My Favorite Cocktails to Celebrate the Holidays
With December nearly halfway over, it’s official: the holiday season is in full swing! No matter where I’m celebrating the season, whether relaxing by the fireplace for an aprés ski, lounging by the beach in sunny California, or just strolling through one of Europe’s many Christmas markets, there’s nothing like a seasonal drink to put me in the spirit. From classics like vin chaud and spiced eggnog to less traditional choices that nonetheless still give me a healthy dose of holiday cheer, here are my six favorite cocktails to celebrate with this holiday season.
A Christmas market staple, vin chaud is just as an important part of the holidays in Europe as hot chocolate is in the States. While the French name literally translates to “hot wine,” in Germany, this beverage goes by glühwein, or “glow wine,” because of the feeling it gives you after you’ve had a couple cups! A festive mix of red wine and mulling spices like cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and citrus make up this simple yet delicious beverage. In recent years, some market stands have even started offering a version of the drink with white wine instead of red, and many stands offer their cups mit Schuss, or with an extra shot to help you warm up even faster. However you choose to drink it, this classic is first on my list for a reason–it wouldn’t be the Christmas season without it!
Eggnog is another popular drink that’s typically only available in the short window of the holiday season, but my favorite way to enjoy this rich concoction is, naturally, in its alcoholic form! A cup of this creamy milk and egg mixture that’s been warmed and thickened (the heat cooks the eggs, so there’s no need to worry) gets flavored with vanilla and nutmeg before being spiked with a dark liquor like brandy, bourbon, or dark rum. It’s easy enough to make at home, but bars like Woda Ognista in Warsaw make a scrumptious version with Irish whiskey and spiced rum.
Hot Buttered Rum
This cocktail actually dates back to colonial times, so to say that it’s tried and tested is an understatement! While hot buttered rum sounds simple (and, in reality, it is), there’s something about the addition of butter to warmed, sweetened rum that gives you that perfect cozy feeling. The rum mixture is sweetened with a bit of sugar and flavored with spices like nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon for a winning combination. New York’s NoMad Bar has an excellent version made with aged Venezuelan rum and garnished with grated nutmeg, perfect for warming you up after a chilly stroll admiring the Christmas decorations on Fifth Avenue.
While Bellinis might not be the first drink that comes to mind when you think of the holidays, to me, there’s nothing more festive! (Of course, the addition of prosecco doesn’t hurt in that respect!) If you’ve never tried one before, just imagine a mimosa with peach nectar or puree instead of orange juice. This cocktail originated in Venice, Italy, and it’s no secret that the Italians know how to make any occasion into a celebration. If I’m feeling particularly indulgent, I’ll opt for champagne instead of prosecco–after all, what’s more festive than champagne! Nothing beats the original version at Harry’s Bar in Venice, though, where the Cipriani family first invented this drink. After a flute of this cocktail, you’ll be ready to deck the halls!
While some people like to opt for an Irish coffee on a cold winter’s day, lately I’ve been loving a simple espresso martini instead. While I will certainly still indulge in an Irish coffee from time to time (I am a Callahan, after all), I’ve found that sometimes all that added sugar can be a bit too much. Espresso martinis have that same hit of caffeine, but I don’t feel like I’m drinking some kind of warm ice cream sundae. The simple combination of vodka, kahlua, and espresso are just what I need when I want something to make me feel a little more merry, without a sugar headache the next day, and nowhere does this drink better than Mastro’s Steakhouse.
Although the Pimm’s cup is the quintessential drink to sip at a polo match, I find that it puts me in the mood to celebrate no matter the season or locale. The winning combination of Pimm’s No. 1, ginger ale, and fresh garnishes like mint, cucumber, and citrus is just as good enjoyed in a warm bar when there’s a chill outside as it is for watching a sporting match. The Carousel Bar and Lounge in New Orleans is my favorite place to have this classic drink–the whimsical revolving bar, expertly-crafted cocktails, and lighthearted atmosphere are sure to put you in a good mood. Even though it’s not seasonal, a Pimm’s cup sure makes for a jolly good time.
The holidays are always a good excuse to indulge in some comforting drinks with friends and family and the perfect time to try out some new traditions, too. Whether you look forward to that first cup of vin chaud like I do, or you’ve yet to try any of these delightful holiday concoctions, I hope I’ve given you some ideas to spice up your drinking this holiday season, no matter what you’re celebrating!