Spread some Christmas cheer this year by saying cheers with a cracking tipple made with your own fair hands.
Whether you like your cocktails with breakfast or before dinner, we’ve got you covered. Newsweek spoke to Washington, D.C.–based mixologist and cocktail pioneer Derek Brown. He is the founder of Positive Damage Inc., which focuses on mindful drinking, and was the owner of the Columbia Room, a bar in D.C.
The first mention of the cocktail as a beverage was in 1798 in a London newspaper. It definitely contained ginger but may not have had any alcohol.
Cocktails are synonymous with many occasions, but Christmas drinks possibly go back to pagan pre-Christmas celebrations of the fifth century, and there are many traditions involving specific drinks at this time of year.
One of the carols we sing today, “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” which some believe dates back to the 17th century, involves such a tradition, according to Brown.
“There are some great traditions around Christmas and drinks,” he said. “This carol goes, ‘Our wassail cup is made of the rosemary tree. And so is your beer of the best barley.’”
All of the cocktails below can be made as either alcoholic or nonalcoholic drinks, Brown said.
“Unfortunately, sober or sober-ish people are often relegated to the sidelines during the holidays, when connecting with others is more important than ever,” he said. “I believe if they feel comfortable drinking them they should have access to nonalcoholic adult sophisticated drinks. That means they can celebrate with everyone else. Their drinks look as beautiful and taste as great as drinks with alcohol. No one will know the difference but them.”
Here’s how to jazz up your Christmas drinks offerings, whether you or your guests are drinking or not.
Champagne is always festive, but most people don’t think of it as a holiday cocktail. It’s often reserved for New Year’s Eve. That’s a shame because it’s beautiful, makes a delicious cocktail and doesn’t pack the wallop of higher-alcohol cocktails.
- 1 sugar cube
- 6 dashes aromatic bitters
- 4 ounces Brut Champagne (or a nonalcoholic sparkling wine alternative such as Thomson & Scott “Noughty” Sparkling Chardonnay)
- Lemon peel for garnish
Coat a sugar cube with bitters and add to a wine glass. Pour the chilled Champagne over cube and garnish with lemon peel.
Red Wine Sangaree
The sangaree shares one thing with sangria—their names are derived from the Latin word for blood—but that’s it. Save your fruit with this one. But do grab that wine in the back of the fridge your friend brought for a dinner party but you never drank.
- 3 ounces syrah blend or another full-bodied dry red wine (or a red wine alternative such as Thomson & Scott “Noughty” Rouge)
- ½ ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled until the granules evaporate)
- 1 dash fresh lemon juice
- Freshly grated nutmeg
Combine wine, simple syrup and lemon juice in a double rocks glass, add ice and stir.
Top with freshly grated nutmeg.
Yule Glogg (Served Hot)
This is the quintessential mulled wine. Some call it glüwhein or vin chaud. You can add aquavit or rum for more heft, but it’s delicious as is.
- 1 bottle of red wine (or a red wine alternative such as Thomson & Scott “Noughty” Rouge)
- 1 tsp. crushed cardamom seeds
- 2 tsp. cloves
- ½ tsp. grated ginger
- 2 tsp. grated orange zest
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- ½ cup whole almonds, blanched
- ½ cup seedless raisins
- ½ cup brown sugar
Combine the spices and zest in a satchel or folded cheesecloth that you can tie with string. Heat wine to a boil and then add the spice sack. Once the sack is added, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add in almonds (optional), sugar and raisins. Cook for an additional five to 10 minutes while stirring. Remove from heat and serve liquid hot in a mug, ladling almonds and raisins in each glass. Serve with a spoon.
Let’s not let Uncle Jack down—or anyone else who has given up alcohol. This one can be made with bourbon, but there are also wonderful bourbon alternatives. Either way, the ginger gives it a nice kick.
- 2 ¼ oz. bourbon (or a bourbon alternative such as Spiritless Kentucky 74)
- ¼ oz. ginger syrup
- 3 dashes aromatic bitters
- Orange peel
Combine in double-rocks glass and add ice. Stir until chilled.
Twelfth Night Cider (Served Hot)
This delicious cider is enough to make you go out wassailing even though it has zero alcohol. If you want, you can add a half shot (.75 ounces) of bourbon, brandy or rum per serving to satisfy your alcohol-drinking friends.
- One gallon unfiltered nonalcoholic apple cider
- One vanilla bean split lengthwise
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 6 whole cloves
- 6 inches fresh ginger sliced
- 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- One lemon spiral (whole peel of lemon)
- 4 baked honey crisp apples*
Tie spices in cheesecloth and add to liquid. Boil ingredients for 15 minutes and strain. Add baked apples to cider. Ladle and serve hot in a mug with a cinnamon stick.
*Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add apple cider to the bottom of the baking dish along with half a teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and half a cup of brown sugar. Cut holes in the apple core and add the cinnamon stick. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of apples, and periodically baste with liquid.
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