I like my cocktails very much like my home’s holiday décor – somewhat festive with subtle and gracious nods to the season, but far from over the top. As I’ve gotten older, it seems that sophistication typically comes in a less obvious package. The days of crazy colored concoctions and labor-intensive creations are no longer on my radar. This change to less-is-more stems from a particular cocktail disaster when I hosted my first holiday party in my newly acquired residence in Richland House. I wanted every detail to be perfect and took great pains to think of clever ways to put the Christmas spirit into every facet of the celebration.
Regretfully, I followed a trendy national magazine editor’s advice to serve martinis with crushed candy canes along the rims. They looked lovely for about five minutes, but for the remainder of the night, guests picked candy pieces off of their sweaters and suede. I found myself pulling it out of furniture and rugs for the next five weeks as well. Lesson learned. Now, I am more concerned with things that are natural — not-forced and certainly not sticky. It’s about keeping things casually elegant and embracing the season as well as those around me, which usually involves libations.
Just as we are using seasonal ingredients in our cooking today, we should follow suit with the types of cocktails we create. Embracing flavors and utilizing cranberries, earthy winter spices and other in-season citruses makes every sip a bit of a celebration. Whether you’re hosting a group of friends for a weekend game or planning to cozy up in front of the fire, we’ve got a few ideas to up your mixology game for the long nights ahead. From light options to keep calories in check such as our Spirited Spritz to our holiday twist on the margarita—these offerings will never disappoint.
| Dark Liquor Drinks
SPICY CIDER PUNCH
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 8 sprigs of thyme
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 1/2 cups Bacardi Dark Rum
- 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp. Angostura bitters
- Club soda or sparkling seltzer
- Lime slices and thyme sprigs for garnish
Bring sugar and equal measure of water to a boil to dissolve sugars. Remove from heat, add thyme and cover. Let stand at least 10 minutes to cool. Make ahead and keep refrigerated for up to a month.
TAMARIND WHISKEY SOUR
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 6 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
- 4 oz. fresh lime juice
- 2 oz. Tamarind concentrate.
- Orange wedges/slices and bright red cherries for garnish
Bring sugar and 1/3 cup water to boil until granules are dissolved. Let cool. Fill shaker with ice and pour in syrup with all other ingredients and shake vigorously. Serve over ice in a rocks glass and garnish with oranges and cherries.
HIBISCUS HOT TODDY
- 1 cup of herbal hibiscus tea using individual
- size bag in boiling water per instructions
- 1.5 – 2 oz. of Nelson’s Green Brier
- Tennessee Whiskey
- 2 Tbsp. of wildflower honey
- A generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Stir all ingredients gently to dissolve honey—and garnish with cinnamon sticks or other seasonal spices and citrus or apple slices. Serve piping hot in a large mug or Irish Whiskey glass.
CITRUS WHISKEY PUNCH
- 2 cups of Jack Daniel’s
- 2 cups of strong black tea
- 2/3 cup fresh orange or clementine juice
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup of fresh Meyer lemon juice
- 2 tsp. grated nutmeg
- 8 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher, cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours. Strain into punch bowl and garnish with nutmeg, cinnamon sticks or star anise and/or round citrus slices along with ice for glasses.
| Light Liquor Drinks
THE SPIRITED SPRITZER
- 2 oz. clear spirit of your choice (we like
- Hendrick’s Gin, Pickers Vodka, Belvedere Lake Bartężek Vodka or any of the tequilas included in the recipes below)
- 4 oz. sparkling water (Pellegrino or Perrier)
- A squeeze of your favorite seasonal citrus or splash of Champagne
Mix ingredients together and add festive garnishes and slight flavor enhancers such as pomegranate seeds, rosemary sprigs to top off.
- 6 oz. Tequila Casa Dragones Blanco
- 4 oz. cranberry juice
- 5 oz. fresh lime juice
- A generous splash of cherry liqueur
Fill a large jar half full of ice and pour in all ingredients. Distribute the mixture in glasses over ice and garnish with a fresh sprig of green (like Rosemary) and skewered fresh cranberries or cherries.
- Cranberry Jam
- ¾ cup fresh cranberries
- ¼ cup Sugar in the Raw
- 1 tsp. grated orange zest
- 3 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
Bring all ingredients above except peel to a boil, reduce to simmer until jam-like consistency then add zest. Cool.
- 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder
- Lime Wedges
- 4 oz. fresh orange juice
- 6 oz. Tequila Herradura
Mix dry ingredients on a small saucer. Rub rims of festive glasses with lime and dip rims into mixture, rolling slightly. Fill glasses with ice. In an iced cocktail shaker, combine juices, tequila and jam. Shake well and strain into glasses.
- 4 oz. Belvedere Vodka
- 5 oz. ginger beer
- 2 oz. cranberry juice
- 2 oz. lime juice
Mix ingredients and serve in your favorite mule vessel over crushed ice and garnish with fresh cranberries and lime.