Despite what the marketing teams may say, there’s no such thing as an “Easter Cocktail.” Nor, for that matter, are there designated cocktails for President’s Day, Purim, or the Autumnal Equinox. But the December holidays? You could buy a different book on “Holiday Cocktails” every day and you’d run out of shelf space before you ran out of drinks.
December just hits different. No one ever tells you to “get in the spirit” of Arbor Day but getting into the spirit is practically what the month of December is all about—it’s cold and the sun sets at like 2 pm and so everything about our rituals is there to inspire a little seasonal cheer, from the lights to the gifts to the legion of cocktails offering themselves up for a bit of warmth. December is here to invite you to indulgence, to treat yourself. Holiday shopping and visiting family isn’t necessarily a stress-free experience but put both palms around a mug of a well-made Mulled Apple Cider and tell us this isn’t the most magical time of year.
Our favorite holiday cocktail list is stacked with old favorites. This time of year, is all about tradition, so whether it’s the liquid hug of a Hot Toddy or the celebratory dazzle of the French 75, here are seven cocktails to have and share this upcoming month.
The Hot Toddy is the ultimate winter drink. Some drinks are so foundational to our understanding of mixed beverages that they’re less invented than discovered, like fire itself. Some Hot Toddys are like Whiskey Sours (whiskey, citrus, sweetener and hot water) and some are like Old Fashioneds (whiskey, sweetness, spice and hot water), but either way, the Hot Toddy is, we write, “like whiskey chicken soup, the perfect drink to displace any physical or emotional chill.” Find out how to heat the ingredients without igniting them here, or just brave it with the recipe below.
- 2 oz. whiskey
- 0.75 oz. lemon juice
- 0.75 oz. honey/ginger
- 4-6 oz. boiling water
Boil water. Pour boiling water into a mug, to pre-warm it. After a minute, empty water, add ingredients (see below), top with boiling water and garnish with a lemon or orange slice studded with cloves and/or a cinnamon stick.
Peanut Malt Flip
The Peanut Malt Flip sounds weird. A glance at the ingredients looks weird. And this apparent strangeness is one of its principal charms, because make one for yourself and you’ll find it doesn’t taste strange in the slightest—just pure, decadent deliciousness. The scotch gives body, cream gives richness, and as for the Peanut Butter, we write, “the peanut butter is what makes it art.” Click here to discover who is responsible for such a marvelous gift of a cocktail, or just make one yourself with the recipe below.
- 2 oz. scotch
- 1 oz. cream
- 0.75 oz. simple syrup
- 1 tbsp. peanut butter
- 1 egg
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, seal tight and shake without ice for about five seconds to whip and emulsify the egg. Add ice and shake for 10 to 12 seconds, strain into a large coupe or wine glass and garnish with some freshly grated nutmeg over the top.
Boozy Hot Chocolate
Say less. For many if not most, the phrase “Boozy Hot Chocolate” is enough for a “yes, please.” It is also, we discovered through rigorous testing, “a robust and durable template, one that practically begs for customization and there’s no one best way to do it.” You could just add a shot of whatever’s closest in reach to microwaved Swiss Miss and it would still be pretty good, but we spent some time decoding how to really make it shine. Make it according to our favorite recipe below, or check out all your options here.
- 6 oz. milk or cream
- 45 g. semi-sweet chocolate chips (weight is a much more accurate measure in this instance)
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1.5 oz. reposado or añejo tequila
Pre-warm your mug with some hot water. Add all ingredients (except alcohol) to a small saucepan over low heat and stir, taking care not to scald the milk. Empty the hot water from your mug and add 1.5 oz. alcohol. Once all the chocolate is dissolved and the temperature is where you want it (usually about 150 degrees—milk scalds at 170), pour hot chocolate into mug, stir briefly to combine and garnish with as many baby marshmallows as will fit.
Eggnog is a hard sell because most people have only had the bad kind, those boring and occasionally gross cartons that line the dairy section of the supermarket every December. Not to overstate it, but this is a tragedy. Our hot take: “[Eggnog is] ounce-for-ounce, one of the most outrageously delicious things you can drink.” If you like ice cream, you’ll like eggnog. Don’t just take our word for it—try it yourself according to the recipe below, or find out how long you can and perhaps should age it, here.
Separate the eggs and keep the whites to use somewhere else—like a merengue or your Whiskey Sour. Using an immersion blender or mixer, beat the yolks with the sugar in a large mixing bowl until the mixture lightens in color. Add dairy to a large bowl, then add the liquor and salt, then slowly beat in the egg mixture. Pour into glass jar or bottle and store in the fridge indefinitely. To serve, pour about 5 oz. into a small glass and garnish with some freshly grated nutmeg. Serves 24.
Mulled Apple Cider
Mulled Apple Cider cocktails are one of winter’s chief delights, worth making for the smell alone and preparing some for family or friends is practically a love language. It’s the perfect marriage of sweetness and spice, not only served hot but also given a boost from Irish whiskey, that, we write, “warms you from the inside in a way you otherwise can only get by watching videos of soldiers coming home to their dogs.” Click here to find out how most recipes get this cocktail so wrong, or just make it yourself the right way by following the recipe below:
- 1.5 oz. Irish whiskey
- 4.5 oz. hot mulled apple cider
- 1 oz. unsweetened half-whipped heavy cream
Pour whiskey and cider into a pre-heated mug, leaving a little less than one inch of room from the rim. Gently pour half-whipped unsweetened cream so it layers on top. Garnish with a pinch of ground cinnamon. Take a sip and reflect on how some parts of winter are actually pretty nice.
The French 75, we note, “is so deeply associated with celebrations that it’s practically intrinsic (to drink them is, in and of itself, a celebration).” What other choice could there be for New Years Eve? There are other cocktails, certainly, you could deploy—the Airmail and Old Cuban come to mind—but they’ve all studied at the feet of the French 75. Find out more about the three main variations here, or just make our favorite, below.
- 1 oz. Beefeater Gin
- 0.5 oz. lemon juice
- 0.5 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
- 3 oz. Champagne (real, French Champagne)
Shake first three ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled flute and top with about 3 oz. of chilled Champagne.
The Bloody Mary is the perfect a.m. drink, “the undisputed champion of airports and brunch,” we note and absent the vodka, “it’s honestly a fairly healthy way to start the day.” And while usally the squawkings of the marketing teams are usually to be ignored, the recent designation of January 1 as “National Bloody Mary Day” seems right. Besides, everyone knows that New Years Resolutions start on January 3rd. Find out what the one unbreakable rule of Bloody Marys is here, or first make one according to the recipe below..
- 1.5 oz. vodka
- 3-4 oz. tomato juice
- ½ tsp. to 1 tsp. horseradish, to taste
- ¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 0.5 oz. lemon juice
- 1-10 dashes of Sriracha
- 2 pinches black pepper
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch celery salt
Assemble the cocktail with ice in the glass you’ll drink it in and then roll it back and forth between that and another glass, mixing the ingredients without breathing too much air into the tomato juice. Do that five or six times and then garnish with a celery stalk and perhaps something ostentatious like a poached shrimp or a cheeseburger and enjoy.