Getting together for the holidays — whether it’s with friends, family, or both — is made all the better with the right drink. A few bottles of sparkling wine will surely be present, but sometimes the occasion calls for something a little stronger. A quality spirit and a house cocktail simply elevates a whole get together.
These are the bottles (and the cocktails to make with them) that bartenders, beverage directors, and other spirits experts suggest adding to your holiday party drink menu.
Holiday Eggnog With Diplomatico Reserva
It doesn’t get much more classic than a proper Eggnog. Hedges has spent more than 15 years developing and running Michelin-rated beverage programs in New York, is the author of the forthcoming book The Seasonal Cocktail, and is a founding partner at the full-service beverage consulting firm Bar IQ. His cocktail approach lets quality ingredients shine, and his Eggnog recipe is no exception.
“A bottle of heavy and robust dark rum should always be on hand around the holiday season,” Hedges says. “And if there’s a time to indulge in heavy cream, sugar, and flavorful nutmeg, this is it. Eggnog is the official holiday season dram — best enjoyed when ladled out of a communal bowl.”
Holiday Eggnog Recipe:
- 12 large eggs
- 18 ounces superfine sugar
- 1 liter Diplomatico Reserva or other dark rum
- 36 ounces whole milk
- 24 ounces heavy cream
- Freshly grated nutmeg
In a blender, beat eggs until smooth, then add sugar and blend until dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients except the nutmeg and refrigerate overnight. Ladle out of a large bowl into small glasses. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
Irish Coffee With Lost Irish Whiskey
Who: Justin Elliott, director of craft collection luxury spirits for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Texas, CSS, WSET 2 Spirits
“While the Espresso Martini is certainly the most popular kid in the current class of caffeinated cocktails, the classically made Irish Coffee remains as elegant and satisfying as ever and deserves a look this season,” Elliott says. “One of the top three most acceptable alcoholic beverages to consume before noon, but equally at home after a large holiday dinner, it’s beguiling in its simplicity: sugar, coffee, thickened cream, and of course a high-quality Irish whiskey.”
Elliott keeps Lost Irish Whiskey around the house. It’s aged in casks sourced from all six habitable continents while “the whiskey itself still immediately registers as Irish,” he says.
“That almost leathery note from the unmalted barley in the blend transports this drinker, anyway, back to holidays spent in Irish pubs in Queens,” Elliott says. Put on The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’ — the unquestionable king of all Christmas songs — and if anyone at your party doesn’t know the words, they darn sure will before the night is though! ‘The boys of the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay,’ indeed.”
Classic Irish Coffee Recipe
- 1 cup of hot coffee
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1.5 ounces of Irish whiskey
- Whipped heavy cream
Pour the coffee into your drinking vessel of choice, leaving enough room for the whiskey and cream. Stir in the sugar and whiskey, and then top with whipped heavy cream.
Who: Justin Elliott
Bottle Suggestion: O.P. Anderson Original or Krogstad Aquavit
“Living in central Texas as I do, where truly blustery winter weather is in generally short supply,” Elliott says. “Sometimes I get this impulse to drink something that’ll transport me somewhere truly arctic — that’s where aquavit comes in. Famously consumed around the holidays in its native Scandinavia, this traditional spirit is distilled much like a gin. But instead of juniper as the primary botanical, these are dominated by savory caraway and often further augmented by dill, fennel, anise, or a host of others.”
“I keep the Krogstad in my freezer,” Elliot says. “Both expressions are well suited to cocktails, especially savory ones (an aquavit Bloody Mary is a remarkable thing, and you may well need a Bloody Buddy the morning after your holiday shindig) but are most at home in a shot glass, so pour a round for everyone at the party and, like the Holiday Vikings you are, shout ‘skål!’ and throw ’em back.”
Select Spritz With Select Aperitivo
Who: Vicki Denig, wine and spirits journalist
“For numerous reasons, my go-to cocktail for holiday parties is hands down a Select Spritz,” says Denig, a New York- and Paris-based wine and spirits journalist. “First and foremost, the recipe’s 3-2-1 recipe (three parts Prosecco, two parts Select Aperitivo, and one part sparkling water) is super easy to remember (as well as make on the fly) and the drink’s bubbly, refreshing flavor profile is perfect for keeping satiated all evening long. Select Aperitivo is similar to Campari, though it clocks in at a lower ABV, making the cocktail even more fitting for long, booze-filled holiday gatherings. And to top it all off, the red hue of the drink adds the perfect festive touch.”
