5 Classic Holiday Cocktails and Drinks to Warm Your Spirit

by A Manly Guest Contributor on November 19, 2013 · 32 comments

in Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure


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Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Michael Hagan.

Ahhh, the holidays…

Whatever winter solstice-based holiday you celebrate, these drinks will get you into the holiday spirit, whether it’s to wind down after a long day of fighting the hordes of holiday shoppers, or to celebrate with friends and family. Holiday traditions and drinking oftentimes go hand in hand. Even the most teetotaling grandmother might reach for a snort of the old Glogg around the holidays. Many of these drinks are traditionally served warm, to warm the body and the spirit during the cold and dark days of the year. I hope you enjoy!

Hot Buttered Rum

This cocktail dates back to colonial times. Rum was more popular than whiskey around the time of the Revolutionary War. When the British imposed a heavy tax on imported molasses (for the making of rum) bribery and smuggling ensued, and played a part in sparking the sentiment of “No taxation without representation.” Our forefather’s taste for rum may have lead to revolution!

You’ll need to make a batter of butter and spices:

  • 4 oz of unsalted butter (I prefer Kerrygold — it’s grass-fed, and a little sweet)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt

With the butter at room temperature, smash all the ingredients together in a bowl with a fork until fully combined. Using plastic wrap or wax paper, roll and form into a log. Refrigerate for later use.

To make the drink, use 2 tablespoons of batter and toss in a mug. Pour about 6 oz of hot water or hot cider (I prefer cider) on top of the batter and stir until it is completely dissolved, then add dark aged rum, about 1.5 oz or to your tastes. Stir to incorporate all the flavors, add a little sprinkle of nutmeg on top, and you have hot buttered rum! Serve with a stick of cinnamon to garnish and to use as a stir stick.

There are a few options for making this drink. You can choose a light or spiced rum if you prefer a lighter taste. You can also use either cider or water as the main mixer– try both! There are also some recipes that call for a bit of light cream to float.

Traditional Eggnog


Eggnog dates all the way back to the 17th century. In Britain, it was a drink for rich landowners, as they had access to milk and eggs from their farms that city dwellers in London didn’t have and couldn’t afford. The American colonists, however, had plentiful access to farms, and therefore milk and eggs, so the drink became more popular here and eventually transformed into a holiday staple.

The following recipe can be used with any type of alcohol, though I don’t recommend clear liquors like vodka, gin, or light rum. A cup of dark or spiced rum, aged whiskey, or brandy (or combinations of them) all can make this drink shine.

  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 quart of half & half
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Separate the eggs, set whites aside. Beat the yolks with a mixer with 1/2 cup of the sugar, then stir in the half & half, bourbon, brandy, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with 1/4 cup of sugar, until it thickens and you get “stiff peaks.” Fold the whites into the yolk/booze mixture, then refrigerate. When ready to serve, spoon into a mug and sprinkle nutmeg as a garnish.

If you’re looking for a tasty variation on traditional eggnog, try the Tom and Jerry. It has nothing to do with the cartoon cat and mouse. Rather this classic drink was invented in 1821 by journalist Pierce Egan as a way to promote his book with one amazingly elongated title: Life in London: The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq. and His Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom, Accompanied by Bob Logic, The Oxonian, in their Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis. Warm, whipped, and made with brandy and rum, the Tom and Jerry was a holiday staple and popular wintertime belly-warmer up through the 1950s. Because the batter that makes up its foundation is more difficult to produce in a pre-packaged, ready-to-serve form, it was supplanted by eggnog which could be easily sold at the local grocer (though you can sometimes still find Tom and Jerry batter for sale in the Upper Midwest). But if you’re looking for a unique and classic drink to offer your guests, it’s a recipe worth dusting off and serving up in its traditional vessel — a gold-rimmed mug emblazoned with the Tom and Jerry name.

Obligatory warning about raw eggs: if you don’t want to use raw eggs, you can buy pasteurized eggs, which have all the scary bacteria neutralized. If you want to use raw eggs, use fresh, unblemished eggs with a thick shell.

