6 Holiday Cocktails To Impress All Your Guests This Season
Including the best batched Egg Nog you’ll ever taste and a mulled cider Old Fashioned that feels like the holidays in a glass.
Cocktails take on a new meaning over the holidays. First of all, you have far more excuses to enjoy them at hours and on days you wouldn’t normally allow yourself to drink at all. The holidays are a chance to get out of your usual comfort zone and try out new drinks, indulge in old favorites, or enjoy a rich and festive cocktail that’s a little out of the ordinary. It’s a time to turn the making of the drink into a project in itself, one to impress friends and relatives with and keep you creatively busy and off the couch.
To aid your cocktail quest, we sourced six favorite holiday cocktails from various bartenders. Each will have you covered through the coming weeks, whether you want to make a party-sized batch of Egg Nog, create a cranberry gin fizz to compliment a dinner centerpiece, or just want something to sip and savor quietly by the fire after the kids have gone to sleep.
1. Batched Egg Nog
You may not want to drink more than one of these, but egg nog is a classic for a reason and a festive way begin or cap off the night, Griswold style. This made-from-scratch version comes from recipe bartender Jason Hedges, from his book, The Seasonal Cocktail. Hedges says the drink is “best enjoyed when ladled out of a communal bowl,” so this is a batched recipe.
- 12 large eggs
- 18 oz superfine sugar
- 1 bottle (1 liter) dark rum
- 36 oz whole milk
- 24 oz heavy cream
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- In a blender, beat eggs until smooth, then add sugar and blend until dissolved.
- Add the rest of the ingredients except the nutmeg and refrigerate overnight.
- Ladle out of a large bowl into small glasses.
- Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
2. The Fall-Time Tea
This recipe comes from bartender and beverage consultant Pamela Wiznitzer, and it’s a toddy riff with vodka, as well as pick-me-up quality thanks to the inclusion of Earl Grey tea. It’s the kind of drink that begs to be enjoyed on Christmas afternoon and won’t put you to sleep like a Nog would.
For a single serving
- 1.5 oz Ketel One vodka
- 3 oz earl grey tea
- .5 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
- .25 oz Lemon Juice
- 1 oz Dark Brown Sugar Syrup*
- 1 pinch Nutmeg
- Garnish: Lemon Wheels and Orange Peels
For a batched version of 8 servings
- 12 oz Ketel One vodka
- 24 oz earl grey tea
- 4 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 oz lemon juice
- 8 oz dark brown sugar syrup*
- Garnish: Lemon wheels and orange peels
- Heat up and prep the tea first. For every 12 oz of water, use 2 earl grey tea bags. Create the tea and allow the tea bags to steep for about 10 minutes.
- In a pot, add all of the ingredients (including the nutmeg) and allow it to sit on low for 5 - 10 minutes until hot.
- Serve in a mug and place the lemon wheel and orange peel into the glass for garnish.
*For the Dark Brown Sugar Syrup: Combine 1 cup brown sugar with 1 cup of warm or hot water, then stir until dissolved and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Pro Tip: If making this hot punch for a group, prep the tea earlier in the day and once steeped and cooled, combine all of the ingredients into a pitcher and place in the fridge. Store up to 24 hours before serving and place onto the stovetop 30 to warm before serving.
3. Spiced Port Toddy
Port is a rich fortified wine that in most households doesn’t get dusted off until the holidays. It has the benefit of making a low-ABV drink that won’t leave you snockered on the couch when you’re still on dad duty. This Hot Toddy Port recipe comes from Sarah Tracey, the certified sommelier, and cocktail connoisseur behind the lifestyle site, The Lush Life.
- 3 ounces Sandeman 10-Year-Old Tawny Port
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 oz hot water
- Combine ingredients in a mug and enjoy! (Be sure to heat the glass first)
4. The Cranberry Crush
With its bobbing cranberries and rosemary sprigs, this cocktail will look stunning on your dinner table. It starts off a bit like a French 75, then takes a turn with cranberry syrup that makes it much more holiday-esque, not to mention pretty to look at. The sharpness of the cranberry and citrus plays well with the dry bubbly and gin
- 4 parts Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Mumm Cordon Rouge, or other good sparkling wine.
- 1 part Gin, use a good London Dry such as Sipsmith
- ½ part Lemon juice
- ½ part Cranberry syrup*
- Cranberries and sprig of rosemary for garnish
- Combine gin, lemon juice, and cranberry syrup in a champagne flute.
- Top with the Mumm Napa Brut Prestige.
- Drop-in several cranberries and a sprig of rosemary.
*For the cranberry syrup: Combine ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water in a saucepan and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Add ½ cup cranberries and simmer for one more minute. Cover and remove from heat. After 10 minutes, muddle the cranberries and let sit another 20 minutes. Fine strain and cool before using.
5. Hebrides Old Fashioned
Smoky, peated scotch is a cold weather delicacy. While it’s hard to beat simply sipping it neat or with one big cube, an Old Fashioned is a good way to turn it into a holiday cocktail that you can truly savor. The addition of sugar and bitters may also convert people who may otherwise have an aversion to the smokiness of peat. This recipe comes from the writer of this article, a peated Scotch devotee and former longtime bartender at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood. It’s named for the islands off the west coast of Scotland known for their smoky whiskies.
A note on Scotches to consider: Ardbeg Uigeadail, Talisker Distiller’s Edition, and Laphroaig 10 Sherry Cask are all great options for this drink because they have sherry cask finishes, which adds a layer of complex sweetness that works well in an Old Fashioned. For a more smoke-forward version, try it with Lagavulin 16 (but after one cocktail, you should switch back to drinking that neat).
- 2 oz. peated Scotch Whisky: Ardbeg Uigeadail, Talisker Distiller’s Edition, and Laphroaig 10 Sherry Cask are all great options because they have sherry cask finishes, which adds a layer of complex sweetness that works well in an Old Fashioned. For a more smoke-forward version, try it with Lagavulin 16, but after one cocktail, you should switch back to drinking that neat.
- .25 oz. Demerara sugar syrup
- 3 dashes of bitters: Angostura is a good base, but try mixing in a dash of Orange Bitters if you garnish with and orange peel, or Chocolate Bitters if you garnish with cocktail cherries.
- A dash of saline solution: saline suppresses bitterness and will help smooth out the smoke, so it folds nicely into the other components of the drink.
- An orange zest or three of these excellent Tempus Fugit cocktail cherries
- To a mixing glass filled with ice, add whisky, demerara syrup, bitters, and saline.
- Stir with a cocktail spoon until well combined but not over-diluted.
- Strain over a large cube in a thin-walled tumbler.
- Garnish with an orange peel or a skewer of fine cocktail cherries.
6. The Mulled Cider Old Fashioned
This bourbon holiday cocktail from bartender Miguel Buencamino of Holy City Handcraft uses allspice, cinnamon syrup, orange bitters, and a clove-studded apple slice to give the sensory experience a cider and a cocktail at the same time, for a little mixological sleight-of-hand.
- 2 parts Bourbon
- ½ parts Allspice Dram
- ½ parts Cinnamon Syrup
- 4 Dashes Orange Bitters
- Cloved Apple Slice
- Combine bourbon, allspice dram, syrup and bitters in a mixing glass with ice.
- Stir, strain and pour the cocktail over a large ice cube and grate fresh cinnamon on top.
- Garnish with apple slice with cloves. Serve and enjoy.
*For the Cinnamon Syrup: Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar into a sauce pan over medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and add 3 cinnamon sticks broken into pieces. Strain and bottle, keep refrigerated for up to a month.
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