The leaves are falling from the trees and the temperatures are dropping. Soon, winter will be here and the holiday season will be buzzing. If you are like many, you are probably getting excited about all the great food and drinks that abound during the seasonal festivities.
Cocktails are hot this time of year. Here are some creative takes on some classic cocktails and warming drinks that you might want to try for the holidays.
Spicy and Fruity Mulled Wine
One of the most inviting holiday treats is walking into a welcoming home, after being outside in the cold sledding or foraging for natural decorations, to the aroma of a spicy mulled wine simmering on the stove.
1 bottle of full-bodied red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel)
4 cups fresh apple cider
1/4 cup honey
Zest and juice of 1 orange
4 whole cloves
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
Orange peels for garnish
1. In a large saucepot over medium-high heat, combine the wine, cider, honey, orange zest and juice, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low immediately and simmer the wine for 10 minutes.
2. Remove the spices with a slotted spoon and discard. Pour the mulled wine into mugs. Garnish each with an orange peel and serve while hot.
Ruby Red Pomegranate Sangria
Sangria is a light and refreshing wine and fruit based cocktail that is always a crowd-pleaser. Pomegranate seeds give this deep red cocktail a holiday twist. This cocktail is really great served with appetizers.
1 bottle light, dry red wine (Pinot Noir or Petit Syrah)
2 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup unflavored brandy
1/2 cup Triple Sec
1/4 cup simple syrup*
1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
1 orange, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 green apple, cored, cut in half, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup red grapes, sliced in half
* Simple syrup is comprised of equal amounts sugar and water that are heated until the sugar dissolves. Allow it to cool before using in cocktails.
1. In 2 glass pitchers, add 1/2 of all the ingredients to each and stir. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
2. Serve in red wine glasses over ice.
Creamy Eggnog Martinis
Eggnog is a must at least once around Christmas. This recipe takes eggnog up a notch. Serve it in martini glasses for an elegant touch. This will make 4 martinis.
1-1/2 tablespoons coarse white sugar crystals
2 cups eggnog (found in the dairy section near the milk)
1/2 cup amaretto
1/2 cup unflavored brandy
2 scoops vanilla ice cream
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 small candy canes
1. Place the sugar on a saucer. Lightly dampen the rims of the glasses with a little water or lemon juice. Dip the rims in the sugar to coat. Set the glasses aside.
2. In a blender, process the eggnog, amaretto, brandy, ice cream, nutmeg, and cinnamon until just combined and smooth. Don’t over process. It needs to remain cold.
3. Pour the eggnog into the martini glasses. Add a small candy cane to each, allowing the curved end to rest over the glass rims. Serve immediately.
Seasonal Old Fashioned
Sometimes you just want a classic cocktail without too much fuss. An old fashioned generally hits the spot. You can make this classic a bit more celebratory by adding a little cranberry juice and cranberries for garnish.
1 orange wedge
1 sugar cube
Dash of Angostura bitters
Crushed ice to fill the glass
1/4 cup good bourbon
1 shot cranberry juice
Splash of club soda
4 cranberries and an orange peel twist for garnish
1. In a 10 ounce old fashioned glass, muddle or mash the orange wedge, sugar cube, and bitters to dissolve and combine.
2. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Stir in the bourbon and cranberry juice. Top off the glass with club soda.
3. Drop the cranberries into the cocktail. Garnish with the orange twist. Serve and enjoy.
Minty Irish Coffee
It is always nice to end the party with a hot Irish coffee. Add a little Crème de Menthe to bring in the holiday spirit.
1.5 ounces of good Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon Crème de Menthe
Steaming hot freshly brewed coffee
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh whipped cream
Small peppermint patty or snow cap candies for garnish
1. Rinse an Irish coffee mug under hot water to warm it up and dry it. Place the sugar in the bottom of the mug. Add the whiskey and Crème de menthe and stir to combine. Pour the coffee into the cup and stir.
2. Top the coffee with the whipped cream and the candy garnish. Serve immediately while hot.
Cranberry Orange Mimosas
The dishes are done. Most of the guests have gone home. You got a few hours of sleep. And, you have the day off. This is perfect for a late brunch with some holiday mimosas. This recipe will make approximately 8 drinks, depending on the size of your champagne glasses.
2 cups frozen cranberries
1/4 cup fine sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 cups + 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 bottle cold Champagne
1/2 cup thawed cranberries for garnish
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix together the 2 cups of cranberries, sugar, 2 tablespoons of the orange juice, and zest. Cook until the cranberries start to break down and the sugar has melted, approximately 10 minutes.
2. Place the mixture in a blender and process until smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a glass or metal measuring cup. Set the syrup aside to cool completely.
3. Pour 1 tablespoon of cranberry-orange syrup into the bottoms of 8 champagne flutes. Add a few cranberries to each glass. Pour 1/4 cup of orange juice into each glass. Fill the glasses with champagne. Serve with an assortment of pastries for a light brunch.