Holiday Glogg

Glogg is a mulled wine of Nordic origins. Many cultures have a mulled wine holiday tradition, and they’re all very similar, but the following recipe is a close representation of the Nordic style.

  • 1 gallon of dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of Angostura bitters
  • 5 whole cardamom, crushed
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • peel of 1 orange
  • 2 cups raisins
  • 2 cups almonds, slivered
  • Optional: akvavit, brandy, or vodka

Stir the wine, spices, sugar, and orange peel together in a glass or plastic bowl (some metal bowls could react with the wine) and refrigerate overnight. Strain it into a pot and simmer until warm, stirring. To serve, add a few raisins and almonds into each small mug before ladling in the warm glogg. You can add one of the above liquors to kick it up a bit!

Wassail Punch


Wassailing is an English winter tradition that reaches back hundreds of years, when peasants would sing in front of the houses of feudal lords, wishing good tidings for the coming new year in exchange for food and drink. The singing would separate the request for sustenance from begging, which was frowned upon. This tradition eventually turned into what we now know as Christmas caroling.

In England’s apple growing regions, wassailing was done at the orchard to ward off evil spirits and bless the trees for a good harvest. Crowds of wassailers would utter incantations, and then wail, bang pots, shoot off guns, and create enough racket to chase away the evil spirits. The revelers would consume plenty of wassail — a hot, mulled cider — as they drank to the health of the trees. This traditional festival continues on today in places like Somerset and Devon.

Warning: simmering this drink on the stove will fill your home with wonderful smells and definitely get you in the holiday spirit!

  • 12 whole cloves
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole white peppercorns
  • 1 gallon fresh apple cider
  • 6 oz. cranberry juice
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 oz bourbon (or other dark liquor, if so desired)

Place all spices into a large spice bag, or bundle in cheese cloth then tie off with kitchen twine. In a large pot, bring apple cider, cranberry juice, and brown sugar to a boil, making sure you stir up all the brown sugar to get it dissolved. Also throw your spice pack in there. Once boiled, let simmer for at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve, pour into a mug containing 1 oz of your favorite dark liquor, preferably bourbon. Serve with a dusting of nutmeg and a cinnamon swizzle stick.

Peppermint Alexander

Who thinks about the holidays without thinking about candy canes? We’re barraged with pumpkin-flavored everything in the fall, but just after Thanksgiving everything becomes peppermint flavored. They even make white chocolate and peppermint flavored Pringles! Yes…peppermint potato chips.

This cocktail uses the white chocolate and peppermint flavors and keeps the potato chips where they belong — in the bag. This one’s not as traditional as the rest, and probably too foo-fooey for a lot of guys, but it’s good to have a drink or two up your sleeve that can impress your lady party guests or delight a date.

  • 1 oz white chocolate liqueur
  • 1 oz vanilla vodka
  • 1 oz peppermint schnapps
  • Splash of half & half
  • Crushed candy canes, to rim the cocktail glass

Wet the rim of the cocktail glass in simple syrup (1 part sugar and 1 part water — boiled until the sugar is dissolved), then rim the glass with finely crushed candy canes. Set aside. In a cocktail shaker, pour all liquids over ice, and shake until frothy. Strain into previously rimmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of the crushed candy canes or a small whole candy cane. Enjoy!

What are your favorite holiday drinks and cocktails?

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jeff November 19, 2013 at 6:45 pm

I’ve been using a very similar recipe for eggnog for years at our annual Christmas open house. It is always a crowd pleaser. I have found that letting it sit out in the (cold) garage for a week improves the flavor greatly. Of course do this after adding the liquor. My recipe calls for eggs with 1 part cream, 1 part milk, 1 part brandy, so it is a lot stronger than this one.

2 minuteman November 19, 2013 at 7:58 pm

You have covered all my favourites! I have a few shortcuts for the less ambitious. For hot buttered rum, put butter, spiced rum and water or cider in a mug and heat in the microwave. If you use spiced rum you don’t need to go to the trouble to spice the butter. I prefer Sailor Jerry, or Kraken spiced rum.

