My little Christmas cocktail party was all set – early December Saturday reserved, tons of alcohol procured, and a dozen homemade ingredients in the preparation process. But one winter morning I woke up with a horrible fever, and my holiday season was transformed into an fierce battle between my immune system and a hellspawn virus.
The big day came and went, and visions of a liquor-soaked Christmas dimmed. But, fueled by copious amounts of Earl Grey and orange juice, I decided to execute the operation. After all, January is chilly enough for that Christmas season feel, and Eastern Orthodox folks celebrate Christmas on January 7, while 3 Kings Day was on 6 January. So I wasn’t late at all!
If you know me even a bit, you know I like to really go all out for any sort of cocktail event, big or small. To add a lil’ something special to this winter soiree, I decided to illuminate my little abode exclusively with Christmas lights and candles. Lots of ’em! Now, some folks noted there might be a fire hazard because of the 1) 40 candles going and 2) inebriated people in close proximity of said open flames. Nonsense – no one was ignited, and even if someone’s blouse or sweater had went up, it would have been a great party game dousing them.
After it was all said and done, we had a great time – the ambiance was perfect, with flickering lights, good conversation, and wonderful drinks. This was my first get-together in which I liked all the cocktails I made, including two I really loved. On to the dranks!
As I’ve learned during previous parties, you gotta have a good punch or three. It takes the pressure off of you a bit to make new drinks, and allows party goers to set their own pace/get drunk ASAP. With the temperature touching 10 degrees, I decided we needed something that would warm the soul and excite the appetite. Remembering a great experience I had with hot grog, the manna of the Royal Navy, I decided to whip up a whole bowl of this glorious lime tea. It was very good, although I wish I had heated the water a bit more – it can cool surprisingly quick!
- 2 oz dark rum (I used Pusser’s, because the Royal Navy would want me to)
- 1 oz lime juice
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- Garnish with cinnamon sticks
- Fill with hot water
Christmas in the Alps
Desiring a wintry, piney taste to start the cocktail survey, my mind quickly turned to Zirbenz, a liqueur made from pine needles in Austria. Can’t get more Christmas tree-y than that! Along with my latest revelation, the uber-vegetal Sipsmith Gin, and a sharp and beautiful raspberry syrup to add tartness to the affair, this was a great crimson-hued and bubbly opener.
- 1 oz Sipsmith gin
- .25 oz Zirbenz
- 1.5 Homemade Raspberry Syrup
- Fill flute with Brut Champagne
Christmas in Versailles
During my recent trip to France, we sat down in a cozy Versailles cafe for a hard-earned lunch of croque monsieur. In the mood for beer, we spied something called a “Monaco” included in the bar list. Wonderful! We laughed when we discovered that our expected beer was really a famed and super-sweet French drink made of grenadine, lemonade, and beer. Intrigued by this eye-catching concoction, I tinkered with it a bit, adding home-made almond orgeat to give it more body and temper the sugar a bit. Boy, did it work out – the orgeat adds complexity and heft to this dangerously drinkable cocktail, while lending a gorgeous milkshake froth to it. My second favorite drink of the evening!
- 1.5 home-made grenadine
- 1 oz almond orgeat
- 2 oz homemade lemonade
- Fill with Stella Artois
The Christmas Faire
At my last cocktail party, I experimented with All-Spice dram, which went swimmingly! I just knew it would be the perfect additive to a holiday cocktail, evoking that savory sensation of a spiced bundt cake after Christmas Eve dinner. To affect this taste, I endeavored to combine as many rich sensations as I thought we could stomach. The result was a very complex drink that came together fairly well – the sting of the light appley-Tullamore (had to buy that online) swam well with the delicious and thick apple cinnamon syrup (which gave my apartment a wonderful potpourri smell), dram, and some lightly sweetened home-made cranberry juice, culminating in a genuine harth and home blast. Aces.
- 1.5 oz Tullamore Dew Cider Cask
- 1 oz Apple cinnamon syrup
- .75 oz home-made cranberry juice
- .25 oz All-spice dram
Christmas in Savannah
This was by far my favorite drink of the evening. I became intrigued with peanut orgeat after reading this Garden and Gun article on its use in a more interesting Jack and Coke, which sounded amazing. Looking for a southern Christmas cocktail, I decided to utilize bourbon, blackberry syrup, and peanut orgeat. For the bourbon base, I went with Woodford’s Double Oaked – I sampled some at a dinner party recently and realized its powerful vanilla and dark wood foundation would be perfect for a robust Southern drink. Along with a rich, almost cinnamony blackberry syrup, it was the perfect enabler of the peanut orgeat, which was the hit of the night. Add a touch of amaretto, this drink delivered an amazing combo of sensations – nuttiness, a touch of salt, sugar, and good Dixie liquor. Good god do I want another one! Sip some of these and think of Georgia.
- 1.5 oz Bourbon
- 1 oz Homemade Blackberry syrup
- .75 oz Homemade peanut orgeat
- .5 oz Amaretto
Christmas in Ulster
Irish coffee, or any coffee-alcohol drinks really, have always been a bit of a challenge for my palette. Particularly with darker, more robust beans, that bitter acid frequently overwhelms other ingredients, IMHO. Determined to make this right, I tried a few new tricks – I used Tullamore Dew, which offers a nice mellow whiskey burn. Then, I threw in a good amount of sugary citrus in the form of freshly-made orange syrup, along with a dollop or two of rich whipped cream. Employing my cute, bright red new Keurig (thanks Mom and Dad) I brewed Starbucks blonde. The result was a very nice, measured coffee drink that leaves you with a satisfied smile when you sip. A great way to conclude the evening.
- 1 oz Tullamore Drew
- 2 oz Homemade Orange syrup
- Starbucks Blonde Roast
‘Til next year everyone!