I have known and loved Stella’s for its Benedicts and BLTs for many years, but I didn’t know they had a liquor license until The Gabber asked if I’d like to review the restaurant’s new holiday cocktails. (I selflessly agreed to shoulder the task.)
Turns out they’ve had their license for more than a year, which I would have known if I’d read the news in, ahem, The Gabber. As Abby Baker reported at the time, “Stella’s previously sold beer and wine, but the additional liquor license allows for stronger drinks, meaning the previously wine-based bloody mary is getting a revamp.”
Which also means – holiday cocktails! General Manager Carly Russell collaborated with Shift Manager Daniel Webb on the concoctions, which cost $8. With my fellow taster, Larry, we tried all three, along with a chicken salad wrap and a Key West BLT.
(Cointreau, prosecco, cranberry juice, rosemary, sugar rim)
A beautiful drink, the cranberry giving it a rosé hue and the sprig of rosemary evoking Christmas greenery (but not adding much in the way of aroma). It tasted a tad medicinal at first, with prosecco the dominant flavor, but it drank easily and paired well with the food.
Stella’s Spiked Nog
(Spiced rum, eggnog, sugar/spice rim)
Ya gotta get a nog, no? And this version is a winner. Shaken over ice before serving, it’s lighter than store-bought nog, the rum doesn’t overwhelm, and the sugar/spice rim adds a nice crunch. This was Larry’s fave.
(Tito’s Vodka, Midori, Peppermint Schnapps, pineapple juice, lime juice, basil, cherry, and a candy cane)
Sounds god-awful sweet from the ingredients, doesn’t it? But through some bartending alchemy, it all blends together with a peppermint pop. And while I’m generally wary of drinks that are green or yellow or otherwise suggestive of chemically induced hangovers-to-come, this tipple is perfectly Christmasy in appearance, what with the green of the Midori, the red of the cherry and the red/white striping of the candy cane. It’s all reminiscent of the Grinch, color-wise, but it won’t leave you feeling Grinchy. This was my favorite.
And don’t forget to check out the main cocktail menu, aptly entitled “Happy Drinks” ($10 each). Russell credits executive assistant Marilyn Baker with the menu’s witty wordplay, which, like the name of the restaurant, takes inspiration from owner Barbara Banno’s Aunt Stella, a nun and a talented cook. We doubt Stella was either a “Roamin’ Catholic” (Irish Cream and coconut rum) or a “Twisted Sister” (the amped-up Bloody), but we bet she’d like the jokes.
Then there’s “The Manger” (vodka, ginger beer, blue Curacao).
It’s not on the holiday menu, for some reason, but if you try one, you might want to have three wise men on hand to carry you home.
Stella’s, 2914 Beach Blvd. S., Gulfport. 727-498-8950, stellasingulfport.com.