December 24th – The Poinsettia

Well, tonight is my last post in this series. Yes, I know; advent calendars usually go through the 25th, but, to be honest, I think 24 cocktails are enough and I’m taking Christmas off from the blog. It’s been a lot of fun though! I’ve had a great time researching, experimenting with, and making cocktails to share here. The only drawback is that I think I’ve turned my wife into an alcoholic. Before this she didn’t drink very often, and now she’s barely home from work when she’s asking what kind of drinking I’m making her!! She’s going to have to start making her own now!!

Of the 23 prior cocktails I’ve shared here this month only 1 has been a Champagne based cocktail. Before I finish I want to share another one, as Champagne is such a great celebratory drink. The Poinsettia has been around for awhile and it makes a great drink for that last minute Christmas party or a fun and festive drink to serve on New Year’s Eve.

Again, thanks for reading. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this month of cocktails as much as I have enjoyed sharing them. Please let me know what you thought of the cocktails I offered up this month. I’d love to hear what your favorites, for the blog, were or other favorite holiday tipples that you enjoy.

The Poinsettia
1 drink

3 oz. Cranberry Juice
1/2 oz. Cointreau

In a Champagne flute mix the cranberry juice and Cointreau. Fill with Champagne and serve.



December 23rd – Deck the Halls Cocktail

It’ hard to believe that we are only 1 day, and some change, away from Christmas. This December has flown by in a hurry. Next thing you know, it will be 2014 and we can say good-bye to 2013. I realized today, that I think I’m getting old. I don’t feel old, but I was thinking about something that happened not long ago. I thought it happened merely months ago and when I figured it out it was actually over 1 1/2 years ago. I find that happening to me a lot recently, where time seems to be slipping by more rapidly every day. I can still remember feeling, as a kid, that the summers would last forever (hey, that’s a great line, someone should use that in a song!), but now time just seems to rush by. It’s kind of an odd sensation if you try to analyze it too much.

But enough of me babbling away. Time for another cocktail. I’ve got to stop this soon as too many cocktails have made me start thinking too deeply about life, in general, recently.

I realized that I haven’t used any vodka in any of my cocktails for this little experiment. I’m not averse to vodka, it’s just not my first go to when I want to make a drink or play around with cocktails. The whole concept behind vodka alludes me. I don’t get the point of a liquor that, if made properly, shouldn’t taste like anything. I want a lot of character in the booze I drink, so I just don’t get it. But that’s just my personal opinion. I will admit that there are a number of flavored vodkas that I enjoy quite a bit, but that’s because it’s all about the flavoring, not the vodka itself.

This is another new creation I came up with. I’m not a huge fan of the name, but I wanted something Christmasy. The drink itself is pretty good, if not one of the best of my creations. It still pleased my wife and a few others that tried it. I hope you enjoy!!

Deck the Halls Cocktail
1 drink

1 1/2 oz. Citrus Vodka (any type of citrus vodka will do, I used lime for mine)
1/2 oz. Triple Sec
1/2 oz. Grenadine
2 splashes Orange Bitters
1 tsp. Sugar, granulated
4 Mint Leaves
Cranberry Ginger Ale

In the bottom of a large cocktail glass mix sugar, bitters and mint leaves. Muddle just to bruise the mint, helping it to release its flavor. Add the vodka, Triple Sec, and grenadine. Mix and fill the glass with ice. Top with Cranberry Ginger Ale. Garnish with an orange slice.


December 22nd – Holiday Gin and Tonic

For a long time Gin & Tonics were my mixed drink of choice. Somewhere along the way I kind of lost my taste for them, but I still, occasionally, find myself with a craving for one, especially on hot days, when that mix of gin, tonic and lime juice becomes the ultimate thirst quencher.

While this past month’s cocktails may not really show it, I am a big fan of traditional, classic cocktails. While I enjoy playing around with all sorts of ingredients, I also like the simplicity of many of the classics. Today’s cocktail is a reflection of that mind set. I start with a classic Gin and Tonic and simply replace the lime with orange and cranberry, leaving the drink, at heart, pretty much the same, but giving a slight nod to the holiday season. Both the orange and cranberry are pretty subtle in this drink, playing against the strong flavors of both the gin and the tonic. If you are not a Gin and Tonic fan this drink will not be for you, but if you like Gin and Tonics I think you will really enjoy this slight rift on the classic.

Holiday Gin and Tonic
1 drink

1 slice Orange
4 each Cranberries, fresh
2 oz. Gin
Tonic Water

In a highball glass gently muddle the orange and the cranberries, ensuring that the cranberries pop open. Fill the glass with ice then add the gin and tonic water. Give a gentle stir. This drink doesn’t really need a garnish as you can see the orange and cranberries in the drink, but if you want you can garnish with either an orange or lime wedge.


December 21st – Gluhwein

For me, the holidays are a time for traditions, some old, that have been family traditions for generations, and some new, that my wife and I and have created with our family. Normally, I don’t like to consider myself a creature of habit, but when it comes to the holidays I don’t like a whole lot of change.

