The holiday season is in full swing and it might be hard for some to believe that Christmas is just a mere 12 days away. In preparation for the celebration, CASSIUS, and Spirit.Ed has a collection of 12 cocktails that should put you on the nice (or naughty) list for sure.
Cooler temperatures and earlier sunsets naturally bring all the sun lovers indoors for cozy and festive gatherings, opening the doorway for winter warmers like bourbon, scotch, and even select aged rums, along with stouts and heavier ales. We love our beers and brews over at Spirit.Ed but we’re primarily interested in the art of the cocktail.
If you’ve been reading this space for a while, you’re well aware that my affinity for cocktails isn’t based on not enjoying drinking spirits neat or on the rocks but instead, I’m drawn to the art and craft of making a drink via the various avenues one can traverse.
Upcoming trends are definitely changing how we imbibe but there’s something about a bright, colorful drink in a glass that lifts the spirits. The same can be said for some of the cocktails that are spirit-forward.
Many of the classic cocktails of old will appear in this delightful dozen of sips, and we’re not going to reinvent too many of the standards. Still, we do have a couple of surprises in the offerings below, and we hope that you enjoy making the drinks as much as we’ll know you’ll enjoy having them with family, friends, and your dearest loved ones.
Just a brief note before we get into it. One bar spoon equals around one teaspoon
For now, check out these 12 cocktails that will help you count down to Christmas Day.
Gingerbread Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned is my favorite cocktail and there are wonderful companies such as Bittermilk which makes a cocktail mixer that take some of the work out of making this boozy but dependable drink. Because I can never find the mixers, I decided to make my own gingerbread simple syrup to take place of my usual rich simple demerara syrup.
2 oz Rye Whiskey (I like Rittenhouse)
1/4 oz or bar spoon of gingerbread simple syrup*
2 dashes of Angostura bitters (Aromatic bitters can also suffice)
In a rocks or Old Fashioned glass, add whiskey and the bitters and stir until blended. Add ice and stir for an additional 30 seconds. Express a twist of orange over the glass and rub the skin side on the sides and top of the glass for it to carry the aroma and toss it skin side up in your drink on the side of the ice.
* Gingerbread simple syrup recipe (adapted from a tip I received from a bar patron in DC, who wrote the whole thing down in my phone).
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 one-inch piece fresh ginger root, thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick, broken apart
8 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine water, sugar, and honey in a saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Add all dry ingredients, turn down the heat, and leave to simmer covered for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes, then strain the liquid through a cheesecloth to catch the herbs into a clear glass container. To store, keep within the fridge for a month or so. To extend its shelf life, pour a teaspoon of unflavored vodka in the bottle.
The history of the Jack Rose deserves its own Spirit.Ed column considering that author Ernest Hemingway made mention of the cocktail in The Sun Also Rises, and author John Steinbeck was a fan. The base spirit is Laird’s Applejack, from Laird & Company, the oldest licensed distillery in the United States. The fruit brandy has a bonded version which makes the base for the American Trilogy (more on that later). While not as popular today, some cocktail bars feature a riff on the classic.
1 1/2 oz Laird’s Blended Applejack (or Calvados if you’re just a baller)
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz grenadine
Add all the liquid into an ice-filled shaker and give a vigorous shake for 30 seconds until chilled. Pour the results into a chilled coupe glass and top with a lemon twist.
Tom and Jerry
No, this isn’t about that animated series many of us loved. The drink was said to be created in the 1820s and it resembles eggnog but is totally different. This is a drink meant to be shared by many, so the recipe below calls for a lot but it’s well worth it. When you’re making more than one, just double up the ingredients to the number needed.
1 to 2 tablespoons Tom & Jerry batter*
1 oz dark rum (I used Mount Gay XO)
1 oz cognac (I used Hennessy V.S.O.P.)
6 (or slightly less) oz hot milk
Grated nutmeg to top drink
Heat up a ceramic coffee mug with extremely hot water to heat the glass, toss the water. Add the rum, cognac, and batter, then top with hot (not boiling) milk. Grate some nutmeg on top that’s it.
* Tom and Jerry batter:
12 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound butter, room temperature
3 pounds confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
Separate egg whites and yolk, putting the yolk aside (there’s also egg-free whites substitutes out there). Whisk the eggs with the salt until foamy. In another bowl, whip the yolks. In a larger bowl, whip up the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the yolks and vanilla and mix. Stir in the dry spices and the egg whites at the end until blended. This batter will last for more than six weeks and can be frozen.
No, this isn’t a traditional cocktail of the holidays but given the big meals to come, this Italian aperitivo will be a great drink to stimulate most appetites. Also, the bitters used, Campari, are a bright red and really shine against the sweet vermouth and gin.
