Christmas Cocktails

Whether it’s your first time hosting Christmas Eve or you’re throwing your 10th annual Ugly Sweater Holiday Party, there’s nothing better than getting all of your friends and family together at the holidays. However, even the most experienced hostess will admit she’s spent far too much time and energy coming up with a signature Christmas cocktail. To help you out, the team at Minted has pulled together our favorite Christmas drink recipes for 2020 that will be sure to delight every palate and preference. We’ve also added our favorite serving suggestions to make sure these look as good as they taste. Here’s to making merry all season long, and cheers!

(P.S. Many of these winter cocktails pair perfectly with our various Christmas party themes.)

Classic Christmas Cocktails

Champagne Cocktail

Nothing says celebration like a bottle of bubbles, and this is an easy way to dress up a glass of champagne. People have been pouring this drink recipe since the 1800s, so it truly is a Christmas original! These are easy to have waiting for guests as they arrive. We recommend using a wine tag so each guest can keep track of their own glass.

Ingredients:

  • Champagne (or Sparkling Wine - we won’t tell anyone!)
  • Sugar cubes (1 per glass)
  • Bitters
  • Lemon peel or twist

Directions:
1. Lay out sugar cubes on top of wax paper or napkins.
2. Sprinkle with bitters until soaked through.
3. Gently drop cubes into individual flutes or glasses.
4. Pour to fill with champagne.
5. Rim with lemon and use it as a garnish.

To make these drinks look extra professional, look in your local grocery or liquor store for a channeling knife. They are the easiest tool for getting the perfect lemon twist and don’t take up much space in crowded kitchen drawers.

Eggnog

This is a true classic. Many of you may have tried Eggnog at some point in your lives, but we promise you, this is the best eggnog you’ll ever try. We’ve adapted it for the dairy-free set with a few modifications. The trick? Channeling your inner Ina Garten and using fresh vanilla beans, whole cloves, and grated nutmeg to bring out the holiday taste.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups 1% lowfat milk
  • 4-5 strips of orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 shots bourbon or rum (but if they’re heavy pours, no one will mind)
  • ⅓ cup sugar, optional
  • 1 nutmeg seed (or ground nutmeg), grated to taste

Directions:
1. Pour milk into a medium saucepan along with orange zest, vanilla bean and cloves. Steep for 4-5 minutes as you gradually bring up to boil.
2. Whisk together the egg yolks with sugar (if you prefer it sweeter) until the sugar is completely dissolved and the yolks are frothy and pale yellow in color.
3. Remove milk mixture from the heat and slowly add to egg yolks through a sieve, whisking vigorously to incorporate air. We don’t want the eggs to start cooking or for you to drink the cloves!
4. Once the mixture is fully tempered, pour it back into the saucepan over medium heat and cook until thickened, about 6-8 minutes. Stir frequently.
5. Remove from the heat, stir in your liquor of choice, and transfer to a bowl in the fridge to chill completely.
6. Once the mixture is cool, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Whisk the egg whites into the cooled mixture, grate nutmeg generously over the top, and serve! Cooked eggnog should keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

For a dairy free option, substitute coconut milk for the regular milk. We recommend using the full-fat version in the can so the texture is right!

Brandy Alexander

While a little less well known, this is the ultimate after-dinner drink. Simple, elegant, and served in a martini glass or coupe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 shot cognac
  • ⅔ shot creme de cacao
  • ⅔ shot cream or milk
  • Cherry, for garnish
  • Ice

Directions:
1. Pour all ingredients over ice in shaker.
2. Shake vigorously (for show!)
3. Pour into well-chilled glass
4. Garnish with a trio of cranberries

For those that are really looking for a dessert, you can top with whipped cream, cherries, and chocolate chunks.

Hot Buttered Rum

What is amazing about hot buttered rum is that it is more or less undercooked caramel with rum. Salty and sweet, it’s perfect to keep warm and allow your guests to help themselves throughout the night. Traditionally this is served with dark rum, but you can use spiced rum for an extra punch of flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ⅔ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup dark rum

Directions:
1. Bring all ingredients less rum to boil in a large saucepan. Reduce to simmer and whisk frequently, cooking for ten minutes.
2. Remove from heat and stir in rum.
3. Keep warm over low heat flame to serve.

