Drinks: Cheers to the Holidays – Easy and Impressive Seasonal Cocktail Specials

Holiday-CocktailsAll the festivities and face stuffing for Thanksgiving had finally came to an end, (even though the leftover seems to last forever every year), but the holiday day craziness hasn’t slow down a bit, instead, I believe this is just the beginning. The holiday shopping kicked off this week, and without a doubt it will be keeping me busy until Christmas day. Holiday parties are also lined up in full force, work related or not, it is an exciting way to get together with friends and family to send off this fruitful year. I have been trying to make it a tradition and throw my own holiday party in the past few years. I always have fun hosting parties, but during the holiday madness, throwing a party can be a little stressful. There were definitely times I couldn’t manage to make enough food for my hungry guests, but I will always make sure I don’t run low on drinks.

Maybe it’s the ex-bartender syndrome, besides a good collection of good wine and beer, I always make sure there are also some freshly made seasonal cocktails. And to my surprise, people really get into the holiday spirit and always go for the cocktails.  Here are some of my favorite recipes– they are easy to make (which means no extra stress preparing the party) and so delicious that nobody every stops at one serving… and let’s just leave it like that….

1). Toasted Nut Whisky Cider

I like my brown liquor in cold weather– bourbon is always my preferred choice. I accidently discovered this walnut flavored liquor called Nocello. And I accidentally added into my bourbon one random occasion, and voila, a delicious nutty hard cider was created.


Ingredients (a batch for 4 servings):

  • ¾ cup Nocello, or other walnut-flavored liqueur
  • 1 ½ cup Bourbon or whisky (I like my Makers Mark)
  • ¾ cup fresh apple cider
  • ¼ simple syrup (or to your liking)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks


Bring Nocello, bourbon, apple cider, simple syrup to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Divide among 4 mugs, and garnish each with a cinnamon stick.

2). Sparkling Pear Punch with “Mistletoe”

Who doesn’t like bubbles during this cheerful season? The fragrant sweetness of the pear adds a pleasant twist that doesn’t take away the lightness of the sparkling wine. The cranberry rosemary garnish, or I like to call it “mistletoe”, is my way of making this drink Christmas-y and festive. It gives a touch of tartness and edge to the silky flavor, too!


Ingredients (for one serving)

  • 3-4 pieces of dry cranberries
  • 1 table spoon organic pear nectar
  • 4 oz champagne or sparkling wine
  • 1 small spring fresh rosemary


Put the cranberries in a small bowl, add a few teaspoons of warm water to soak for about 15 minutes (can be prep the day before). Add pear nectar, champagne on a tall champagne glass, garnish with cranberries and rosemary. Serve.

3). Hot Spiced Brandy Wine

I guess it’s a comforting this, everyone craves for some old fashioned spiced flavors in the cold weather. I tried this recipe one time out of curiosity, and I got myself pretty hooded to this drink.  Just a quick remember, just like sangrias, it is so easy to drink, which means, it is very easy to over drink if you’re not paying attention… you know what I mean!?

Ingredients (makes about 4 servings)

  • 1 bottle (750ml) light-bodied red wine (Pinot Noir)
  • 3 ounce Brandy
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 4 slices of lemon (or lemon strips)
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 2 star anise


Bring red wine, brandy, sugar, cloves, lemon slices, cinnamon sticks and star anise to a simmer in a saucepan, covered, over high heat.

Remove from heat; steep for 10 minutes, Strain and serve. Garnish with fresh lemon and cinnamon sticks if desired.

4). Dark Rum Hot Chocolate

This is probably the least healthy one on the list, but since I sometimes serve it as a liquid dessert and it is really really tasty, nobody really feels guilty afterwards.


Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped


In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream and rum. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, stir gently until melted. Serve immediately.

I usually don’t like warm cocktails, but as you can see, 3 out of the 4 in the list are served warm…. This is pretty much how I pamper my guests and keep them toasty as they step into the party….as far as I know, it seems to be working pretty well. Hope you enjoy the cocktails too, and have a wonderful holiday season!!