Cheering the Holidays

Mix it up with these festive cocktails

By Stella Fong, Photography by Daniel Sullivan

Festive cocktails prettied with garnishes and dustings make for spirited holiday celebrations. Simple becomes special when chocolate sauce and sprinkles of ground cinnamon are added to stout, and bourbon to sparkling wine. When cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger are stirred into hot chocolate, the warming comfort drink takes on essences of gingerbread cookies.

A margarita made with pink cranberry brings flavors of the season to a drink sipped when temperatures are warmer. This is also true with sangria, but with the shots of cranberry juice and infusions of cinnamon, shouts of olés ring in the cheer to keep the nights from becoming too silent. To jingle the holiday bells, juniper berries and rosemary mimicking the season’s decorations with evergreens, bring fa la las to a gin fizz. For this holiday season, bring cheer to family and friends with a festive cocktail.

Sparkling Bourbon Cocktail

Makes 1 cocktail

For the vanilla bean syrup

½ c. sugar

½ c. water

½ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

To craft the drink

1 ½ ounces bourbon

2 T. vanilla bean syrup

Prosecco or sparkling wine, chilled

In a small saucepan, add sugar, water, vanilla bean and seeds. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature, then discard the vanilla bean. Add bourbon and vanilla bean syrup to a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine and serve.

Blackberry Rosemary Jingle Juniper Gin Fizz

Makes 1 cocktail

¼ c. blackberries
2 slices lemon, quartered
1 sprig rosemary
2 t. honey
1 T. juniper berries
1 ½ ounces gin
Club soda, chilled

Add blackberries, lemon and rosemary to a tumbler. Add juniper berry and honey. Muddle berry mixture until fruit is crushed. Fill glass with ice. Add gin and top with club soda. Stir well and serve.

Gingerbread Rum Hot Chocolate

Makes 1 Cocktail

1 ½ c. milk
1 T. cocoa powder
1 T. dark brown sugar
½ t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
1/8 t. allspice
1/8 t. ground ginger
1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ½ ounces dark rum
Whipped cream, for garnish
Mini marshmallows, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cocoa powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until cocoa, and brown sugar are dissolved and the milk just comes to a simmer, about five minutes. Whisk in chocolate chips until smooth and stir in rum. Top with whipped cream and marshmallows.

Cinnamon Coffee Chocolate Stout

Makes 1 cocktail

1 T. chocolate sauce
Pinch of cinnamon
2 ounces brandy
2 T. half and half
Cocoa powder, for dusting

Add chocolate sauce and cinnamon to the bottom of a pint glass. Fill pint glass with ice. Add brandy and half and half. Top with stout and stir. Dust with cocoa powder.

Mistletoe Margarita

Makes 1 cocktail

For simple syrup

½ c. water
½ c. sugar

To craft the drink

Salt for the rim
2 ounces Tequila
1 ½ ounces triple sec
2 ½ ounces pink cranberry juice
2 ½ ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup
Cranberries for garnish
Sprig of rosemary

In a small saucepan, add sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium and cook until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. Rim each glass with a lime wedge and dip in salt. In a cocktail shaker, add the Grand Marnier, Tequila, cranberry juice and syrup and shake for 30 to 60 seconds. Pour into glass. Garnish with cranberries and rosemary.

Santa’s Sangria

Serves 8

For cranberry syrup

½ c. water

½ c. sugar

2 c. frozen or fresh cranberries

1 cinnamon stick

To craft the drink

1 bottle red wine

1 c. cranberry juice

1 c. orange juice

½ c. rum

¼ c. Grand Marnier

1 orange, sliced, plus extra for garnish

1 c. frozen or fresh cranberries

1 c. seltzer water


In a medium saucepan, add water, sugar, cranberries and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil until cranberries burst and sugar dissolves, about four minutes. Strain syrup through a fine mesh and cool to room temperature. In a large pitcher, add wine, juices, vodka and Grand Marnier. Add orange slices and cranberries. Chill for several hours. Add seltzer water and ice.

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