Again, probably not as good but in Canada you can always get eggnog at the grocery store around Christmas. My wife tells me they have it already, although it is way to fattening to start indulging before December 20th.I love grocery store eggnog (Sealtest is the best around here) and spiced rum.

My other Christmas favourite of mine is peppermint scnapps, chocolate schnapps and eggnog. Mix to taste.

3 Brian V November 19, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Very nice. As a chef I’d like to add a note, if I may be so bold: WHOLE spices are almost always better then pre-ground. Toasting them doesn’t hurt, either. In the case of Nutmeg, I’d rather leave it out than use pre-ground. Just as with any other craft, use the best materials you can get your hands on.

4 dylan November 19, 2013 at 10:39 pm

One of the things I love most about an Australian Christmas is that it’s always great weather for cold beer and good cider but I think im gonna have to mix it up this year with some cocktails. Any excuse for a mojito.

5 Sam C November 20, 2013 at 2:10 am

I’ve never seen any spirit added to wassail before – I would guess it’s because English cider is already stronger than beer (typically 5-7%) and some traditional versions come in even stronger.
My winter favourites are both Polish. Either warmed mead (trojniak is best) or Polish mulled wine, known as grzaniec

6 Vince November 20, 2013 at 5:32 am

Have you ever seen George Washington’s recipe for eggnog? They have it over at the Farmers Almanac: http://www.almanac.com/content/george-washingtons-christmas-eggnog

7 David November 20, 2013 at 5:43 am

Hot mead is very tasty too !

8 Gernot_Freiherr_von_Donnerbalken November 20, 2013 at 6:26 am

A very good selection indeed.
I may add a specialty from my country:

There is more pleasure in preparing it that in the actual drinking ( as you will be hammered after two cups), but there is nothing better on a cold winter’s eve.

9 Jon November 20, 2013 at 6:29 am

One of my favorites is simple. Hot cocoa with a shot of peppermint schnapps.

10 Salmonella November 20, 2013 at 8:58 am

I’ve made homemade eggnog before, but I learned about salmonella and eggs, then stopped.

I found this article: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/holiday-miracle-homemade-eggnog-kills-salmonella-booze/story?id=17905639.

Eggnog is back on.

11 Chuck November 20, 2013 at 9:53 am

Interesting take on the Hot Buttered Rum. There’s some recipes out there (mainly the traditional, old-school ones) that require a red hot poker from the fireplace. For instance:


but if you kids want to nuke it in the microwave…

12 Frankie Marin November 20, 2013 at 10:59 am

Great suggestions! It definitely beats my Swiss Miss hot chocolate with Evan Williams whiskey cocktail, aka the “Swiss Mr.”

13 Kathleen November 20, 2013 at 11:07 am

Unfortunately, Kerrygold butter is not 100% grass fed–they’ve gotten into a bunch of trouble for advertising this as a fact. Their cows are supplemented with wheat and/or barley for a period of time during the winter.

14 ZH November 20, 2013 at 11:23 am

Someone mentioned adding peppermint schnapps to hot chocolate; try adding Green Chartreuse to hot chocolate to get a “Green Chaud”, popular in ski resorts in Europe. Very tasty.

The one true holiday cocktail that is missing from the list is the Stinger: a shaker drink, like a Manhattan or a Rob Roy, but made with Brandy and Crème de Menthe (White). It is the adult Christmas Candy Cane!

15 Claude November 20, 2013 at 11:31 am

THAT’s what hot buttered rum is? Sounds nasty.
Peppermint schnapps is a must have, for coffee or hot cocoa. Bailey’s Irish cream added to either of these is also fantastic.