Select Spritz Recipe
- 3 ounces Prosecco
- 2 ounces Select Spritz
- 1 ounce sparkling water
Mix all of the ingredients into a glass, add ice, and stir.
Thomas Ashbourne Craft Spirits
Who: Nico de Soto, award-winning bartender and Thomas Ashbourne Craft Spirits creative director
Sometimes the best thing to do for a large group is to let someone else handle the cocktail making. Luckily, living in an era that is arguably peak ready-to-drink cocktail, there are options that taste as good as something that you’d get from the bar.
“What’s great about Thomas Ashbourne Craft Spirits is that the portfolio consists of different cocktails that suit different tastes and personalities,” says Nico de Soto, an award-winning French bartender and the creative director for the brand. “They are all made with a high-proof, distilled spirit bases and all natural ingredients, so whichever bottle you reach for, guests are in for a quality, well-balanced and consistent cocktail.”
Big Apple Rye Manhattan and a Sazerac Toddy
Who: Jacob Melinger, bar manager at Botanica in Brooklyn
Bottle suggestion: Widow Jane Oak & Apple Wood Rye
“Widow Jane’s Oak & Apple Wood Rye is an astounding gift to bring to a holiday party,” Melinger says. “Toasted pecan and apple blossom on the nose, orange peel, vanilla, and ginger on the finish. If you’ve never had a Manhattan made with it, you’re sorely missing out.”
Melinger suggests letting the bottle play double duty after your Manhattan, too, for a cold-weather classic. The two most classic holiday drink styles that have stood the test of time are either hot or creamy. For the former, a toddy does just the drink. Sure, you can just add some whiskey to hot water or tea and a squeeze of lemon and honey. But taking the toddy up a notch like Melinger does with a Sazerac Toddy makes for something even better.
Big Apple Rye Manhattan Recipe
- 2.5 ounces Widow Jane Oak & Apple Wood Rye
- .75 ounces sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes aromatic bitters
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a cherry
Sazerac Toddy Recipe
- 1.5 ounces Widow Jane Oak & Apple Wood Rye
- 2 sugar cubes
- 4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 4 to 5 ounces hot water
Rinse tempered mug with absinthe. Combine sugar cubes, bitters, and rye in a glass.Top with hot water, stir until sugar is dissolved, and then garnish with lemon wheel and star anise pod.
Closing Argument with Mezcal Vago Espadin
Who: Jacob Melinger
“For the clear spirit drinkers, go with a bottle of Mezcal Vago Espadín,” Melinger says. “Crafted in small batches by Mezcaleros who truly know their agave and distill some of the best Mezcal available on the market. Velvety smoke with earthy citrus notes, this bottle is equally great for nosing by the fire and shaking things up.”
Closing Argument Recipe:
- 1 ounce Mezcal Vago Espadín
- .75 ounce Dolin Génépy
- .75 ounces Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
- .75 ounces lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin and shake until chilled. Double strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with three spiked maraschino cherries.
Solstice Old Fashioned With Don Q 7 Year Rum
Who: Chris Hannah, Tales of the Cocktail Best U.S. Bartender winner and owner-bartender at Jewel of the South in New Orleans
“Don Q 7 Year is a solid bottle of sipping rum from Puerto Rico everyone hosting a party will be proud to feature,” Hannah says. “The bottle itself will be a sexy focal point to bring to the party, but it’s the proper Puerto Rican rum inside that friends attending will enjoy the most; molasses, vanilla, and oak both on the nose and palate make this Rum perfect for the holidays. Have your feature holiday party cocktail be a Solstice Old Fashioned.”
Solstice Old Fashioned Recipe:
- 2 ounces Don Q 7
- A healthy quarter-ounce of maple syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Orange peel
Pour the first 2 ingredients over an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Stir. Zest orange peel over the old-fashioned and garnish.
Jersey 75 With Laird’s 7 1/2 year Brandy
Who: Chris Hannah
“Laird’s 7 1/2 Year Brandy is a staple expression from the oldest distillery in America, and that’s probably why they get away with the ‘and a half’ year statement,” Hannah says. “This American apple brandy is great for holiday parties because of its spirit’s versatility. You can sip Laird’s 7 1/2 year Apple Brandy neat, on the rocks, or in an Old Fashioned. The best part of picking up this bottle is you can do all the previous three and still bring Champagne into the mix. After all, December is for celebrating.”
Jersey 75 Recipe:
- 1.25 ounces Laird’s 7 1/2 year
- .50 ounces lemon Juice
- .25 ounces simple syrup (or 2 sugar cubes)
- 3 ounces sparkling cider (or sparkling wine)
Shake the first three ingredients and top with the sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon peel.