December 08, 2021

CLASSIC HOLIDAY COCKTAILS by Charles Nelson, FounderCherry Gluhwein (photo: Hannah Pemberton)

Who knows what this holiday season has in store.

Maybe we’ll be relaxing next to the fire while watching the world’s most boring NFL game. Or maybe we’ll be arguing with our uncle who spends too much time on Facebook. Either way, we’re going to need some serious cocktails.

Holiday cocktails bring unique flavors to the table, like rosemary, peppermint and cinnamon. But they can also be ridiculous. Crushed candy cane rim glasses, oodles of sugar… these aren’t really our cup of booze.

We’re not on a quest for the world’s worst hangover. So, for some less sweet but still delicious holiday drinks, read on!

Classics With A
Festive Twist

With a few alterations you can take your favorite cocktail and winterize it, bringing in flavors you wouldn’t touch in warmer months.

The Yule Mule: This is a modified Moscow Mule. Like the original, it’s very easy. Start with some holiday herbs like rosemary and thyme. Muddle a few pinches of each with a ½ oz of unsweetened cranberry juice and simple syrup. Squeeze in a half lime and add 2 oz of vodka. Then strain into a copper mug and pour in 2 oz of ginger beer. The quality of the latter is very important. Finally, garnish with sugared cranberries and fresh herbs. Of course, feel free to sub in gin, whiskey or your hard alcohol of choice.

Holiday Punch: The legendary drink at office parties returns with its fearful power to make you open up to your coworkers.

The key for a classy punch is the accoutrements and to avoid too much sugar. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and get creative.

Take 4 cups of 100% cranberry juice (or a blend) as a base in a big pitcher. Add pomegranate seeds, orange slices, vanilla or almond extract. Consider a cup or two of orange juice for a sweeter flavor. Add vodka or rum at a ratio of about 1:6 booze to juice (modify at your own peril). After refrigerating for 3 hours, top off your pitcher with 6-8 cups of ginger ale, sparkling apple cider or even sparkling wine. You’ll have to keep tasting as you create this punch, but that’s half of the fun!

The Holiday Old Fashioned: Old Fashioneds are a bartender staple, most likely because they’re easy. Combine whiskey and simple syrup at a 3:1 ratio, add a couple dashes of bitters and stir. Add ice and garnish. That’s it. This also means they’re easy to modify. Muddle rosemary and cranberries in a shaker before you add your ingredients. Use maple syrup instead of simple syrup. Or, make your own cinnamon simple syrup. We like a rosemary and cranberry Old Fashioned with a nice dry bourbon.

Christmas Sangria: This one’s also quite simple. Muddle your fruits of choice like apples, oranges, cranberries, pears, fresh limes, blackberries or pomegranates in a big pitcher. Then muddle in a cinnamon stick, ⅓ of a cup of brandy and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar or agave syrup (the latter is healthier). Then pour in a whole bottle of semi-decent red wine and let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours - the longer the better. Right before you serve, add about 6 oz of ginger ale or orange juice.


These are cocktails you almost never have any other time of year and are perfect after a day spent out in the snow.

Mulled Wine: This is an ancient holiday beverage going back at least two thousand years!

It’s simply spiced and heated wine and it’s still popular in Scandinavian countries and Europe, especially around Christmas.

Just so, it has all sorts of regional names, like Glögg or Glühwein. Similar to Sangria, take a dry, semi-decent bottle of wine (but not too decent for the love of Bordeaux) and add it and a variety of spices to a big pot and slowly simmer for an hour or two. Avoid boiling it at all costs. Then strain and serve. The key is selecting the best spices. Star anise, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon are classics. Finally, consider adding some sweeteners, like simple or maple syrup, and optional liqueurs like cognac. Nothing warms you up like this, except for...

The Hot Hot Chocolate: While you can use rum or peppermint vodka here we love a bourbon hot chocolate as the flavors go well together. In a pot on medium, stir 8 ounces of chopped chocolate (or cocoa powder if you must), 2-4 cups of milk, a couple spoonfuls of sugar (depending on your tastes) and a pinch of salt. Consider subbing some milk with a bit of heavy cream or half and half for thickness. Keep it all on a slow simmer, making sure the milk doesn’t burn. Once it’s hot, add 2 oz of your favorite bourbon and a dash of vanilla extract.

There is lots of room for fun here. For a spicy substitution, instead of vanilla, go with a pinch of nutmeg, cayenne pepper and cinnamon.

For something sweeter, use peppermint bark instead of cinnamon, vodka instead of bourbon and heavy cream instead of milk. For the laziest method, just make regular hot chocolate and throw in Bailey’s. We’re not judging. No matter what you do, a few marshmallows on top won’t hurt.

Ginger Snap Martini: This one is a blend of the classic ginger snap cocktail with a martini. It depends on one thing: fresh ginger. Combine your ginger with molasses, allspice, simple syrup (or agave), cinnamon and cloves in a shaker and muddle. Use about ½ an ounce of molasses and syrup, each. Then add 2 oz vodka and 1 oz amaretto and ice. Shake, strain and enjoy.

Hot Buttered Rum: This is almost like a hot Christmas milkshake. Nothing is better by the fire. First, you will have to create a batter. Mix a pinch of salt, a half cup of sugar and a teaspoon each of vanilla extract, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves in a bowl. Oh, and throw a whole stick of butter in there too. Whisk it all together. In a separate container, combine 1 ounce of your batter mixture to 2 ounces of rum. Then, top with 6 ounces of boiling water. And some whipped cream, too. If you find it’s not quite warm enough, you could also whisk everything in a small pot over low heat, stirring constantly before you add it with the rum.

The Ultimate Boozy Cider: This one is easy and fun. Take your cider or apple juice and put it in a big pot with whatever you can think of: cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, ginger, allspice, orange or apple slices. Slowly heat it up and let simmer over a few hours then strain and add the booze of your choice. Just don’t let it boil. Garnish with a stick of cinnamon for that final touch.

Ultra Eggnog: For the best eggnog, make your own! There are lots of variations here. While some recipes separate the yolks first, we find it easier to whisk whole eggs. Whisk 8 eggs with half a teaspoon of salt and 3 oz of sugar. Then add in 4 cups of whole milk and keep whisking.

Now, if eating raw eggs weirds you out you can cook your mixture at a very low heat setting on a stove.

Either way, be sure you’re using the best quality eggs out there. Get the temperature up to 150F or until it really sticks to a spoon then strain the mixture slowly into a bowl. Either way, now you add the fun stuff, like a cup of bourbon, rum or whiskey. Maybe even a half cup of amaretto or cognac too. These strong, spicy tastes will counteract the sweetness. Finally, stir in about 2.5 oz of heavy cream or whipped egg whites, depending on how light you want it to be. Then refrigerate for 4 hours. Don’t forget to garnish with nutmeg, cinnamon or whipped cream.


We hope these recipes help you enjoy (or survive) the holidays!