Create Your Own Holiday Cocktails

By Dan Dunn 


It’s holiday party season, and whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or even Festivus, a well made cocktail serves notice to your friends and family that you truly care. And caring, after all, is what the holidays are all about.  

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So, where to begin? 


There’s certainly no shame in appropriating cocktail recipes from celebrated mixologists such as James Beard winner Dale DeGroff or Pegu Club owner Audrey Sanders. You’ll find countless options just a click of the mouse away, and virtually all of them are guaranteed to impress. But again, the idea is to make people believe you give a damn. Serving an adults-only holiday beverage that you dreamed up yourself is a surefire way to do just that.  


“Think about the season and what foods and flavors you normally have around,” says Pamela Wiznitzer, former head of the U.S. Bartenders Guild. “Take the essence of those flavors and transfer them into the cocktails. Love cranberry sauce? Perhaps use a cranberry jam or cranberry simple syrup in the drink. If baking spices are your thing, grate them fresh over a shaken cocktail or mulled wine.”  


When choosing your cocktail’s base, Wiznitzer opines that aged spirits are like comfort food this time of year — you can’t go wrong with a nice cognac, calvados or whiskey.  


Reno-based bartender Nate Laird suggests using seasonal ingredients to create twists on your favorite hot cocktails: “Make a hot toddy with a teaspoon of pumpkin butter, try eggnog in your Irish coffee, or some Wondermint Schnapps in your Hot Chocolate.” He also suggests applying that same idea to crafting chilled holiday cocktails as well. Make a "smash" with leftover cranberry sauce, or add eggnog to a White Russian. Don't be afraid to infuse a classic cocktail with mulling spices either. Laird’s go-to is a Manhattan made with mulling spice-infused vermouth. 


Of course, conventional wisdom says that to get a holiday party started you need just one thing, and that thing is eggnog. Spiked with liquor, of course. If your eggnog does not have alcohol in it, then we submit to you that it is not actually eggnog at all. And remember to be interesting. Rum is traditional, but a little boring. The creative cocktail-ogist bucks tradition whenever possible.  


For instance, here’s a recipe featuring tequila and sherry from bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Portland Oregon's Clyde Common: 


“Clyde Common Eggnog” 

Beat a dozen eggs in blender for one minute on medium speed. Slowly add 2 1/4 cups of sugar and blend for one additional minute. With the blender still running, add 3 teaspoons of freshly-grated nutmeg, 1 1/12 cups of Amontillado sherry, 1 1/2 cups of anejo tequila, 4 1/2 cups of whole milk and 3 cups of heavy cream until combined. Chill thoroughly to allow flavors to combine.  


Of course, after all this, it’s entirely possible you may find the prospect of crafting an original holiday drink too daunting. In that case, we’ll leave you with a recipe for a chilled holiday-themed libation that’s been passed down through generations of publicists at the Stolichnaya vodka company. Just remember, we’re doing this because we care… 


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“The Candy Cane Martini” 

2.5 oz Stolichnaya vodka 

.5 oz Hiram Walker peppermint schnapps 

.5 oz Crème de Cacao 

Candy cane to garnish. 

Pour Stoli and schnapps in a shaker with shaved ice. Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Float Crème de Cacao. Hook the candy cane over the side to garnish. 



Happy Holidays!