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Try making a hot cider punch for a delicious holiday cocktail. Stock photo
Try making a hot cider punch for a delicious holiday cocktail. Stock photo
Cheers! North CountyColumnsFood & Wine

A Cheers! Christmas: Holiday cocktail ideas

When this column is printed, I will be firmly ensconced in a lounge chair near a fireplace. Snowflakes will accumulate out the window, and I will listen to the family argue over which puzzle to put together. I’m looking forward to the holidays because I’m filled with the “holiday spirit” for the first time in my adult life.

I’ve embraced the lights, the matching holiday onesies, and the tree. It’s an old Snoopy tree that has seen better days, but still.

My nights have been filled with both classic and nauseatingly nostalgic holiday movies. I’ve already watched the Lindsay Lohan one, “Elf,” “Die Hard,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Scrooged,” and one with Zach Morris from “Saved By the Bell.”

During my transition from holiday cynic to holiday enthusiast, I learned that it takes a lot of time and energy to be filled with the season’s joy. So much time and energy that my efforts as the family bartender seem to be flagging.

I don’t want to make a half dozen gingerbread white Russians every half hour, so I’ve been leaning into the idea of batch cocktails for the rest of the season. Here are my favorites for ease, beauty and time of day.

Mornings 

Along with an enormous French press filled with Zumbar Coffee & Tea’s Hummingbird blend coffee, fill the punch bowl with a Christmas Mimosa. I always wonder what makes it a “Christmas” mimosa. I assume that it is the red color.

This batch only requires three ingredients with forgiving ratios and a few optional garnishes, making it perfect for mixing up early in the morning before my eyes are fully open. It looks pretty, tastes sweet and tart, and with a rosemary garnish, reminds the drinker of the Rockwellian holiday scene.

Dump all the following ingredients into a big bowl, rim some champagne glasses (or coffee mugs) with sugar, and let the masses ladle up in the kitchen.

Christmas Mimosa

  • 2 parts cranberry juice
  • 2 parts champagne
  • 1 part orange liqueur like Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Optional garnishes: fresh sprig of rosemary, sugared cranberries

Midday

Candy canes are an iconic holiday hard candy and a nice minty treat right after second breakfast or first lunch. Don’t judge. It’s the holidays. The candy cane legend goes back 350 years when a choirmaster in Cologne, Germany, asked a local candy maker for something to shut up those dang kids during church services.

Candy Cane White Russian

  • 4 parts whole milk (or milk alternative)
  • 2 parts coffee liqueur (like Kahlua)
  • 2 parts peppermint schnapps

Optional garnish: crushed Candy Cane around the rim

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients in a large serving bowl
  • Serve on the rocks in a tall cocktail glass with a Candy Cane or crushed Candy Cane around the rim.

Evenings

Want an easy-peasy cocktail? Buy pre-made cider. Do you need a break from the family for a few minutes but haven’t smoked a cigarette since college? Blend it yourself.

Do you want something with the sweetness of brandy or the burn of whiskey? With a batch of Hot Cider Punch, you’ve got options that end with a drink sure to ward off the chill of the winter wind blowing in from the Pacific. Pro-tip: Top with whipped cream and a caramel-dipped slice of apple.

Hot Cider Punch

  • 3 parts apple juice
  • 1 part orange juice
  • ½ part pineapple juice
  • 1 part booze of your choice. I recommend, in order: brandy, whiskey, cognac, and spiced rum. Substitute ginger beer for alcohol to make a non-alcoholic punch.
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 teaspoons whole clove
  • 2 teaspoons allspice

Optional garnishes: dash of nutmeg, whipped cream, caramel-dipped apple slice, cinnamon stick

Directions:

  • Put ingredients in a pasta or sauce pot on the stove.
  • Turn on low and stir slowly until brown sugar is fully dissolved and the punch is hot (approximately 7-10 minutes).
  • Serve hot in a coffee mug topped with your favorite garnishes
  • Note: If you don’t want any spices (not the brown sugar) in your mug, put them into a tea ball or cheesecloth bag before dropping them in the pot.

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