One of those traditions, that has been altered over the years, was the annual, “Day After Thanksgiving” trip to Chicago. Living in Indiana, each year we would take the train to Chicago for day of sight-seeing and holiday window shopping. I always loved those trips and it was probably due to them that I moved to Chicago later in life. My parents still made the annual trek to Chicago and I would join them to hike up and down the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Ave.). At that time Chicago’s Christkindl Market was in its infancy, but it quickly became a required stop on our holiday browsing spree.

Nowadays, living 2 1/2 hours away, I don’t always make it to the Christkindl Market every year, but we try our hardest, and for me, the holiday just doesn’t seem quiet complete if we miss the journey into the city. Besides looking at all the homemade crafts, and picking up a few more homemade glass icicles for our Christmas tree, I look forward to 2 things. The first is a plate of Currywurst, a sausage sliced into bite sized pieces and smothered in a curry flavored ketchup (I know, it doesn’t sound that great, but if you’ve ever tried it you’ll know how addictive it can be). The second, and probably most important is a mug of Gluhwein, the German take on Mulled Wine.

Now like so many recipes for Mulled Wine, Gluhwein recipes are as varied as the people who make it. Some add only 1 or 2 spices, while others add 6,7 or 10. Some people fortify it with brandy or other liquors, while some actually dilute it with water. And of course, what spices, or fruits are added can almost be infinite.

The recipe I offer up takes pieces from some of the best Mulled wines I have made in the past. And it uses a technique I just recently read about where you make a “base” of water and honey in which you infuse your spices so once you add your alcohol it doesn’t have to cook so long and lead to a loss in the potency of the alcohol. I hope you like it.

serves 3-4

1/4 cup Honey
3/4 cup Water
2 each Cinnamon Sticks
15-16 Peppercorns, whole
10 Cloves, whole
12 Allspice Berries, whole
3 Cardamon pods (optional)
2 Oranges, sliced
1/3 cup Brandy (or dark rum)
1 bottle (750 ml) Red Wine (preferably a fruitier red wine with minimal oak to it)

Combine the honey, water, spices and oranges in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, covered. Add the wine and brandy, cover again, and heat, over low flame, just until hot. Pour into mugs and serve piping hot.


December 20th – Hot Buttered Rye

We’ve been have some lousy weather the last 24 hours. A mix of freezing rain and snow, which means driving is dangerous and there’s a damp chill in the air. I don’t mind the cold, but the damp air, along with the cold, I can do without. The good news is, it’s perfect weather for a nice, warm pick me up. Luckily I came across a recipe, from Southern Living, for a Hot Buttered Rye; you can find the original recipe here.

I have to admit, I’m not a huge Rye fan. Not because I don’t like it, but because I haven’t taken the time to really explore this facet of the whiskey world; something I plan on changing in the near future. So a variation on Hot Buttered Rum using Rye intrigued me. Then seeing that the recipe pairs the rye with maple syrup, I was hooked. This could easily become one of my new winter favorites.

I kept the recipe pretty much the same, but decided it could use just a bit of sweetening so I decided to add a bit of brown sugar to the mix, providing both sweetness and a subtle molasses flavor that compliments the flavors of the rye. My suggestion; try both the original and my version to see which one you like best, and if necessary try each one again, just for good measure.

Hot Buttered Rye
1 drink

Maple Cream
1 cup Heavy Cream
3 Tb. Maple Syrup

Mix the cream and maple syrup together and whip until thick but no peaks form (whipped cream should just barely mound and hold its shape). Set aside. Makes enough for 6-7 drinks

Hot Buttered Rye
2 oz. Rye Whiskey
1 oz. Domaine de Canton or other ginger liqueur
1 tsp. Brown Sugar, packed
Hot Water
1/4 cup Maple Cream (see recipe above)

In a heat proof, glass mug, mix the rye, liqueur and sugar. Fill mug, to within 1/2 inch of the top, with hot water and give a stir to dissolve the sugar. Top with the maple cream and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.



December 19th – The Captain’s Christmas Cocktail

Only a few days left, and I have to say that this has been a lot of fun. I’m pretty sure my wife would whole-heartedly agree, although I am a bit concerned that I’m turning her into an alcoholic. She no longer greats me with “Hi! How was your day?” Its become, “So what kind of cocktail are you making me tonight?” I’m afraid that she might go through the DT’s when this experiment ends!!!

This cocktail features Domaine de Canton, a ginger liqueur. I believe that it has made its fifth appearance in drinks on this list. That may seem like a lot, but Domaine de Canton makes a great mixer for the holiday season. It’s a simple, and tasty, way to give just about any cocktail a holiday twist. And the best part is that a bottle goes a long way since it is most often used as a flavoring agent and not as the base of a drink, although I can think of a couple of ways to really highlight it.

The Captain’s Christmas Cocktail
1 drink

1 oz. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
1 oz. Domaine de Canton
4 oz. Cranberry Juice

Fill a shaker with ice, add ingredients and give a brief stir. Strain into a martini glass and serve immediately. Alternatively, you can pour all ingredients over ice and serve in a highball glass, on the rocks.



December 18th – Hot Chocolate

We often think of Hot Chocolate as a kid’s drink, and let’s face it, have you ever met a kid that didn’t like hot chocolate? But, it also makes a great adult beverage. First off, there are the decadent hot chocolates that come, served in small demitasse style cups. These drinks are thick, rich, and overwhelmingly chocolately. Then there are hot chocolates that get served mixed with various alcohols and liqueurs. These drinks don’t necessarily need to be overly decadent drinks. In fact, I find the best hot chocolates for spiking are the every day variety. I’m not talking the instant stuff, which never quite achieves goodness, but the every day variety whose recipe can often be found on the side of cocoa powder.

And what about the booze? Well, it’s only limited by your imagination. Of course there’s always, rum, whiskey and brandy, and peppermint schnapps is an obvious partner. But also coconut flavored rum, Triple Sec or other orange flavor liqueur. Raspberry is another classic pairing with chocolate so a shot of Chambord would be nice. And with all the new, and constantly changing flavored vodkas there’s always a new combination to try.

When spiking your hot chocolate with alcohol don’t go crazy, usually 1 to 1 1/2 oz. of alcohol is enough for a mug of hot chocolate.

This recipe is a slight variation on the hot chocolate recipe we often make at home. We use it as our standard warm up after an afternoon of sledding or after I’ve shoveled the drive way. The recipe just calls for milk, but I like to make it a little more rich by replacing part of the milk with cream.

Hot Chocolate
serves 4

1/3 cup Cocoa Powder, unsweetened
3/4 cup Sugar, granulated
Pinch Salt
1/2 cup Boiling water
1 cup Cream
3 cups Whole Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

In a sauce pot combine the cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Add the boiling water and mix well. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly so that it doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and milk and heat until just barely simmering, but not boiling, again continuing to stir to avoid scorching. Turn off heat and stir in the vanilla. Prepare your mugs with your alcohol of choice, ladle in the hot chocolate and serve.


December 16th – The Christmas Kiss

One of my favorite, new traditions is our yearly “St. Nicholas Reindeer Brunch” at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake. We get all dressed up (which we don’t do often enough) and take the 45 minute drive to enjoy a brunch buffet surrounded by the sights and sounds of Christmas. For my daughter, the highlight of the brunch is seeing St. Nicholas and getting to pet real, live reindeer (before and after the meal, not during). We don’t tell her where we are going, or what we are doing, but somewhere, during the drive she figures it out and gets all excited. And I love to watch her eyes light up each time she sees St. Nicholas. For me, it is one of the highlights of the season, and I cherish each and every year of it as I know that one day, soon, my daughter will stop believing and her eyes won’t shine quite as bright for St. Nick, nor will she wait, in eager anticipation, for her turn to pet the reindeer but until that day, I will continue to experience the joy of the season through my daughters eyes.

The Christmas Kiss
1 drink

2 oz. Amaretto
1 oz. Peach Schnapps
Cranberry juice

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the Amaretto and schnapps then fill with Cranberry juice. Garnish with a lime wheel.



December 13th – The Grinch

It’s Friday the 13th so I can’t think of a more appropriate Christmas Cocktail than one called The Grinch. This cocktail has been making the rounds, on the internet, for a few years, but I think it deserves a quick post here. It’s another sweet, martini style drink that is an eye-catching, bright green. The acid, in the lemon juice really helps to round out this drink. Enjoy!!

The Grinch
1 drink

3 oz. Midori (melon liqueur)
1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
1oz Simple Syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, filled with ice. Give a good shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cherry.


December 12th – Mexican Mocha Cocktail

Rumchata hit the market a few years ago and has made a pretty big splash recently. It’s one of those great drinks for people who don’t like the flavor of alcohol. I’ve also been finding it rather fun to play around with as I work on creating these holiday themed cocktails as is evidenced by the cocktail for December 3rd, The Dirty Snowball.

While “mocha” usually conjures up visions of a warm drink, it’s really the combination of coffee flavors and chocolate that make mocha, well, mocha. This cocktail starts with Kalhua (although you could use another coffee flavored liqueur), mixed with the creamy cinnamon flavors of Rumchata, and gets finished off with chocolate syrup. Why “Mexican” in the title? Well, Kalhua is from Mexico, chocolate originated in Mexico and Latin America and Rumchata is a Horchata flavored rum. For those of you not familiar with Horchata, it is drink popular in many Spanish countries and is usually, although not always, made by steeping ground rice in water, along with sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. The drink is extremely popular in Mexico. So that is why I decided to call it the Mexican Mocha Cocktail.

The drink really came about as I was looking for a way to create a drink similar to a White Russian, using Rumchata in place of the cream.

The Mexican Mocha Cocktail
1 drink

2 oz. Kalhua
2 oz. Rumchata
2 tsp. Chocolate Syrup

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the ingredients. Give a good shake and strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with a dusting of cinnamon or cocoa powder.

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