Everyone’s palate is a little different, so you may want to adjust the proportions of sugar, spice & salt to your liking. We recommend making a practice batch of this one. The good news is that you don’t have to share!

Caroler’s Delight (Spiked Hot Cocoa)

This recipe is just as good bottled up in a thermos as it is served in charming holiday mugs. We’ve taken the best hot chocolate recipe we could find and added a little bit of peppermint schnapps to make it taste like Christmas Eve.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 8 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet baking chocolate bars, chopped into very small pieces
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup Peppermint Schnapps

Directions:
1. Add milk and sugar into a large saucepan.
2. Heat up milk mixture until almost boiling (180 degrees if you have a candy thermometer). Do not let the milk boil!
3. Remove milk from heat and add in chopped chocolate, whisking vigorously to achieve a creamy texture.
4. Whisk in schnapps.
5. Keep warm over low heat to serve.

If you’re not taking this to go, we like to set up a hot chocolate “bar” with different garnishes and goodies that guests might like to have with their hot chocolate. A few of our favorites? Crushed peppermint bark, whipped cream, cherries, chocolate chunks, and ground cinnamon.

Festive & New Christmas Cocktails

Champagne-infused Fizzy Fruit

This is the best party-trick out there, and is probably one of the easiest recipes on our cocktail list. All of your guests will ask for your secret, as this festive fruit drink is a Christmas cocktail you will want to sink your teeth into. For Christmastime, we’ve focused on red berries, but this works just as well in summer with watermelon and pineapple.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Raspberries
  • 1 cup Strawberries
  • 2 ounces Champagne or Sparkling Wine
  • Whipping Siphon

Directions:
1. Add fruit and champagne to whipping siphon.
2. Charge the siphon by adding a nitrous oxide cartridge and pull the trigger to increase pressure in the siphon.
3. Put the siphon in your fridge to chill for one hour or more. If you’re in a hurry, you can also do 10 minutes in the freezer.
4. Remove from fridge, release the pressure, and serve.

Serve in a champagne glass for everyone to grab and eat! If you want to double down on champagne, these also work well as an edible garnish to pop into glasses of bubbles for a festive touch.

Yule Rye & Pine

Inspired by one of our favorite drinks in San Francisco, the bartenders at True Laurel wouldn’t spill their secret recipe, but we have done our best at a recreation. Don’t let the toasted coconut fool you, this is the perfect small-batch holiday cocktail: woody, spicy, and with a hint of pine. Finish with a garnish of rosemary for a modern, holiday aesthetic.

Ingredients:

  • Toasted Coconut Rye:
    • 3.5 tablespoons coconut flakes
    • 750ml bottle of rye
  • Gin (botanical or pine forward)
  • Vermouth
  • Absinthe
  • Rosemary sprigs for garnish

Directions:
1. Rinse glass with vermouth and empty.
2. Combine 1 shot Toasted Coconut Rye (Directions below), ½ shot gin, and splash of absinthe over ice in shaker. Shake vigorously.
3. Pour over ice in an old-fashioned glass and garnish with a single rosemary sprig on the side of the glass.

For Toasted Coconut Rye:
1. Toast coconut flakes over low heat for 3-5 minutes in medium saucepan.
2. Pour toasted coconut into bottle of rye (you may need to drink or pour a little out for it to fit). Allow to sit and infuse for 2-7 days*

*If you want a shortcut, you can speed up the infusion process by putting the bottle in a hot water bath for 2 hours, cooling it, and then straining it out. If you need an even quicker fix, you can add the toasted coconut flakes directly to your drink. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll still taste great!

Misty’s Sleeve

While the flavors in this drink are more reminiscent of a tropical holiday, this drink earns the title of a Christmas cocktail for its beautiful red-pink hue. This is perfect for those in warm-weather climates or who are looking for a break from wintry flavors.

Ingredients:

  • Hibiscus-infused tequila:
    • Half bottle of tequila blanca
    • 4 tablespoons dried hibiscus, 1 tablespoon preserved
  • 1 shot ginger liqueur (we prefer Domaine de Canton)
  • 1 shot orange liqueur (Triple Sec or Grand Marnier)
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1.5 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 drops green habanero hot sauce

Directions:
1. Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker over ice.
2. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass or highball.

