(Bon Aperitif)

The Festive Cocktail Chef Claudette Zepeda Turns To For The Holidays

It’s a crowd-pleaser.

TZR's Bon Aperitif series explores the cocktail creations of some of your favorite celebrities and influencers. From indulgent martinis to the perfect wine spritzer, these recipes aim to make your life a little more joyful. Our latest installment features a festive persimmon cocktail with renowned chef Claudette Zepeda.

While hot toddies, boozy egg nog, and rich red wines might be synonymous with holiday spirits, Claudette Zepeda begs to differ. The Michelin-star chef (and self-proclaimed “food anthropologist”) says she goes a different route for the festive season, opting instead for a festive chilled fruity cocktail that features a persimmon jam base (in lieu of sugar), mezcal or tequila, ice, and wine spritzer or soda water.

The famous foodie, known for her bold and fearless approach to Mexican cuisine, says the beauty of this drink is its ease (three to four ingredients?!) and versatility. “This is a jammy cocktail that fits year-round,” says Zepeda to TZR, explaining the base can be comprised of any seasonal fruit or store-bought jam you have in your fridge. “Like apricot jam — you can zhuzh up your store-bought apricot jam on the stove and bring it to a simmer and incorporate more spices to it,” says Zepeda. “Then re-cool it and re-can it, so it feels semi-homemade.”

For winter, fruits like persimmon are ideal, although you might have a hard time finding a store-bought version for more obscure fruits like this one at your local supermarket. But fear not, as there are plenty of easy recipes to follow to DIY a yummy persimmon jam at home. And topping it off with a cinnamon stick or other wintery spices like cloves or ginger can make it feel and taste cozier. “It’s one of those cocktails that like warms your soul,” says Zepeda. “It’s like seeking comfort and finding it in a cocktail. It’s not so much the fruit, but the spices that [do that]. And it just puts you in a really good mood.”

Claudette Zepeda

Combine this feel-good component with the convenience factor and you’ve got what Zepeda says is the perfect holiday party cocktail to pair with “vegetable-forward dishes,” her go-tos for the winter season. “If you eat seasonally forward, at the end of the year, there’s basically citrus and squash,” she explains. “I love working with different kinds of squash and experimental squash like Dan Barber seeds from upstate New York.”

The party-friendly recipes she opts for for a more celebratory feel include caramelized butternut squash with smoked or toasted barley salad. “And you can do a persimmon sauce [to complement the cocktail],” explains Zepeda. “Cook the persimmons down with a bunch or herbs, a little bit of butter, and a ton of fresh herbs to garnish — so beautiful.”

For meat-eaters, a “really good pork chop” cooked with fresh persimmons and topped with the leftover pan sauce also pairs nicely with the fruity festive drink, says the chef. “Served with potatoes or really herby roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts or grilled broccolini would be great as well. It’s one of those drinks that can stand up to hearty meats and properly cooked vegetables.”

And, however, you choose to enjoy this drink, make sure comfort and flavor are at the heart of your creation, something Zepeda says is key for any and all of her meals. “My career is about cooking food that I want to eat,” says Zepeda. “I’m always looking for comfort food that makes me feel full and not just because I ate a lot of it.”

Want to test drive this festive persimmon cocktail yourself? Check out Zepeda’s full video tutorial below.

Claudette Zepeda