presents while you anxiously wait for the Christmas feast. Nevertheless, this winter I invite you to take a moment to relax and enjoy one of the most artistic holidays. There are several ways to appreciate the art of the season, like taking a wreath-making class at Common Ground High School or admiring the Holiday Showcase at the Elm City Artists Gallery. For this Best Of feature, we’re showing you an enchanting evening in New Haven that is sure to bring conversation to your family dinner.
You don’t have to travel far to enjoy an artsy reminder of the holiday’s intended purpose. The Shubert Theater will present the New Haven Ballet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker Dec. 13-15. Entering its 13th year at the legendary theater, the show has undergone several exciting changes and will introduce the New Haven Ballet Orchestra conducted by Richard Gard and feature new costumes designed by Kathy Masen. The dreamlike performance will also include guest artists Maria Kowroski, principal dancer with New York City Ballet, and Charles Askegard, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet. With a record number of students participating, that also includes parents and alumni, the show is gearing up to be unlike any Nutcracker we have seen. This may be thanks to the help of the new Interim Artistic Director Lisa Sanborn, who has choreographed a brand new show. Office manager Ruth Barker, who stole a peak at the rehearsals, says the show is both, “fantastic and beautiful.”
Don’t let the fun stop after the show. Head over to Ordinary at 990 Chapel St. for a post-show cocktail. I hung out with Tim Cabral to find out which spirits best ignite holiday spirits. When you walk inside the recently restored bar it is like time-traveling. Even the name Ordinary stems from the 1600s. Like the name, the cocktails are as classic as the building they’re served in. They have been carefully created by the knowledgeable employees who have been studying the art of cocktail-making for years. The drinks menu that rotates with the seasons contains only the best ingredients that are sourced locally.
Cabral says, “We aim to stay on top of what we do instead of being stagnant … Small as we are we had to get creative.”
Like an artist, Cabral and the Ordinary staff take great pride in making their cocktails. Everything from the glass they’re served in to the tools used to create the mixtures can be compared to the way a dancer moves on stage, or how an artist selects his or her colors.
You won’t find any of the ordinary bar favorites like Budweiser or flavored vodka drinks at Ordinary either.
Cabral says, “We took away the branding. We want people to walk through the journey of what we do.”
The bar doesn’t have a television, which leaves room for people to learn and appreciate the drinks they’ve purchased. Similar to an artist statement, each cocktail has a story.
I sampled four cocktails during my visit to Ordinary, but one stood out as the ultimate Christmas cocktail: the William I Won’t Tell, which smells like warm apple cider and contains Rowan’s Creek Bourbon, Busnel Calvados Pays D’Auge V.S.O.P, local cider, fresh ginger, and homemade cinnamon simple syrup. Other notable drinks are the Thyme & Season for the tequila lover and the Autumn Elixir, which was created by bartender Sean Ryan and includes Fire Cider, an apple cider vinegar with honey and a blend of organic roots and fruits once thought to help boost one’s immune system.
If you’re looking for something that might taste like a drink from the early 1900s, consider the homemade barrelaged cocktails that contain mixes of spirits aged four weeks then served with Cocchi Vermouth di Torino.
Feeling creative? Submit your own cocktail and if it’s good enough the bar will serve it up!
Article by Stephen Grant, communications manager at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven