Merry Making

The ever-flamboyant JAMIE KILGORE has a flair for the festive. The glitzy bartender at Cielo Restaurant in the Four Seasons really knows how to kick it up during the holidays. We sat down with her to talk about how to doll up any drink and the cocktails that fortify her and hubby mixing phenom Ted Kilgore on Christmas day. – Ligaya Figueras

What’s the easiest way to fancy up a cocktail? Two things: You can take a drink that everybody’s had and is bored with, top it with Champagne and it’s amazing. I also like to use cassis liqueur because it has a beautiful red color and takes very little to make the drink flavorful, velvety and vibrant. As little as a quarter of an ounce will be enough. Any drink that has sweetener, back off on the sweetener and use the cassis.

What’s the most underrated cocktail ingredient? Angostura bitters. A lot of people love it but don’t realize how cool it is. You have a Plain Jane drink. What does it need? Angostura bitters. It will pull all the flavors together.

The most overrated? I don’t care for triple sec. Buy Cointreau or Grand Marnier.

What will you be drinking on Christmas Day? Because [Ted and I] both have families that don’t drink, we like to enjoy a breakfast cocktail before going to family events. For Christmas, we drink a Ramos Gin Fizz or hot buttered rum.

What’s the most festive cocktail? Kir Royale because Champagne is affiliated with celebrations. But that’s silly; Champagne should be regarded as something you can drink every day.

Where’s the best place to shop for vintage stemware? Antique stores. Two of my favorites are in Maplewood: Treasure Aisles and Big Bend Antique [Gallery]. You’re making me give away my secrets.

What booze tops your wish list this year? I always want Champagne. Money’s no object? Then Ron Zacapa XO Rum. Buffalo Trace has its Single Oak Project. Those are fun if you can get your hands on them.

What’s your go-to gift for drinkers? I like to stock up on cases of champagne, Lucien Albrecht. It’s a sparkling French wine. They have a brut and a brut rosé that are both moderately priced, so good for gift-giving. If you want to invest the time, make homemade liqueurs or infusions as gifts. You can do it in Mason jars and put a ribbon on it.

How do you dress up your hair for the holidays? I have a modest collection of vintage hats and hairpieces. I also enjoy putting flowers in my hair – always in a good contrast color to your hair color. I go to craft stores and they usually have flowers by the bunch.

What’s your favorite party dress and what drink matches best with it? My favorite party dress is black, flocked with a floral pattern. A glass of Champagne is always more elegant than a 12-ounce bottle of beer. If one must drink beer for the holidays, put it in a beautiful glass.

How do you steal the show from your husband at a holiday party? Show a little cleavage. Is it anybody’s husband or just mine?