It wouldn’t be the holidays without at least one “red-nosed” evening devoted to festive cocktails, indulgent nosh, and bad sweaters. We present our annual picks for interesting, flavorful and festive cocktails for you to enjoy, or at the very least make the relatives’ visit a little less intrusive. It’s the season to break out the good barware and themed glasses, buy a bag or two of ice and mixers at the market, open the spice cabinet, and stock up on a few bottles of the good stuff. Even if it’s just the family and I gathered ’round the tube watching Jimmy Stewart run down a snowy street, a festive cocktail makes an evening just a bit more celebrated than say that leftover Rolling Rock you found rattling around the hydrator.
* Side-note, where I normally try to keep the recipes presented on this site traditional and old-school, I usually throw that rule out when it comes to holiday cocktails. I believe I’ve presented the majority of the classics from bygone eras, so I’m happily forced to venture into the land of the modern or modern variations with our picks presented here. Go back through our earlier linked-lists if you desire something from decades past.
Candy Cane Lane
Our second holiday, candy-cane themed cocktail (see Candy-Cane Martini), this pick is perfectly seasonal and lives up to the hype of the holidays. It’s a pretty one, and served in festive glassware maybe on a jazzed up and Christmassy bar top, should set the mood perfectly. You just need a few available ingredients so she shouldn’t be too difficult to shop for. This would be a hard one to make for a large party, but if you’re having just a few friends over, a joyful statement can be made.
Here we go –
- 2 1/2 oz of a good vodka
- 1 oz white creme de menthe
- 1/2 oz peppermint schnapps
- 1 oz cream
Begin by swirling just a small splash of grenadine on the bottom and sides of a chilled martini glass. Shake the other ingredients with cracked ice in a shaker till creamy and well mixed. Strain cocktail into the martini class and garnish with crumbled candy-cane or hook a small one over the rim.
Hot Buttered Rye
Just a quick heads-up, this one takes a little while to build, and you’ll need a bit of prep time but it’s more than worth it. When you think about it, in preparing for a holiday party, you’re already cleaning and decorating ahead of time so why shouldn’t a beautiful cocktail be considered as part of the set-up? More than worth it if you just put this drink’s prep on your party to-do list ahead of time. The cocktail has a creamy, maple component that you can do the morning of your party or even the day before. The combination of a whipped maple topping when paired with the strong peppery, gingery rye should spell out that you’re having a Christmas party just as much as the lit tree in the corner. A couple logs on the fire and one of our more mellow Christmas album picks and brother … you’ll be in heaven.
Here we go –
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/4 cup rye
- 6 tablespoons hot, hot water
- 1/2 oz ginger liqueur
The day or morning before you plan on having your party, whip the heavy cream and maple syrup together, cover and set aside in fridge. When it’s time to make the drink, pour rye, hot water and ginger liqueur into a festive, heat-proof cup or mug. Dollop the maple-whipped cream on top then dust with ground nutmeg. Wonderful, I tells ya!
Spicy Ginger Man
Found this one on the fun singlemindedwomen.com site and after trying it, immediately added it to my holiday arsenal. I love ginger beer and have to try any cocktail that includes the spicy, peppery mixer. What I like about this one is that the ginger beer (I use the ultra-spicy Goya brand) cuts the sweetness of the drink perfectly. You still have a sweet, celebratory drink on your hand, but not one your guests will leave on a counter somewhere after getting whammed with too much sweet. The rocks also help ground the drink. This would be a very good drink to have before a hearty holiday dinner.
Here we go –
- 1 oz vanilla vodka
- 1 oz hazelnut liqueur (I use the affordable DeKuyper brand)
- 1/2 oz butterscotch schnapps
- ginger beer to fill
Combine all ingredients except ginger beer in a shaker with ice. Strain everything into a highball glass filled with ice and fill with ginger beer. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Santa’s Little Helper Punch
Borrowed from this month’s Imbibe magazine and created by Chicago bartender, Stephen Cole, I decided to include this punch this year because … well, I love a good Christmas punch, and want to include a delicious one every year. Sometimes, you have a full-blown holiday party on your hands and let’s face it, standing in the kitchen or behind the basement bar all night is a drag. Wouldn’t you rather be walking the rooms with a beautiful bunch of mistletoe in your mitt or slipping on the padded red suit for some laughs? When you make a punch beforehand, you free up your time for other festivities. This one couldn’t be any more holiday themed in terms of flavor. Cinnamon and clove! What more could you ask for in terms of Christmas taste and smell? You can make this punch in your crock pot or put it on a simmer in a large pot on the stove. Of course, use caution. Keep things on low and make sure you have a responsible person ladling out the gold.
Here we go –
- 1 bottle rye (I used Old Overholt, why break the bank and this Rye’s great)
- 1 bottle sweet vermouth
- 1 gallon unsweetened apple cider
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 5 whole cloves
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 10 dashes Angostura bitters
(You can half this recipe if you want to. I did yet didn’t cut the cloves or cinnamon stick components and it turned out fine). Combine all ingredients in your crockpot, set on low, or in a large pot on the stove and set on low an hour before your bash. Ladle into heat resistant mugs and garnish with an orange peel.
Pear & Sparkling Cider Cocktail
When I found this one, I couldn’t find an attached name. I apologize and won’t hold it against you if you give it your own little moniker. This one calls for pear puree. I used the Looza brand, available in most grocery stores, and it worked fine. Here’s another very easy to mix up holiday drink that would be fine for a Christmas brunch or potluck. I like this one because the earthy pear sweetness pairs nicely with the smokiness of the bourbon. Highly drinkable.
Here we go –
- 2 cups chilled pear nectar
- 2 cups chilled sparkling apple cider
- 2 cups chilled seltzer water
- 5 oz bourbon
- 1 pear
Combine liquid ingredients in a pitcher with a couple big pieces of cracked ice and stir. Pour cold cocktail into old-fashioned glasses and float a nice piece of ice in each. Garnish with a long slice of pear.
Well, there you have it; our new additions to, what is turning out to be, a very workable and delicious list of Mr. Booze-tested Holiday Cocktails. If nothing here strikes your fancy, please give our past picks a once-over. I know you’ll find at least a couple drinks that will be perfect for your holiday celebration.
Browser recipes from previous year’s: