Easy cocktail recipes for celebrating the holidays at home

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This is not the year for big Christmas parties, but that doesn’t mean that holidaymakers can’t create their own festivities at home with the help of seasonal cocktail recipes from around the globe.

From sweet treats to serious spiced drinks, here are CNBC Global Traveler’s picks for simple yet chic cocktails that can be prepared in small batches from now through the New Year.

Winterland                 

Fans of mint and white chocolate can relax with this frothy concoction from Peak 47 lounge located in upstate New York’s Whiteface Lodge. The resort is in Lake Placid, a well-known village in the Adirondack Mountains that hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.

Winterland.

Courtesy of Whiteface Lodge

  • 2 ounces vanilla vodka
  • 1 ounce white creme de menthe
  • 2 ounces white chocolate liqueur
  • White chocolate syrup
  • Crushed candy canes

Rim the edge of a martini glass with white chocolate syrup and dip it into crushed candy canes. Add crushed candy canes inside the glass for additional flavor. Set glass aside.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the vanilla vodka, white creme de menthe, and white chocolate liqueur. Shake and strain into the prepared martini glass. Serves one.

Mocha Honey Old Fashioned               

This drink from Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort leans heavily upon honey whiskey, a mix of whiskey and honey liqueur. Chocolate and cherries add depth and richness that are balanced by a splash of coffee-flavored Kahlua.

Mocha Honey Old Fashioned.

Courtesy of Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort

  • 4 ounces honey whiskey (recommended brand: Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey)
  • 0.5 ounce Kahlua
  • 1 ounce agave syrup (recommended brand: Monin)
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters
  • 2 black cherries
  • Dried orange slices and rosemary to garnish

Stir all ingredients with ice. Place fresh ice in a glass, and strain the cocktail into the glass. Garnish with orange and rosemary. Serves one.

Whiskey Winter                     

From Loews Boston Hotel in the city’s affluent Back Bay neighborhood, this recipe combines Kentucky bourbon whiskey with Portuguese fortified wine in a drink meant to warm even the coldest of winter nights.

  • 2 ounces bourbon (recommended brand: Maker’s Mark)
  • 1 ounce Madeira wine
  • 0.5 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • Ground nutmeg

Crack the egg into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously (about 20 times). Add the bourbon, Madeira wine, simple syrup and ice, and shake vigorously again. Strain the cocktail into a glass and sprinkle fresh nutmeg on top. Serves one.

Coquito                                                                  

Coquito.

Jose Rodriguez / EyeEm | EyeEm | Getty Images

  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 1 can of evaporated milk
  • 1 can of cream of coconut (recommended brand: Coco Lopez)
  • ½ cup of white rum (recommended brands: Don Q or Bacardi)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Cinnamon sticks to garnish

Mix all ingredients (except for the cinnamon sticks) in a blender on high for 1 to 2 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator until cold. Pour into small glasses, top with ground cinnamon and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Serves six to eight.

Festive Campfire

Singapore’s Ce La Vi is behind this sophisticated cocktail that is playfully crowned with a campfire-style toasted marshmallow. The restaurant and sky bar are on level 57 of the city’s renowned Marina Bay Sands, a hotel, shopping and conference complex that has won over 600 awards since opening in April 2010.

Festive Campfire.

Courtesy of Ce La Vi

  • 20 milliliters malt whisky (recommended brand: Monkey Shoulder)
  • 10 milliliters Martini Rosso vermouth
  • 10 milliliters crème de cacao
  • 10 milliliters ginger syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Marshmallows to garnish

Combine ingredients and stir. Pour over a large piece of ice in an old fashioned, or rocks, glass. Garnish with a marshmallow that has been toasted over a flame or placed under the oven broiler. Serves one.

Heavyweight Champ                                               

The name may not connote Christmas, but the ingredients do. This drink, from mixologist Caitlyn Jackson at Geraldine’s restaurant and rooftop bar in Austin, Texas, can be made two ways — hot and cold — depending on the climate and preference of the drinker.

Heavyweight Champ.

Courtesy of Geraldine’s

  • 4 ounces rye whiskey (recommended brand: Kooper Family Rye)
  • 1 ounce spiced pear liqueur (recommended brand: St. George)
  • 2 dashes apple bitters (recommended brand: Bar Keep)
  • 1.5 ounces gingerbread syrup
  • ½ cup lightly packed brown sugar
    – 1 cup granulated sugar  
    – 1½ cups of water
    – 6 tablespoons molasses
    – 2 teaspoons ground ginger
    – 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    – 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon sticks to garnish

To make the gingerbread syrup: Combine all ingredients in a pot. Heat until dissolved, then refrigerate. Keeps for seven days.