Hibiscus-infused tequila:
1. Add 3 tablespoons dried hibiscus to tequila and cover.
2. Allow to sit and infuse for 60-90 minutes. Do not leave any longer or the tequila will become bitter.

This drink looks beautiful served with a salt rim that has been blended with some of the crushed and dried hibiscus. While this recipe has been scaled down for a single serving, this is a great drink to make in large batches and serve as a festive holiday punch!

Carajillo

A perennial favorite in Spain, this drink is slowly spreading westward. Not too sweet, this is the perfect drink for before a celebration or late in the night for a festive pick-me-up. In line with our international theme, be sure to read up on some interesting Christmas traditions from around the world.

Ingredients:

  • 1 shot espresso
  • 1 shot Licor 43
  • Ice (optional)

Directions:
1. If you’re looking for a cold drink, pour espresso and Licor 43 over ice in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously, and serve in a highball over ice.
2. If you want something to warm you up, pour Licor 43 directly into warm espresso in an espresso cup and stir gently before enjoying.

If you want to add a festive touch, we love serving the warm version of these with a candy cane spoon, which you can find at most online retailers and baking specialty stores.

Christmas Cocktails with Vodka

Candy Cane Martini

We searched far and wide, and we found the perfect peppermint-y martini that isn’t too sweet. The Chambord in this recipe lends the drink a beautiful red hue and adds a delicious raspberry punch. Plus, your guests will get a kick out of the peppermint rim!

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz white creme de menthe
  • ½ oz Chambord or other raspberry liqueur
  • ¼ oz simple syrup
  • Crushed candy cane

Directions:
1. Rub simple syrup around the rim of a martini glass.
2. Dip glass into crushed candy cane.
3. Pour vodka, creme de menthe, and Chambord into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into prepared glasses.

To crush your candy canes and avoid making a mess, we recommend putting 2-3 in a Ziploc bag and rolling vigorously over them with a heavy rolling pin. If you don’t have simple syrup around or don’t feel like making it, agave syrup is a quick and easy substitute.

Merry Mule

Equal parts holiday-spiced and refreshing, this holiday take on a traditional mule makes it an approachable and delicious Christmas Cocktail that all your guests will love. We love serving these in the traditional copper mugs with a sugared cranberry garnish. Skewer the cranberries on a rosemary or thyme sprig, and guests can use it as a stirrer. We’ve added how to make these beautiful tart bites below.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 3 oz ginger beer
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ½ oz cranberry juice
  • Sugared cranberries, for garnish

Directions:
1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously over ice.
2. Strain into glass and serve with skewered sugared cranberries.

For the sugared cranberries, add cranberries to a bowl of simple syrup and fold to coat. Spread cranberries on a cooling rack stacked on a baking sheet to drip and dry for an hour. Roll in another bowl of sugar and remove with a slotted spoon.

White Russian

While not just a Christmas cocktail, this is one of those recipes that guests tend to love as temperatures drop and you need a dessert drink that’s a little more indulgent. We love taking the time to get the professional, layered look.

Ingredients:

  • 1 shot vodka
  • 1 shot Kahlua
  • ½ shot heavy cream
  • Ice

Directions:
1. Fill an old fashioned glass with ice
2. Add vodka and Kahlua
3. Place spoon in the glass and leave a little space between the edge of the spoon and the glass.
4. Slowly pour the cream down the back of the spoon, moving the spoon upward so it doesn’t disturb the cream layers in place below it as the glass fills up

Don’t fret if some of the cream escapes that top layer. It usually creates a beautiful wispy cloud effect that looks blustery and wintery. Your guests will need stirrers to enjoy these drinks, so we recommend having some festive ones on hand.

Christmas Cocktails with Gin

Cranberry Christmas Martini

In addition to cranberry, this recipe includes sloe gin, which isn’t gin at all. It’s actually a red-colored liqueur distilled from the sloe berry, which is a nice compliment to the juniper berry taste you get from gin. It’ll only make this drink slightly pink-tinged, but it’s still lovely and festive.

Ingredients:

  • 1 shot gin
  • 0.5 oz sloe gin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cranberry jelly or 2-3 fresh cranberries
  • Lemon peel and twist

Directions:
1. If using fresh cranberries, muddle fresh cranberries with gin and pour muddled mixture into a cocktail shaker.
2. Add all other ingredients and ice to cocktail shaker (including jelly if not using fresh cranberries).
3. Shake vigorously until cold and strain into a martini glass.
4. Rub lemon peel over rim of glass and garnish with a twist.

If you really want to look like a professional bartender, peel your lemon directly over the serving glass to ensure all of the essential oils end up in your finished product.

Pomegranate Gin Fizz

This is perhaps the most visually stunning cocktail on our list, as it comes out a vibrant, bright red thanks to the pomegranate juice. If you really want to take it up a notch, we like to garnish with a few raspberries or edible flowers that have been touched with flecks of edible gold. You can usually find the shiny stuff at a baking specialty store. Lightly wet a paintbrush to grab gold flecks and transfer them to the raspberries for a chic and special touch.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 oz (a little less than a shot glass) sparkling water
  • 2.5 oz gin
  • Pomegranate seeds, orange wedges, and thyme

Directions:
1. Add all ingredients except for pomegranate seeds and thyme springs into a cocktail shaker over ice.
2. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini or old-fashioned glass.
3. Sprinkle in pomegranate seeds, orange wedge, and 1-2 sprigs of thyme for garnish.

Santa’s Vesper

Much like James Bond, the holiday international man of mystery needs a refined drink after a night of delivering presents all over the world. This take on the classic doesn’t alter much, but adds a little holiday flair by using Lillet Rouge, a red, fruit-forward member of the Lillet family that looks absolutely beautiful.

Ingredients:

  • 1 shot gin (botanical-forward)
  • ½ shot vodka
  • ½ shot Lillet Rouge
  • Orange Peel
  • Whole Cloves
  • Star Anise

Directions:
1. Stud an orange peel with 5-6 whole cloves. The best way to do this is to use a toothpick to puncture small holes and then push the stem ends of the cloves through.
2. Add gin, vodka, and Lillet Rouge to a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake vigorously.
3. Strain over fresh ice in an old-fashioned glass and add the studded orange peel and one star anise.

As you might imagine, the impact of this cocktail is very much in the holiday garnish. However, unlike many garnishes, these serve to bring out the flavors of the gin and spice of the Christmas-y nature of this cocktail. Don’t skip this step!

Christmas Cocktails with Whiskey

Mrs. Claus’ Spiced Hot Toddy

While sometimes it’s best not to mess with a classic, we love this take on a hot toddy. The key here is to make your own simple syrup with a kick of chili in addition to traditional spices so you get that extra punch of heat.

Ingredients:

  • Spiced Simple Syrup
    • ½ cup water
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 2-3 slices of peeled fresh ginger
    • ½ teaspoon whole cloves
    • 1 dried chipotle chile (or chile de arbol if you’re really looking for more spice!)
  • 1 shot bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (a little less than half a lemon)
  • ¼ cup boiling water

Directions:
1. Start by making your spiced simple syrup. Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until sugar is fully dissolved and syrup starts to thicken. Remove from heat and let steep for at least 30 minutes. Strain out spices and set aside.
2. Pour bourbon, lemon juice, and a tablespoon of spiced simple syrup in a mug.
3. Pour in hot water and stir until the spiced syrup is dissolved.

We love to garnish this with a dried lemon or orange slice, which you can get at your grocery store. You can also make these at home by slicing thin, sprinkling with sugar, and drying out in a 200-degree oven for 2 to 2 ½ hours. If you want even more holiday spice, you can serve this with a cinnamon stick to stir and add extra flavor.

Spiked Whiskey Cider

While most people associate apple picking with the fall, cider is still the ideal vehicle for holiday mulling spices given how well apples play with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. This is a simple recipe that you can make in a big batch and keep warm on the stove or in a crock pot for guests to serve themselves.

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon apple cider (or apple juice)
  • 1 large orange cut into thin slices
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 4-5 star anise
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 4-5 slices of peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups whiskey

Directions:
1. Add all ingredients except whiskey to a dutch oven and bring to a boil.
2. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 2-3 hours.*
3. Strain out orange and spices.
4. Return to dutch oven over low heat and stir in whiskey.