1 oz Gin (I used Bombay Sapphire, a world-class London dry gin)
1 oz sweet vermouth (my favorite is Dolin Rouge)
1 oz Campari
In a rocks or Old Fashioned glass, add the liquids and stir, then add ice. Stir for around 30 seconds and add an orange twist.
Mulled wine is the ultimate gathering cocktail on cool nights and close moments. With red wine and brandy (or cognac) in the mix, conversations between careful sips should flow easily. It also has a ton of recipes out there and we’ve modified our own.
1 bottle of red wine (I suggest Barefoot‘s Rich Red Blend or Merlot)
3 cinnamon sticks
2 large oranges for juicing
6 whole cloves (up to 8 can be used)
2 to 4 star anise (depends on the tolerance of taste)
3/4 cup brown sugar
Juice the oranges and leave the liquid to the side. Add the wine and mulling spices to a medium saucepan over medium heat and then add juice. Gently stir and cover. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes and strain through cheesecloth into coffee mugs or heat-proof drinking glasses. Garnish with thin orange slices if needed.
While the traditional mimosa calls for bubbles and fresh orange juice, this two-ingredient deal just needs to be made to the drinker’s preference via eyeballing the glass.
1 bottle of cava or prosecco. (I usually go for Mionetto Prosecco Brut)
1 bottle of cranberry juice blend (sweetened or unsweetened)
In a champagne flute, slowly pour sparkling wine half to three-quarters to the top. Top off with cranberry juice and garnish with fresh cranberries. For a sweeter taste, rim the glass with cocktail sugar.
The heartier cousin of the Negroni swaps out gin for bourbon.
1 oz bourbon (Buffalo Trace is my go-to)
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz Campari
Combine spirits in a glass and then add ice. Stir for 30 seconds, and add an orange twist.
Hot Buttered Rum
This is another one of those drinks made for cold weather and while newer takes of the drink call for using batter, we’re employing the basic recipe first made famous in the 19th Century but is said to be older than that.
1 tps butter
1 tsp brown sugar
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch allspice
1 dash vanilla extract
2 ounces rum (light or dark)
1 cup boiling water
Put all ingredients in a tall coffee mug. Add water and rum last, stir, and enjoy. Some butter might float to the top.
This modern classic has roots that date back to the 1930s and is the only vodka-based drink featured. As readers of this space know, we don’t usually feature vodka but its ability to take on any flavor helps add some fun to your glass.
2 oz vodka (We suggest a tasty varietal like NEFT)
3/4 oz cranberry juice cocktail or unsweetened cranberry juice
1/4 oz fresh lime juice
In an ice-filled shaker, chill all the liquid ingredients and pour into a chilled martini glass. Express the orange twist oils over the drink and toss it in the glass.
SidecarThe Sidecar has its roots in Europe dating back to World War I. The classic cocktail is said to be derived from the older Brandy Crusta, a classic New Orleans cocktail. The sweet-sour nature of the drink might seem best suited for the warm weather months, but this is a drinkable conversation starter and easy to make.
1 1/2 oz cognac
3/4 oz orange liqueur
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
In an ice-filled shaker, combine the liquids and shake for around 30 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe glass. If you want to make it sweeter, sugar the rim of the glass before serving.
The history of this classic cocktail is murky at best, but it was apparently named after a Canadian actress who allegedly visited Cuba but history buffs have debunked the tale. While the taste of the drink will spark dreams of lounging on a beach, but its bright color will go well with your holiday decor.
2 oz white rum (Bacardi Superior is a good choice)
2 oz fresh (if possible) pineapple juice
2 bar spoon grenadine
1 bar spoon Luxardo maraschino liqueur
Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker for 30 seconds, and pour into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with Luxardo cherries or fresh pineapple slices.
Bloody Mary (and a few remixes)
I want to break the fourth wall briefly and say that I know for a fact the Bloody Mary isn’t a favorite drink of some, but there’s something about this bold, savory cocktail I can’t get enough of. The traditional base spirit of choice is vodka, but swap out the vodka for bourbon and it becomes a Brown Mary. Use tequila (something like Jose Cuervo‘s Especial Silver) and it becomes the Bloody Maria. Want a Bloody Scotsman? Add scotch, naturally. And for us gin lovers, we can make ourselves a Ruddy Mary by using London dry gin.
1 1/2 oz vodka
3 oz tomato juice
1/2 oz lemon juice
2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
Tabasco (or similar hot sauce), Celery Salt, Pepper (to taste)
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and pour into a tall ice-filled glass. Garnish with olives, celery stalk, or whatever you like.
As always, sip safely and surely, Friends. Happy Holidays.