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December 7, 2023 8 minute READ

Mix Up Your Holiday Entertaining

tags At Home | Recipes
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Holiday Beverages

If you haven’t checked your calendar lately, the holidays are HERE! Gatherings of all kinds abound – from friends and family to co-workers and colleagues. It’s a time for pulling out all the stops, making everyone’s favorite dishes, and trying a few new recipes. That can hold true for holiday beverages, too. We visited with Josh, who helped us put together a “summer school mixology class” earlier this year to give us a few ideas to “up your hospitality” during the holidays.

“Over the holidays, you think of drinks that warm you up from the cold, ones to enjoy while sitting around the fire, and the perfect complements for eating rich, comfort foods,” said Josh. “That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t enjoy refreshing drinks like we highlighted during the spring, but a lot of people prefer savory drinks during this time of year, which usually means bourbons, dark and/or spiced rums, red and port wines, brandy, coffee, chocolates and ‘warm’ spices.” 

Bartending Tools 

Before we get into the recipes, let’s make sure you have the basic tools of the trade handy.  

1. A Jigger or some other way to measure your alcohol. This is particularly important if you are new to mixing drinks. The E-Z Step Jigger provides easy measures ranging from ½ ounce to two ounces.  

2. A Shaker to mix your drinks. A shaker will have a large container for ice and your drink ingredients, a top to enable you to shake the concoction, and a cover that can be removed to allow the drink to be poured/strained into the serving glass. Most shakers are glass or stainless steel. The Four Seasons Shaker goes the extra step with having recipes for classic drinks on the container.  

3. Small Bar Boards and a paring knife are needed to prepare some ingredients and garnishes. You’ll need to keep these handy for lemon or lime wheels or to cut citrus fruit for squeezing into drinks.  

4. A Cocktail Bar Mat comes in handy for maintaining a tidy workspace. You can have glasses draining on the rubber side and salt/sugar for garnishing glass rims available in the round tray on the other side. It also provides a cutting surface.  

5. A Zester/Reamer comes in handy for drinks requiring freshly squeezed juice and for zesting the peels of lemons, limes, and oranges or even adding some fresh cinnamon as a garnish.  

6. Recipe references are very important until you develop your own repertoire of mixology. The Cocktail Swatch Book features recipes for 40 classic cocktails in flipbook style. It’s small and easy to stash but jam-packed with great info for a beginner.  

7. Of course, there will be spills, drips, and melts, so you’ll want to have a bar towel of some sort handy. Skoy Earth-Friendly Cloths are a great option for your bar towel because they are super absorbent, washable, and can be composted at the end of their usefulness.  

8. A Bottle Opener and Corkscrew is a must to get things started. The No.10 Corkscrew Stainless Steel Folding Knife with Bottle Opener is a handsome addition to any bar set up.   

10. Of course, like any avocation, there sky’s the limit on accessories you can add to your bar basics, like reusable Swizzle Sticks, Reusable Straws, ice molds, a muddling tool (used in the mixing of some drinks, like Moscow Mules, Mint Juleps, etc.), a bar spoon (which can be used for muddling, mixing, and measuring, along with layering different mixers in a drink), and so many others.  

11. Proper glassware is important to help be aware of consumption and for presentation. Your basic bar set would include lowball/rocks glasses, highball glasses, and coupe glasses.  


Many of the recipes we’ll look at today can easily be made as mocktails by leaving out the alcohol.  

Apple Butter Mule 

Apple Butter Mule2 ounces apple cider (Mast Store Provisioners Spiced Apple Cider is a good option)
1 tablespoon apple butter (Mast Store Provisioners Apple Butter)
2 ounces bourbon
Juice from 1 or 2 lime wedges 
6 ounces ginger beer 

In a shaker over ice combine apple cider, apple butter, bourbon, and juice from a lime wedge and shake. In a high ball or rocks glass strain cocktail from tumbler over ice, top off with ginger beer, and stir. Garnish with cinnamon stick, apple slice, and lime wedge.  

This recipe will be a little more flavorful and warm than a Moscow Mule, which the recipe is adapted from.   

Our next recipe is easy to serve a crowd -  and it’s beautiful, too! We recommend serving it in a glass pitcher or one of those large glass dispensers with a spout because this beverage can easily serve as a holiday centerpiece as well.  