16 Shootemup November 20, 2013 at 11:53 am

A Canadian military tradition for the New Years Day function called Levee (early morning hair of the dog) in every armoury is “moosemilk”. Recipes vary by regimental tradition but the base is often as follows:
1 large bottle of spiced rum
1 gallon of egg nog
1 brick of butterscotch icecream
(other ingredients such as spices, other liquers, etc vary)

Add all three ingredients to a punchbowl. Stir occasionally as icecream melts. Press glasses on all mess guests and junior officers.

17 Brian Bilderback November 20, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I second the hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps, also hot apple cider and cinnamon schnapps. As for hot buttered rum, I find that ginger ale or cream soda make excellent non-alcoholic additions.

18 Rusty November 20, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Just discovered the hot toddy. Its a good before-bed drink, or right out of bed drink.

19 Ryan November 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Great article, as always. The Brass Rail in Port Huron, Michigan serves the Tom & Jerry every year during the Holiday season. Going there is one of my favorite Christmas traditions! Just don’t tell my grandmother…

20 Conner November 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm

The historical fiction author Kenneth Roberts has a couple passages about Maine Flip, which seems like it would warm anybody hanging around by the yule log. Here’s a recipe I found online:

3 eggs
3 teaspoons sugar
1 jigger rum
1 jigger brandy
1 red-hot flip iron or poker heated in fireplace
tall, all-pewter mug
12-16 ounces of beer
In a quart mug break three eggs. Add three teaspoons sugar and stir well. Add in the jigger of rum and the jigger of brandy, beating meanwhile. Fill remaining volume of mug with beer.
Insert red-hot iron until it hisses and foams. The drink will become only warm.

21 Daniel de Paula November 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Pardon my ignorance, but as a non-native english speaker, I have no idea what is a half & half. Might someone care to enlighten me?

22 minuteman November 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Daniel – half and half is light cream, like we use in coffee.

Shootemup – gotta have brandy in the moose milk. I have fond memories of attending levees. A great tradition.

23 Brian V November 20, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Daniel: Half and half is a dairy mixture that is half cream and half milk. It has a fat content that is lower than light cream but higher than whole milk. You can easily make your own by combining the two in equal parts, though it is readily available in U.S. mega-marts.

24 Ross November 20, 2013 at 9:10 pm

How would you augment the Hot Buttered Rum recipe to serve 20+?

25 Jason November 21, 2013 at 8:33 am

The most classic of classic holiday drinks: Hot Gin Punch.


I made this last Christmas and it was delicious! It’s the drink that Bob Cratchit drinks at home on Christmas day.

The second one, also from A Christmas Carol, is a Smoking Bishop. The prep time is long, but it’s worth it.


26 penny November 21, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I’m coming to Jeff’s house for egg nog.

27 James November 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Coming from the southern part of the US, and now living in the tropics (Sint Maarten for those who want to know) I’m not sure what the Holiday drink shall be. Maybe Ponche Kuba which is a popular holiday drink here.

28 Pappy November 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm

re. Hot Buttered rum–How do you have a butter preference but not a rum preference?

29 Gustav November 22, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Glogg or glögg as it is spelled and pronounced in swedish is truly a great drink. It warms both body and soul on a cold swedish winter day.
Another great swedish drink that is drunk during christmas and easter is the non alcoholic julmust. It’s a sort of soda and during December julmust is sold in greater numbers than Coca Cola.

Really appreciate the website however, been reading the articles for over a year. Keep up the good work :)

30 Scott November 26, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Forgive the ignorance, but should the Glogg not be heated with the spices in it and then strained? Or does the wine pick up enough of the flavors by just sitting overnight?

31 Jarid November 29, 2013 at 11:09 pm

I made the Glogg for this Thanksgiving, and I followed the recipe exactly. It was wonderful, and everyone enjoyed the melding of the flavors. Thanks guys.

32 Bob the Eternal Flame December 1, 2013 at 2:17 pm

The “Peppermint Alexander” sound alright, but just mix a straight Brandy Alexander. It’s the best darn cocktail out there, and a classic. If you want to get really festive with it, put a bit of whipped cream on top, and stick a candy cane in the glass.

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