A Gin Swizzle to Make You Kiss the Bartender

Pucker up to the subtly sweet-and-sour Mistle-Toe-Up, from the tropics-themed New Orleans eatery Mister Mao

Photo: Courtesy of Mister Mao

Even in the eclectic dining scene that is contemporary New Orleans, Mister Mao is unabashedly quirky. Billing itself as a “tropical roadhouse,” the relative newcomer to Uptown has won acclaim since opening in July 2021 with an ever-changing menu playful enough to accommodate duck confit, Alabama corn pudding, and habanero octopus aguachile. Creative impulses extend to the bar, especially around the holidays. Case in the point: the Mistle-Toe-Up, available through Christmas Eve.

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“I enjoy serving cocktails that make guests feel festive, warm, and fuzzy,” says head bartender Juan Cardona. “One of my personal favorite cocktails is a swizzle, so Mistle-Toe-Up is a rendition using fruit, chartreuse, and herbs to bring out the nostalgia of celebrating Colombian Novena, the nine days of Christmas. It’s a bit piney, with hints of clove and licorice—all things I love.” 

Mister Mao owner Sophina Uong also loves the Mistle-Toe-Up for those attributes, though she might imbibe it for a different reason. “Holiday cocktails are about the garnishes and all about the flair, and if it sparkles, all the better” she says. “We believe the booze should be stiff enough to ease any family-induced holiday anxiety—at least in our family.”



    • 1½ oz. gin

    • ½ oz. green chartreuse

    • ½ oz. Cocchi Americano vermouth

    • ½ oz. fresh squeezed lime juice

    • ¼ oz. blackberry shrub (recipe follows)

    • ¼ oz. rosemary syrup (recipe follows)

    • Piece of peppermint candy cane, crushed


    • 1 quart blackberries

    • 1 quart Louisiana sugar (or preferred sugar)

    • Pinch of salt

    • 1 quart apple cider vinegar


    • 1 cup water

    • 1 cup white sugar

    • ¼ cup rosemary leaves


  1. Make the blackberry shrub: Place the blackberries, sugar, and salt in a container and let sit overnight to extract juices. The next day, discard juice and cook the berries with apple cider vinegar for 15 minutes. Push mixture through a sieve to strain. Extra shrub can be stored in a mason jar or a sealed container in the refrigerator.

  2. Make the rosemary syrup: Combine the water, sugar, and rosemary leaves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Pour the syrup through a sieve or mesh strainer (to remove rosemary leaves) into a sterilized glass jar. Let cool.

  3. Make the cocktail: Shake all ingredients and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a rosemary sprig and crushed candy cane on the rim.