As the seasons shift, so do cocktail menus at bars, restaurants and even within homes—and that’s largely due to the palates of consumers seeking out a drink to match the spirit of the times. With holiday parties in abundance, the following options offer up reliable cheer with many different drinkers in mind. A punch is easiest to throw together for large groups, while a perfect Manhattan speaks to a smaller crowd—and while people either love or hate eggnog, we discovered a must-try Mexican iteration. Regardless of what you’re looking for, these are all quite tasty and invoke nostalgic elements of spice and celebration.
Calvados Cider Punch
While a good punch is time-tested—dating well-beyond our favorite vintage cocktail books—most of them involve far too much additional sugar. The Calvados Cider Punch, however, doesn’t. Developed by Boulard Calvados, this punch made its debut at this year’s Fifth Annual Holiday Spirits Bazaar in Brooklyn and took top honors for People’s Choice. The addition of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cider lend the apple brandy an extra edge making it a full seasonal experience. And each batch serves 15 to 20.
1 1/2 cups Boulard Calvados
8 cups apple cider
1 750-ml-bottle of dry hard cider
3 12-oz-bottles of ginger beer
Juice of one lemon
Several dashes orange bitters
Orange sliced into rounds and cinnamon sticks for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a large punch bowl, stir, garnish wish orange rounds and cinnamon sticks. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Master cocktail-maker, food and wine writer, Jamie Boudreau proposes a pine-fresh, gin-based large-batch cocktail dubbed the Evergreen Swizzle. Complemented by the additional sweet herbaceousness of Yellow Chartreuse, it’s well rounded and calls to mind Alpine mountains. This one’s easy to assemble and serves 12.
18 oz gin (Boudreau recommends Edinburgh Gin, but we prefer Tanqueray No. 10 for a citrus edge, but minimized juniper.)
6 oz Yellow Chartreuse
6 oz Zirbenz (pine liqueur)
6 oz strained fresh lime juice
18 oz water
Combine the ingredients in a pitcher and stir well. Pour into 12 small bottles and chill for at least four hours, or until very cold. Serve with small rosemary sprigs.
Rompope (Mexican Eggnog)
From “Winter Cocktails” by food writer María del Mar Sacasa and reprinted with permission from Quirk Books, we discovered an exciting seasonal recipe for Rompope—a rich and creamy spiced batch drink worth trying even if regular eggnog hasn’t appealed over the years. It’s nuanced, delicious and activates the seasonal senses.
2/3 cup blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 cups whole milk
2 cinnamon sticks
Rind of 1 lemon (remove the lemon rind with a vegetable peeler, being careful to avoid the white pith, which will impart a bitter flavor)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 large egg yolks
1 cup aged rum or aguardiente (del Mar Sacasa prefers Flor de Caña 7 Year Old Grand Reserve Rum)
Del Mar Sacasa recommends the following: “Pulse almonds with two tablespoons of sugar until ground to a fine paste. Bring the milk, cinnamon sticks, lemon rind, vanilla, and baking soda to boil, over medium-high heat in large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks, the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, and almonds until thick and pale. Remove and discard cinnamon stick and lemon rind from milk. Constantly whisking, slowly add the milk to the yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to seven minutes. Set aside to cool completely, about two hours (see notes). Then, stir in the rum or aguardiente and serve.”
Amarula Coffee Surprise
While it might be the world’s second largest selling cream liqueur, South Africa’s Amarula isn’t commonly on menus in most places. And yet, this blend of fermented marula fruit and fresh cream makes for an ideal coffee cocktail—adding a velvet consistency and a delicate sweetness at only 34 proof. Coupled with a little cocoa powder, it’s a decadent after dinner drink.
2 oz coffee
2 oz Amarula
1/2 oz brown sugar
Pour the coffee, Amarula, brown sugar and marshmallows into a coffee mug and stir. Top with the whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder.
The Classic Manhattan
Nothing speaks to the season more than the Manhattan. To seek out a perfect iteration of the cocktail, we spoke with Brad Thomas Parsons—author of Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All. According to Parsons, “I’m currently at work on a book on amaro so I like to experiment swapping in various amari as a base spirit or modifier, but my classic at-home Manhattan remains [the same].”
2 oz Rittenhouse 100-Proof Rye
1 oz Dolin Rouge Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Three skewered Amarena cherries
He shares, “You can mix and match among the many orange bitters on the market, but I typically use a 50/50 blend of Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters and Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6.” In a cocktail shaker, filled with ice, combine the rye, vermouth and bitters. Stir well for about 20 seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass.
An at-home recipe from CH’s founder and Editor-in-Chief Josh Rubin, this delightful mix employs a global selection of flavorful ingredients that strikes a thoughtful chord. Rubin notes, “Yuzu is a citrus that has this brilliant balance of sweet, tart, tangy and fresh. I wanted to make a drink that upheld those delicious attributes. The bite of a first fill American Oak cask-strength whisky is a better complement to citrus than a sherry oak. Morris Kitchen‘s grapefruit hibiscus syrup offers just enough sweetness to gently soften the overall flavor and June Taylor’s candied Yuzu peel is a perfect treat to eat before, after or during the drink.”
Shake all fluid ingredients and garnish with (at least) one candied Yuzu peel.
Tropical Scotty and Manhattan images by Cool Hunting, Calvados Cider Punch image by Clay Williams, Rompope photography by Tara Striano, Evergreen Swizzle image courtesy of Tempered Spirits, other images courtesy of respective brands