Holiday Sangria 

1 750 ml bottle of dry red wine (merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec), chilled*
1 750 ml bottle of sparkling apple cider, chilled 
¼ cup sugar 
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1 orange, sliced in rounds 
1 apple, sliced in rounds
1 cup brandy, spiced rum, or Cointreau (orange liqueur) 

In a large pitcher mix sugar and cinnamon. Pour in the chilled red wine and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add in brandy and sparkling apple cider and stir. If you’re making ahead, mix all ingredients together EXCEPT the sparkling apple cider and chill in the refrigerator for a day before your event. When ready to serve, add the cider. 

There are many adaptations of sangria. Add in star anise for a more licorice flavor (3-4 pieces). Try mixing with cranberry juice and orange juice. Add rosemary as a garnish for a unique flavor. To save a few calories, lighten it up with soda water.  

*Sangria is just as tasty served in a non-alcoholic mixture – there are so many complementary flavors to enjoy. Try using either cranberry or pomegranate juice instead of red wine and leave out the brandy.

Cranberry/Orange Simple Syrup 

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries 
1 cup sugar 
1 cup water 
Juice from 1 medium orange 
Orange zest from 1 medium orange 
1 cinnamon stick 

Combine cranberries, sugar, water, orange juice, zest, and cinnamon stick in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the cranberries soften. Strain through a sieve to retain only the syrup.  

This can be used as an ingredient in your sangria, as a mixer for other drinks, or even as an ingredient in some seasonal pancakes. 

This next recipe is a true classic – and a cure-all that many families will swear by. It’s also useful to warm up when socializing in the chilly outdoors around a firepit. 

Hot Toddy 

Hot ToddyHot water 
Lemon juice 
Spices (your choice - cinnamon, ginger, cloves, etc.) 

The ratios can be based upon how strong you want your toddy. Just mix hot water, whiskey, honey, and lemon juice together and stir until the honey is dissolved (maybe about 10-15 seconds). Garnish with a cinnamon stick and lemon wedge. 

Josh said, “I like to make hot toddies with my favorite teas. I use black tea when I’m looking for something caffeinated and rooibos for a caffeine-free option.” 

To use as “medicine” for a cold, cough, or even insomnia, mix with ginger (fresh works best), and drink before going to bed. 

Coffee is a great mixer, particularly in the colder months.  

Irish Coffee 

1 cup of your favorite coffee 
1½ ounces Irish whiskey (Josh prefers Jameson) 
½ ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream (optional)
½ ounce Kahlua (optional) 
Optional garnishes – whipped cream (you can drizzle a mint liqueur over top), chocolate shavings 

Stir all ingredients coffee, whiskey, Irish Cream, and Kahlua together and top with a “twist” of whipped cream. Use your zester to shave a little of your favorite chocolate bar on top. Irish Coffee is typically served in a clear glass coffee mug with a “squat” stem. If you warm the mug before pouring the coffee into it, the drink will stay warm longer. 

Espresso/Coffee Martini 

2 to 3 ounces cooled coffee 
1 ounce vodka 
½ ounce Kahlua 
½ ounce Irish Cream (Bailey’s) 
½ ounce chocolate liqueur (Godiva) 
Splash of heavy cream or milk 

In a tumbler over ice combine coffee, vodka, Kahlua, Irish Cream, chocolate liqueur, and cream and shake to mix.  In martini glass, drizzle chocolate syrup in a zig-zag pattern, strain cocktail into glass, garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  

Peppermint White Russian 

Peppermint White Russian1½ ounces vodka 
1 ounce Kahlua 
½ ounce peppermint schnapps 
1 ounce heavy cream or 1½ ounce if using milk   

Dip rocks/lowball glass in white chocolate syrup (optional) and line with crushed candy cane. There are two options for presentation.  

Option 1 (will be a little diluted and colder) 
Add ice to a shaker, add alcohol and milk, then shake to combine. Add ice to the rocks glass and strain the drink into the glass. Garnish with a candy cane. 

Option 2 (makes a more layered presentation and concentrated drink) 

Add ice to rimmed rocks glass and combine alcohol, then top with heavy cream or milk and gently stir. Garnish with a candy cane. 

Pro Tip 

Josh shared, “Any of these recipes or drinks you make at home can be adjusted to your palate. If you feel a mix might be too strong alcohol-wise, then decrease the alcohol but try to keep similar ratios. And, while they don’t require a recipe, a port wine is always a good option for after dinner or a cordial is another option.”   

The most important tip is always drink responsibly and serve responsibly. Make sure to have non-alcoholic options available for everyone to enjoy.   

Have a happy holiday season! 

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