’Tis the season to be merry, and nothing puts you in the holiday spirit like, well … holiday spirits. Whether you’re hosting a casual get-together or planning a raucous office party, a bubbly, festive cocktail (or mocktail!) can really help set the mood. 

While eggnog is a reliable classic — and if you haven’t tried it already, Martha Stewart has an excellent recipe — there are scads of other options that are easier on the stomach and just as festive. Here are just a few of our favorites, in no particular order:


Winter Wonderland

Ever wished you could turn a candy cane into a classy, alcoholic beverage? Well, you can always count on Disney World to make your dreams come true. They serve this gorgeous drink in a red sugar-rimmed martini glass with a mini-candy cane garnish at their restaurant, Morimoto Asia.

Ingredients:

      • 1.5 oz. vodka
      • .75 oz. peppermint schnapps
      • .75 oz. white chocolate liqueur
      • Candy cane for garnish
      • Red sugar for rimming

Instructions:

Mix and chill ingredients. Pour into a red sugar-rimmed martini glass and garnish with a candy cane hanging on the rim.


Clarified Milk Punch

I was introduced to this historic cocktail a few years ago in Williamsburg, Virginia, and have been obsessed with making it ever since. The first known milk punch recipe was set down in 1688 in Scotland, and it has been enjoyed by people in New Orleans and the Deep South ever since Benjamin Franklin coined his own version in 1763. If you look up recipes, you will find two common varieties: the original, which features brandy or bourbon, milk, sugar and vanilla; and the clarified version, in which you perform strange magic by curdling milk with citrus and straining it to produce a clear and boozy elixir. While the milky version is delicious and perfect to enjoy sitting by the fire, I prefer the clarified version. It’s labor-intensive, so many people prefer to prepare it in large batches to serve to a crowd (or, ahem, to hoard to themselves) over the holidays. This recipe, courtesy of Blossom to Stem, perfectly captures the silky essence of this classic punch. (If you can’t find the name-specific liquors, you can replace them with just about any rum you like.)

Ingredients:

      • 2 lemons, zest and juice
      • 1 orange, zest and juice
      • ½ pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
      • 1 cup sugar
      • 3 whole cloves
      • 10 coriander seeds
      • 1 cinnamon stick
      • 1 whole star anise
      • ½ cup brewed green tea
      • 1 cup boiling water
      • ½ cup cognac (doesn’t need to be fancy)
      • ½ cup white rum
      • ½ cup aged dark rum
      • ½ cup Smith & Cross (a Jamaican aged rum)
      • ⅓ cup Batavia Arrack (an Indonesian rum)
      • 2 cups whole milk

Instructions:

      1. Add the lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, pineapple, sugar and spices to a large mixing bowl (one with a spout is ideal) and muddle the sugar and fruit together. Add the green tea and boiling water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the spirits and mix together. 
      2. In a separate large mixing bowl, add the whole milk. Then pour the punch mixture into the milk and stir. The mixture will curdle. Let sit for about 30 minutes and strain through a fine mesh sieve lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth. There will still be some cloudy solids after the first straining. Pass the mixture through the same lined sieve again (the curds do much of the straining work). At this point it should be almost entirely clear. If any cloudy bits remain, strain one more time. Transfer to bottles or jars and store in the refrigerator.
      3. Pour about 1/2 cup into a glass with ice. You can garnish with a lemon peel or a grating of fresh nutmeg if you like.

Cranberry Bramble

This simple cocktail is light and citrusy, but with some clever garnishing it looks like a winter landscape. Served in a rocks glass filled with crushed ice, you can place sprigs of fresh rosemary upside-down standing straight up like little pine trees in a snow drift.

Ingredients:

      • 1.5 oz. Beefeater Gin
      • 1 oz. cranberry juice
      • .75 oz. lemon juice
      • .5 oz. orange juice

Instructions:

Build all ingredients in a tin with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with rosemary.


Geese A-Laying

From London-based Sophia Rosser

This bubbly confection is perfect for a festive gathering of any kind, and is sure to make a splash with its light and fruity flavors. It’s basically just a dressed-up holiday version of a mimosa, but with a Christmas theme.

Ingredients:

      • .5 oz. Grey Goose
      • .5 oz. plum jam
      • 2 tsp. Cointreau
      • Juice of a quarter of a lime
      • Top with prosecco

Instructions:

Shake all ingredients (except the prosecco) over ice, strain into a champagne flute and top with prosecco.


Christmas in Margaritaville

Margaritas are usually cocktails sipped by the pool on a sweltering summer day, but what if you get a hankering for a tequila-based drink in the middle of winter? This margarita recipe is just the thing. You’ll need to make your own rosemary-infused simple syrup (which sounds fancy but has only two steps), and then candy that rosemary for a wintry-looking garnish.

Ingredients:

Rosemary Simple Syrup:

      • 1 cup water
      • 1 cup sugar
      • Several fresh rosemary sprigs

Candied Rosemary Garnish:

      • Rosemary simple syrup
      • Fresh rosemary sprigs
      • White sugar

Margarita:

      • 2 oz. tequila (preferably reposado)
      • 2 oz. coconut milk (unsweetened, from a can)
      • 1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
      • 1 oz. orange liqueur (like Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
      • 1 oz. rosemary simple syrup
      • Ice
      • Coarse sea salt for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

      1. To make the simple syrup, bring the water, sugar and rosemary sprigs to a low boil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Stir occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. Once it comes to a low boil and the sugar dissolves, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to steep for at least 10 minutes. Strain and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
      2. For the candied rosemary garnish, lightly dip a pastry brush into the rosemary simple syrup and coat the rosemary sprigs. Sprinkle with sugar. Set on a wire rack to dry for about an hour.
      3. Add the tequila, coconut milk, lime juice, orange liqueur, rosemary simple syrup and a handful of ice to a cocktail shaker. Pop on the top and shake vigorously for about 15 to 30 seconds.
      4. Run a lime slice over the edge of the serving glass and rim with salt.
      5. Strain the margarita into the salt-rimmed serving glass, and garnish with the candied rosemary sprig.

Holiday Mocktail: Cranberry-Ginger Shrub

Not every party calls for alcohol — who wants to spend the holidays nursing a hangover, after all? Here’s a great party drink from Country Living that everyone can enjoy.

Ingredients:

      • 1 (16-oz.) bag cranberries
      • 1 cup cider vinegar
      • ½ cup water
      • ½ cup sugar
      • 1 (1½-inch) piece peeled and sliced fresh ginger
      • 2 cinnamon sticks
      • Ice and club soda, for serving

Directions:

      1. Combine the cranberries, vinegar, water, sugar, ginger and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until berries start to break down, 10 to 15 minutes; cool completely. 
      2. Strain cranberry mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer, mashing mixture to release liquid; discard solids and chill.
      3. To serve, pour 1 oz. over ice and top with club soda.

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