*If you would like to cook this in a crock pot instead, set on high and let cook 4-6 hours, reducing to low if the mixture reaches a rolling boil.

For a cute touch, we love serving this in mismatched Christmas mugs. Just put out your collection and let your guests choose whichever they like best! If you don’t have a mug collection, you can usually find cute holiday-themed mugs in your local thrift store that will spark nostalgia and serve as great conversation starters.

Maple Whiskey Sour

The real beauty of this drink comes from the foamy whipped egg whites that give it a refreshing bite and balances out the thick, sweet maple syrup taste. You have to be ready to put some muscle into it, though, as you don’t get that beautiful foam unless your really give this Christmas cocktail an aggressive shake!

Ingredients:

  • 1 shot bourbon
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • ½ oz egg white
  • 1 shake of ground cinnamon
  • Angostura bitters, for garnish

Directions:
1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
2. Shake heartily until egg white is fully incorporated and the sour looks foamy.
3. Pour straight up into an old fashioned glass or coupe. Shake 2-3 dashes of bitters over the top.

The Naughty List

This list needs a little more explanation than our other Christmas cocktails. These are drinks that are more fun than delicious, but will be an instant party-starter!

The Grinch

Using Midori to achieve the Grinch’s eponymous green coloring, this drink can be even more fun if you use whipped cream to draw some Grinch-y eyes staring back at you from the glass.

Ingredients:

  • 1 shot Midori
  • 1 shot Vodka
  • 1 shot Lemon Juice (1 half of a lemon)
  • 3 cherries, stems removed
  • Whipped cream in a piping bag, siphon, or pressurized canister

Directions:
1. Add one cherry to the bottom of a martini glass
2. Combine Midori, vodka, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass.
3. Use whipped cream to draw a pair of grinch eyes in the glass and add a cherry in each eye for the pupil. If you want a beady-eyed look, you can also use red cinnamon candy.

These are a little labor intensive, so it’s often easiest to pre-make a few of these right when guests are expected to arrive and have them waiting on a tray. You’ll also get the added visual impact of having rows of Grinch eyes staring back at you.

Yellow Snow Cones

These boozy snow cones are a nod to the childhood adage, “Don’t eat the yellow snow!” The good news is that this snow is actually limoncello-flavored. If you want a more festive assortment, you can also make strawberry or mint flavored snow cone syrup by using strawberry puree or peppermint syrup, with rum, instead of limoncello.

Ingredients:

  • Snow
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup limoncello
  • Yellow food coloring (optional)

Directions:
1. Pack snow into a martini glass and shape top into a rounded dome.
2. Combine sugar, water, and limoncello into a medium saucepan and bring up to a gentle boil. Cook until sugar has completely dissolved and syrup has started to thicken.
3. Remove from heat and stir in food coloring to desired color.
4. Spoon syrup mixture over snow and serve.

Guests actually love packing their own snowballs, so you may want to allow them to do Step 1 themselves. In the event you’re not having a white Christmas, it can be somewhat difficult to get your hands on shaved ice unless you’re willing to get a snow cone machine or work with a wholesale distributor. However, there are snow cone machines available at most online retailers. Worst case? You can just enjoy limoncello on its own in balmier-than-usual weather!

The Shot-Ski

Not for the faint of heart, the shot-ski is a group activity that serves not only as a cocktail but the perfect wintry photo op. You have to drink it all at the same time or someone is going to get wet, so this is best for friends you trust. While you can DIY a shot ski if you have a forstner drill bit and old ski lying around, you can also find something pre-made and ready for purchase with a simple Google search.

Ingredients:

  • Liquor of your choice
  • 3 more friends

Directions:
1. Place shot-ski on a table or flat surface that is at least hip height.
2. Fill shot glasses with liquor of your choice. You will be maneuvering this around, so don’t overpour!
3. Line up four friends, one in front of each glass.
4. Pick up the ski and hold it at roughly chest height.
5. On the count of three, lift the ski up and tip it slowly toward you.
6. Drink your shot and put the ski down.

There is a chance you will end up with a little bit of a mess if your friends are inexperienced with the shot-ski, so this is probably a better outdoor activity than indoor activity. Make sure you have someone nearby with a camera to record the fun!