To make the cocktail:

Cold method — combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake to mix. Strain into a chilled glass and serve with a toasted cinnamon stick.

Hot method — combine all ingredients in a warmed toddy glass or mug. Add four ounces of hot water and serve with a toasted cinnamon stick. Serves two.

Winter Spritz     

Winter Spritz.

Courtesy of Hotel ZaZa Austin

  • 3 ounces Aperol
  • 4 ounces spiced orange ginger ale (recommended brand: Fever Tree)
  • 1 ounce Grand Marnier
  • 6 ounces prosecco
  • Orange peels and cinnamon sticks, to garnish

Fill a wine glass with ice. Add all ingredients and gently stir. Garnish with an orange peel and cinnamon stick. Serves two.

Spiced Gingerbread Iced Latte                    

The team at Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort recommends using Monin brand syrups in this pick-me-up holiday treat, though purists can opt to make their own syrups too. This recipe lacks alcohol, which makes it suitable for all ages, though Baileys Irish Cream, Frangelico or vodka can easily be added.

The hotel is located on South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island, voted the top island in the continental U.S. for four of the past five years by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine.  

Spiced Gingerbread Iced Latte.

Courtesy of Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort

  • 1 ounce gingerbread syrup (recommended brand: Monin)
  • 1 ounce cinnamon syrup (recommended brand: Monin)
  • 4 shots of espresso
  • 8 ounces milk
  • Whipped cream, cinnamon or gingerbread cookies, to garnish

Tumble, rather than shake, the ingredients in a cocktail shaker in a circular motion using two hands. Pour into a glass and top with whipped cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon powder and gingerbread cookie pieces. Serves one.

Mistletoe Mule                  

The team behind New York-based distillery Black Button Distilling created this simple year-end recipe that relies on quality gin mixed with hints of berries and citrus.

Mistletoe Mule.

Courtesy of Black Button Distilling

  • 4 ounces gin (recommended brand: Citrus Forward)
  • 2 ounces fresh lime juice
  • 4 dashes cranberry bitters
  • 8 ounces ginger beer
  • Cranberries and mint leaves, to garnish

Combine the gin, lime and bitters with ice and shake in a cocktail shaker. Pour into a mule mug and top with ginger beer. Garnish with skewered cranberries and mint leaves. Serves two.

Christmas Cake Negroni         

This festive variation of the classic cocktail comes courtesy of Bar 45 inside London’s 45 Park Lane hotel. The bar, which is located next to Hyde Park, closed on Dec. 20 after London and parts of southern England entered “Tier 4” Covid-19 restrictions which shuttered nonessential businesses.

Christmas Cake Negroni.

Courtesy of 45 Park Lane

  • 30 milliliters Cointreau
  • 6 milliliters maraschino liqueur 
  • 40 milliliters gin
  • 40 milliliters cinnamon-vanilla syrup
  • 6 dashes orange bitters
  • Orange peels

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add all ingredients except for the orange peels. Close and shake well. Using a strainer, pour the cocktail into a martini glass. Squeeze an orange peel on top of the drink, twist it and drop it into the glass. Serves two.

Fall Fashioned

From the Wisconsin golfing destination of Sand Valley comes an uncomplicated apple-based drink for bourbon lovers.

Fall Fashioned.

Courtesy of Sand Valley

  • 4 ounces bourbon (recommended brand: Knob Creek brand)
  • 1.5 ounces cider syrup
  • 6 dashes spiced apple bitters
  • Cinnamon sticks to garnish

Stir all ingredients in a glass with ice and strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick. Serves two.

For more inspiration

The Polar Plunge cocktail from “The Aviary: Holiday Cocktails.”

Courtesy of The Alinea Group

For serious cocktail connoisseurs — or anyone looking for a gift for one — “The Aviary: Holiday Cocktails” is 100 pages of new seasonal drink recipes from The Alinea Group, the team behind Chicago’s The Aviary bar and three Michelin-starred Alinea restaurant.

The book follows the company’s “The Aviary Cocktail Book,” a 2019 James Beard nominee for Best Beverage Book.  



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