Whether you’re trying to survive family time, playing host to your friends, or simply wanting some spirits to get in the spirit (heh), festive holiday cocktails are an imminent need for the next week or two.
And while we all love the ambiance of shelling out 15-plus bucks for a single well-made cocktail, there is joy to be had in concocting a good drink at home — not to mention an easy way to impress your guests.
In the spirit of the holidays, we asked seven Philly-area bartenders and mixologists to give us the easiest festive cocktail that we, lowly non-mixology experts, can create at home. Keep in mind that what is “simple” for many experts may seem a little outside the box for others — egg whites and owning your own cocktail shaker, for example, are required for a good number of these. A couple will also suggest specific simple syrups, which you can either make at home or find in the store.
No matter your skill level, try your hand at one of the following drinks and you just may never want to buy pre-made spiked eggnog ever again.
From John Doherty at SOMO Manayunk
1 oz rye whiskey
.5 oz scotch whiskey
1 oz hazelnut liqueur (suggested: Frangelico)
1 oz egg white
.5 oz cinnamon simple syrup (see below for a cinnamon syrup recipe you can modify)
Directions: Dry shake, then add ice and shake again. Can be garnished with nutmeg and a cinnamon stick.
From Steven Gullo at The Bercy
2 oz pear-flavored vodka
1 oz cranberry juice
2 oz ginger beer
1/4 oz lime juice
Directions: Combine vodka, juice, and lime in a shaker with ice. Pour into a highball glass and top with ginger beer. Can be garnished with cranberries and rosemary.
Fumoir de Noel
From Michael Bryant at The Olde Bar
1.5 oz Cognac
1 oz vanilla cinnamon syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
1 egg white
Directions: Dry shake, then add ice and shake again. Bryant suggests rinsing the glass with a smokey scotch before serving.
When it comes to the syrup, you can typically find different flavors anywhere from a wine store to Target. If you want to make yours from scratch, however, Bryant says to let a simple syrup stew overnight with cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean. Strain the next day. Omit the vanilla bean if you just need cinnamon simple syrup for other cocktails.
From Anwar Morgan at Bar Amis
.5 oz caramel-flavored vodka
.5 oz Bailey’s
1 shot espresso
Directions: Shake ingredients with ice, strain, and pour. Can be garnished with espresso powder.
The Merry Mint
From Renae Dinerman at The Trestle Inn
3/4 oz. Brandy (suggested: Western Grace)
1/2 oz. mint syrup (or make your own pink peppercorn mint, recipe below)
Founders Porter or any other chocolate-y, porter-style beer
Directions: Fill goblet or other drinking glass with ice, then measure brandy and syrup into glass. Add porter and gently stir. Can be garnished with mint.
Want to take the extra step and make your own perfect Merry Mint syrup? Dinerman was nice enough to share her recipe, and it looks pretty simple if you have a couple extra hours for your prep.
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Bunch of Mint
1 Tablespoon crushed pink peppercorns
Syrup directions: Bring water and sugar to a boil. Steep mint and pepper for 2-3 hours, then strain.
From Stephen Yaegar at Tinsel
1 part whiskey (suggested: Northbound Rye)
.25 part gingerbread simple syrup
Directions: Combine whiskey and simple syrup in glass and dash with bitters. Can be garnished with orange peel and gingerbread cookie crumbs.
Use Your Noggin
From Alexis Alman at Tradesman’s
1.5 oz. Rum (suggested: Social Still)
6 oz. Eggnog
2 star anise
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
Directions: Spice eggnog with anise, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Combine with rum and garnish with whipped cream and candy cane. Drink it in a glass Irish coffee mug for the full effect.