Christine Dionese, co-author of “The Best Craft Cocktails & Bartending With Flair,” shares her tips for holiday bar essentials to help you create crafty cocktails your guests will be ordering long after the holiday season has passed!
Dilemma: You have creative cocktails on your mind for your holiday party- not another glass of eggnog or mulled cider. With a broad range of palates to please, you want to offer variety, but without coming home from the liquor store with every spirit lining the shelves. What’s a party entertainer to do?
You can always keep your bar fresh by switching out common garnishes for seasonal fruits, herbs and vegetables. During the winter holiday season, I love to stock the bar with organic and fresh ingredients such as blood orange, rhubarb, fir tree sprigs and juniper berries. Guests are always asking, “What are those wonderful fragrances?” A few base spirits will take you a long way behind the bar — it’s the unique mixers, syrups and garnishes that allow you to create variety to please the taste of guests.
Favorite spirits for holiday cocktails:
- St. Germain
- Champagne or Dry sparkling wine
- Cynar liqueur (Italian artichoke liqueur — can be substituted for Campari or for bitters. Add it to a classic martini instead of bitters and watch a pleasantly surprised look on guest’s faces)
- Fresh pressed or no sugar added:
- Cranberry juice
- Pineapple juice
- Orange juice
- Soda water
- Olive juice
- Almond milk
Ingredients you’ll want on your holiday bar:
- Peppermint xxtract (or oil)
- Almond extract
- Vanilla extract
- Raw honey
- Fresh rosemary
- Fresh ginger
- Seasonal citrus
- Pomegranate seeds
- Rhubarb stalks
- Fir tree sprigs
- Cinnamon powder
- Cacao powder
- Whiskey marinated cherries
To help break the ice and get guests mingling, serve a festive aperitif that will give them something to talk about. The scent of fir tree that dominates this craft cocktail will naturally invite guests through the door. A little tip for entertainers: Everyone loves to indulge, but often feel guilty after a long week of holiday party-going. When choosing glassware, opt for smaller sippers and tasters. To create a dramatic effect, use large wine glasses, but only pour about half a serving in each. This way guests can feel good about enjoying more than one.
Ahead of time tip. Grab an extra bottle of gin and vodka. In small mason jars you can create holiday infusions. In one jar mix vodka with fir tree sprig and in another, gin with rosemary. These are often enjoyed over ice without mixers or great to complement a sweeter juice.
All of these recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.
Yields 1 aperitif
- 2 oz fir tree infused gin (that you make ahead of time)
- ¼ oz Cynar
- 1 ½ oz soda water
- Splash of pineapple juice
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1 lemon wheel for garnish
- ½ fir tree sprig resting in the cocktail or weaved through the lemon wheel for presentation
Note: Fir will infuse quickly. You can add it to gin one week before your event or even as late as the morning of. Be sure to seal infusion tightly.
1. In a bar tin combine all ingredients over ice and shake for a 45 count. Pour and strain into aperitif glass.
2. Garnish and serve.
All That Glitters
Yields 1 cocktail
All That Glitters is light, crisp, and full of holiday flavor. And, if a guest is feeling a touch under the weather, you can up the ginger and clove and omit the champagne for a satisfying herbal decoction.
- 5 slices cucumber
- 3 wedges ginger plus 1 for garnish
- 3 cloves
- ¼ oz fresh squeezed pomelo or grapefruit juice
- ¼ oz St. Germain
- 3 oz champagne or sparkling wine
1. In a bar tin, combine ginger, cucumber, cloves and juices. Gently muddle until the ginger hits your nose.
2. Add St. Germain and ice to the bar tin. Shake vigorously for a count of 20, then transfer to a well-chilled, wide-bowled wine glass. Pour champagne in a circular motion along the ediges of the glass and garnish with 1 wedge ginger.
The Snow Cloud
Guests may be too full for dessert, but want more than a cup of coffee. The Snow Cloud will fool guests into thinking they’re having a decadent treat, but you’ll be sparing them the extra calories by shaking it up with vanilla almond milk.
Yields 1 cocktail
- 2 ½ oz vodka
- 1 ½ oz almond milk
- ½ tsp real vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 TBSP honey
- Lemon juice for garnish
- Colored sprinkles for garnish
1. While garnish is optional, now is the time to add it. Squeeze lemon onto flat dish to coat rim of glass. On another dish with the sprinkles, dip rim of glass.
2. In a bar tin, add all ingredients in order above. Shake vigorously for a 45 count, strain and pour into a stemless martini glass.
Really pressed for time, but still looking for a crafty cocktail to feature as guests enter? Try this:
Quick Fix “Dirty” Vodka Martini Sipper
It's an inviting nip of spicy and salty.
Yields 6 sippers
● 7 oz vodka
● 3.5-4 oz olive juice
● sliced white radish wheels along glass rim