Picture this…: You're meeting your future in-laws for the first time. Not only does your mother-in-law-to-be turn out to be a nasty piece of work, but—lucky you!—you get to sit next to her during the feast.
Cocktail cure: "Tricky situation," says Joaquín Simó, the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Bartender of the Year. "But…most folks respond well to being flattered, so Champagne is always a safe bet," adds Simó, an alumnus of New York's famed Death & Company and co-owner of Pouring Ribbons, which opened in the fall of 2012 in Manhattan's East Village. He suggests a dry pink bubbly from Pol Roger or Perrier-Jouët, "as rosé Champagne pretty much pairs beautifully with everything."
Rx: If you're feeling more ambitious, Simó says, "Tackle a Tom and Jerry bowl for a deliciously decadent riff on eggnog." Do as the good doctor instructs and "let the spices and base spirit you add be dictated by your future mom-in-law's taste." Marrying into a Scandinavian family? "Star anise, cardamom, and fennel would play nicely with aquavit's caraway," Simó advises. "She'll be hard-pressed to not be won over by your efforts and consideration." To make a punchbowl's worth of this sweet, old-fashioned winter treat: Separate 12 eggs; beat whites until stiff. Beat yolks with 1 cup sugar and a small pinch each of spices of your choosing; pour in 4 oz. rum or brandy (or aquavit). Fold whites into yolk mixture. Place 1 tablespoon egg mixture into each mug; stir in 1 oz. each rum and brandy (or 2 oz. aquavit). Top with hot milk; stir. Grate nutmeg on top and serve.
Suppose…: Your adorable 2-year-old has a cute-as-heck cranberry-sauce-smearing, stuffing-hurling meltdown. It's getting messy, and soon she's not the only one screaming.
Cocktail cure: When tantrums strike, the Slanted Door's Adkins usually goes "straight for one of the flasks" of mescal already mentioned. If a more sharable escape strategy is called for, however, "I would make some Painkillers," he says. This strong tropical drink comes from Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands, where Adkins and his wife went for their honeymoon. "It can take one away to that peaceful hammock strung between two coconut trees."
Rx: In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, put 2 oz. rum (preferably Pusser's), 1 oz. cream of coconut, 1 oz. fresh orange juice, and 4 oz. pineapple juice. Shake for 8 seconds and pour the drink with the used ice into a 14-oz. water glass. Grate nutmeg on top and serve.
Picture this…: Your family is digging into their pumpkin and pecan pies, and your young niece announces her engagement to her boyfriend of two weeks.
Cocktail cure: "The Ritz Cocktail!" exclaims master mixer DeGroff, opting to look at the bright side of the situation: "A celebratory cocktail is needed, and nothing is more celebratory than Champagne, so that will be our base," he begins. "However, life is not all froth and bubbles…so we'll fortify our drink with Cognac." To represent "those sweet moments to come," DeGroff includes some Cointreau, along with lemon juice, for a "little balance." Finally, "We'll finish with a quarter ounce of the wonderfully floral Maraschino liqueur," says the cocktail king. "What's a marriage without flowers?"
Rx: Chill a large cocktail glass. In a mixing glass filled with ice, add 3 oz. Champagne, 3/4 oz. Cognac, 3/4 oz. Cointreau, 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice, and 1/4 oz. Maraschino liqueur and shake well to chill. Strain into the chilled cocktail glass and top with 3 oz. Champagne. Garnish with orange zest.
Imagine…: While you and your loved ones are chatting post-pie, your nine-and-a-half-months-pregnant relation suddenly goes into labor.
Cocktail cure: Camacho Santa Ana once again looks to Crosby Gaige's Cocktail Guide for wise counsel, coming up with a drink that couldn't be more perfect for the occasion: The Pediatrician.
Rx: Put 1/2 part dry gin, 1/4 part grape juice, 1/2 part lemon juice, and a dash of grenadine in a shaker filled with ice; shake. "Strain into a nursing bottle with a well-sterilized nipple." What?! "Yes, he actually says that!" laughs Camacho Santa Ana, adding her own sage advice: "Never attend any family function without packing a flask of bourbon as backup."
Suppose…: Grandma has one too many Whiskey Sours and starts dropping F-bombs and (very, very unwanted) details about her sex life.
Cocktail cure: "I'm going to have to show solidarity and join Gram-Gram on this one," ventures cocktail connoisseur Wondrich. "Anything that'll make her loosen up has got to have something going for it. But I might just make my Whiskey Sours into New York Sours, with a little layer of red wine floating on top to add complexity to the drink."