It’s the Christmas season, and our days are merry and bright…but our nights are cold and dark, and there’s enough Christmas horror that the holiday can almost be a second Halloween. If you like a little creepy in your Christmas, here’s a festive and simple cocktail menu inspired by seasonal horror films. These recipes are enough for a small gathering but can easily be doubled to share with all your fiends and family.
First up, drinks! I have a special place in my little black heart for 1984’s Gremlins, as it was the first horror movie I ever saw as a child. The Christmastime creature-feature gave me nightmares, and it was years before I realized that it is actually very funny and not the most terrifying movie ever made. That’s not to say it’s not terrifying; imagine being attacked by manic murderous cackling gremlins in your own kitchen. If you remember that scene, you’ll know why this is a green drink made in a blender! It’s green tea and bourbon sweetened by a Chinese five spice simple syrup that evokes the Chinatown antique shop that little mogwai Gizmo came from and bonus, it smells like Christmas. Just don’t serve your guests after midnight.
Spiced Gremlin (Cocktail)
2 cups strong green tea
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1/2 cup bourbon
green food coloring
green maraschino cherries for garnish
Freeze the green tea in ice cube trays. To make the simple syrup (you’ll end up with extra, but you can use it for other cocktails or tea), heat sugar and water in a small sauce pan on medium high, not stirring, until the sugar is completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in the Chinese five spice powder. Cool completely.
Combine green tea, 1/4 cup of the spiced simple syrup, bourbon, and several drops of green food coloring. Blend and serve, garnished with green maraschino cherries.
Next up is a savory snack. 2015’s Krampus is the story of a dysfunctional family holiday gathering turned dark by the demon from European folklore, and though a fairly recent film, is already a modern Christmas horror classic. There are some great food scenes, whether a tracking shot through the kitchen of the German grandmother’s copious Christmas baking, or the epic gingerbread battle. This appetizer comes from the dinner – every black humor family film needs a dinner scene – that the mom, Sarah (Toni Collette) has prepared. If you’re a fancy fussy host like Sarah and would take comments like “It looks like Martha Stewart threw up in here” as a compliment, but don’t have a week to cure gravlax, then these smoked salmon toasts with lemon dill sour cream, pickled red onion, and crispy capers are perfect. If you’re less fussy, just go with macaroni and cheese and hotdogs.
Krampus Smoked Salmon Toasts
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
red wine vinegar
12 ounces pumpernickel bread, the little party size or else sliced into 2 inch squares
1/2 cup sour cream
zest of one lemon
4 sprigs dill, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers
4 ounces smoked salmon, sliced
Combine red onion and enough red wine vinegar to cover and set aside for at least an hour. Heat the oven to 350° and place bread slices in a single layer on baking sheets. Brush with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes until toasty. Cool. Stir together sour cream, lemon, and dill. In a small frying pan, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil and fry capers until just turning golden, and drain on a paper towel.
Assemble the toasts: smear each square of pumpernickel with a spoonful of the sour cream mixture, top with a curled slice of smoked salmon, and garnish with a couple of slices of red onion and a sprinkle of crispy capers.
Finally we’re going sweeter, and a lot darker, with this treat inspired by the 1974 slasher Black Christmas. As one of the very first slasher films, it follows a deranged killer stalking a group of sorority girls, and is so creepy and unsettling that you’ll definitely need to stress-eat chocolate after viewing. So for that, we have these lovely truffles that are a bite-sized version of traditional English Christmas pudding. They are made from crumbled fruit cake, and are a little boozy, drizzled in dark chocolate and decorated with pretty green pistachios and dried cranberries.
Black Christmas Pudding Truffles
1 pound store-bought fruit cake
3 ounces dark chocolate chips, divided
2 tablespoons sherry, brandy, or rum
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips, divided
chopped pistachios and dried cranberries for garnish
Break the fruit cake into pieces into a food processor, and pulse a few times. Microwave 1/2 cup of the dark chocolate chips in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until completely melted. Add to the food processor along with the sherry, brandy, or rum, and combine, but don’t over mix.
On a parchment-lined baking sheet, roll heaping teaspoons of the fruit cake mixture into balls. The mixture will be very sticky, so to make this easier, every few balls coat your hands in a thin layer of vegetable oil, and don’t worry too much about the shape at this point as you’ll be able to correct it later. Put the baking sheet in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.
Once set, you can roll the balls again to get them rounder. Heat the remaining cup of dark chocolate chips in 30 second increments, stirring, until melted. Put the melted chocolate in a piping bag or ziploc with the corner cut off, and pipe over the balls. Garnish with pistachios and cranberries.