Birdy Cocktails for the Holiday Season

Need another way to rave about birds to your non-birder friends? Break the ice with these avian-inspired cocktails!

Winter is coming—and with it, holiday parties! This year, mix it up at your next office gathering or friendly get-together with some bird-themed cocktails. Here are four developed exclusively for Audubon by Heather Rush, owner and bartender at the Pine Box Rock Shop in Brooklyn, NY. All four are easy to make, sure to impress, and most importantly, pay tribute to birds. Just don't forget to drop some bird knowledge as you sip away on these delicious concoctions. 

American Goldfinch (above) 

Smoky Mezcal (1.5-2 oz.)
Yellow Chartreuse (1 oz.)
Black licorice

About the bird: The Goldfinch pays homage to the American Goldfinch, a cheery songbird whose bright yellow feathers are a sign of spring for birders across much of America. During the winter, when both male and females are a subtler brown and yellow, flocks of goldfinches can be found congregating in weedy fields and around feeders, especially if they are filled with nyjer seeds. 

About the drink: This is a take on a classic American cocktail, the Rusty Nail, and is a tribue to the Goldfinch's summer plumage and more rustic winter garb. But instead of using the traditional Drambuie and scotch whiskey, this drink consists of 1.5-2 oz. mezcal and 1 oz. of yellow chartreuse. The black licorice adds more than just color to the cocktail—the bitterness of the liquors is balanced with the sweet spice of the licoric. The overall affect is a potent mixure of smoky, spicy, and earthy. The Rusty Nail emerged and was popularized during the disco-filled 1970s, and according to Rush, drinkers will definitely feel an urge to bust out a dance move or two after one Goldfinch. 

How to make a Goldfinch:
To make this drink to perfection, Rush suggests to use a small highball or rocks glass. After filling with ice, add one standard shot (1.5 oz.) of your favorite smokey Mezcal and one ounce of yellow chartreuse. Mix with a cocktail spoon. Garnish with a piece of black licorice and you have a Goldfinch. 

Red Crossbill

Muddled blood oranges (2 slices)
Crystallized ginger (2-3 wedges)
Bourbon (1.5 oz)
Club soda or seltzer (to taste)
Ginger slices

About the bird: The Red Crossbill is a climate-threatened species that can be found in mature coniferous forests throughout North America. The odd, cross-tipped beaks for which they are named help them get into tightly closed cones. And depending on the region, Red Crossbills can vary from small-billed birds that feed on spruce cones to large-billed birds that specialize on pines. Research suggests that there might be as many as eight different full species of the bird in North America.

About the drink: Much like Red Crossbills, the Old-Fashioned is a drink with a number of variations. The questions that surround the Old-Fashioned throughout the years have always been, “To muddle or not to muddle?", “Rye whiskey or bourbon?”, and “To top with club soda or not?” In the case of our Red Crossbill cocktail, we muddled the blood orange with crystallized ginger, went with bourbon, and added club soda. Hopefully our variation, no matter what you personally prefer, hits the spot. 

How to Make a Red Crossbill
Muddle two to three wedges of blood oranges (with peel attached) and two to three pieces of crystalized ginger in a heavy-bottomed Old Fashioned glass. One imperative is to grind the orange peels into the sugary ginger while muddling, which brings out the flavor. Once pulverized, add ice and add one shot (1.5 oz.) of your favorite bourbon. Top with club soda and garnish with crystalized ginger. 


Spiced Dark Rum (1.5 oz.)
Cinnamon simple syrup (0.5 oz.)
Almond or soy milk (to taste)

About the bird: Nuthatches are a common backyard bird characterized by their large heads, short tails, and powerful bills. During winter months, they use these bills to feed on suet blocks and seeds found in the wild and at feeders. Do not let their size fool you, though: These little birds can be noisy with their insistent nasal yammering. They are also one of only two birds in North America that crawl down trees.

About the drink: A perfect cocktail after an early morning birdwalk, but beware: Like the nuthatch, this drink is strong and makes its presence known. The cocktail consists of 1.5 oz of spiced dark rum, .5 oz of simple syrup, and almond (or soy) milk. To make the cinnamon simple syrup for the Nuthatch, Rush suggests to steep 4-5 sticks of cinnamon in an equal parts sugar and water mixture overnight.

How to make a Nuthatch: 
In a tall or footed cocktail glass add one shot (1.5 oz.) of your favorite black spiced rum. One ounce of cinnamon simple syrup and top with unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Pour the entire contents into a cocktail shaker and shake until it froths. Dump back into your cocktail glasses and garnish with fresh grated nutmeg. 

Anna’s Hummingbird (non-alcoholic)

Homemade nettle cordial (2 nettle tea bag per cup of water, maple syrup to taste, a few pieces of ginger)
Aquafaba (water from canned chickpeas)
Agave nectar

About the bird: Since the 1950s, the Anna’s Hummingbird has expanded its breeding range out of southern California. As with other species of hummingbirds, an abundance of nectar feeders has helped their expansion. Though they are among the most common hummingbirds along the Pacific Coast, their dive display during courtship is anything but: Males hover in midair, give a buzzy song, fly much higher, then dive steeply toward the female, making a loud explosive popping sound at the bottom of the dive.

About the drink: Like a nectar feeder, this mocktail still delivers. Green-ish in appearance, the Anna's Hummingbird shares a resemblance with the bird it's named after, and like a brilliant gorget, the agave nectar-drizzled raspberry provides a pop of color that will have everyone doing a double-take. 

How to Make an Anna’s Hummingbird
Fill a cup or martini glass with ice, then set aside to chill. Add three ounces of chilled nettle cordial and 1.5 oz. of aqua faba. Shake vigorously without ice until a sturdy froth forms. This will take at least one minute. Once a thick froth forms, add ice and shake again briefly to chill. Pour into your chilled martini glasses (after you discard the chilling ice!) and serve with an agave nectar-drizzled raspberry. If you shook it long enough, the layers in the cocktail will separate after it has been poured into the glass, with the creamy froth floating to the top. 


Freebie alert! If you want to learn more about the birds in this story, visit our online bird guide or download the free Audubon Bird Guide app.    

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