Raise a cup of good cheer: 3 holiday cocktail recipes

Mulled wine is a centuries-old drink made with red wine and brandy. Photo: Beth McKibben

Raising a glass of cheer with guests during the holidays doesn’t have to mean being stuck behind the bar. These three simple, make-ahead cocktails will keep holiday guests satisfied and hosts free to mix and mingle all night long.

Mulled wine
The centuries-old drink is akin to the traditional cider or ale-based wassails of old England with roots dating back to second century Rome. This warm cocktail is batched and contains a comforting blend of dry red wine and brandy mixed with a variety of baking spices like clove, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon. No two recipes are alike, which makes mulled wine quite adaptable and a highly personal holiday tradition.

1 bottle of dry red wine (nothing too sweet)
1 orange, zested and juiced
2 cups of apple cider
1/4 cup honey
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 green cardamom pods
2 star anise
1/4 cup brandy

In a slow cooker, combine red wine, cider, honey and juice and zest of the orange. Stir well. Add the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and star anise. Cook on low 30 to 45 minutes. Add brandy and stir mixture to blend. Cook on low another 30 minutes, or until warm.

To serve: ladle into a punch cup or teacup and garnish with an orange slice, cinnamon stick and star anise (optional). Keep remaining mixture on low or warm setting.
Serves 6 to 8 people.

Homemade brandied cherries give a glass of Champagne pizzazz. Photo: Beth McKibben

Champagne and brandy-soaked cherries
Who says cocktails have to be complicated? A simple glass of dry Champagne served with homemade brandied cherries gives the sparkling wine extra pizzazz for the holidays.

Brandied cherries
1 pound cherries, stemmed and pitted
1 cup VS brandy
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 vanilla beans
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice

Combine cherries, brandy, sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and let simmer for 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in vanilla beans and lemon juice, then transfer the cherries and its liquid to a glass jar. Let cool before covering. Refrigerate overnight. Cherries will keep up to six months.

To serve: Add two brandied cherries and no more than ½ teaspoon of cherry liquid to a Champagne glass. Pour Champagne over the cherries and let the bubbles do the rest.

This eggless nog made with rum and coconut milk is a beloved holiday drink in Puerto Rico. Photo: Beth McKibben

Coquito
This coconut-based rum punch is a beloved holiday drink tradition in Puerto Rico. Like eggnog on the mainland, the winter holidays wouldn’t be complete on the island without the creamy coconut cocktail topped with ground cinnamon. This eggless nog is batched and refrigerated for the convenience of making one refreshing coquito at a time.

1 12-ounce can condensed milk
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 12-ounces can coconut milk
12 ounces white Puerto Rican rum
3 ounces pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until well mixed. Transfer mixture to a glass bottle(s) and store in the refrigerator overnight. Mixture will keep 1 to 2 weeks.

To serve: Shake the bottle before each serving. Pour one cocktail’s worth into a rocks or coupe glass. Sprinkle cocktail with cinnamon and garnish with a cinnamon stick or star anise.
Serves 6 to 8 people.

 

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