12 Festive Winter Cocktails

12 Festive Winter Cocktails - Cranberry-Ginger Sparkling Rum Cider #CaptainsTable #Thanksgiving {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

I’ve said it before: the best part of cold weather is warm drinks when you finally get inside. With or without booze (although personally I tend to choose with), they are comforting and festive and a great excuse for sitting around the fire with friends and family. Over the past two years I’ve built up a small repertoire of festive winter cocktails, many inspired by this lovely book, so as we gear up for the holidays and you all are looking for creative drinks to welcome your guests with, I’ve rounded my favorites up in one place. Cheers!

Hot and Mulled

12 Festive Winter Cocktails - Burnt-Sugar Hot Buttered Rum {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Burnt Sugar Hot Buttered Rum

Hot buttered rum is an old-fashioned drink, but it’s just as delicious today as it was 200 years ago. This version uses a dark caramel as the base for the drink, giving it a deep, caramely sweetness.

12 Festive Winter Cocktails  - Meyer Lemon and Sage Hot Toddy #CaptainsTable {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Meyer Lemon and Sage Hot Toddy

A mixture of honey, lemon, and rum or whiskey, hot toddies are great when you’re feeling under the weather – the honey and lemon soothes a sore throat while the warm alcohol helps put you to sleep (although if you’re actually sick and not just feeling low, I’d skip the booze and just stick with the honey and lemon). This version uses a sage-infused honey syrup and bright meyer lemons for a twist on the classic.

12 Festive Winter Cocktails  - Sbiten: Russian Mulled Rum with Honey and Jam {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Sbiten

Sbiten is a Russian mulled cocktail that’s based on a mixture of jam, honey, and winter spices. Although I never actually had one of these while I was in Russia, the thick and sweet drink is just as appropriate during cold New England weather.

12 Festive Winter Cocktails  - Mulled Pear Sangria {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Mulled Pear Sangria

Sangria doesn’t have to be saved for spring evenings and summer BBQs – if you serve it warm, it’s equally appropriate in winter. With a pear and cinnamon syrup and a hit of maple liqueur, this drink is full of fall flavors and a great use for white wine on days when a chilled glass of Chardonnay doesn’t sound that appealing.

12 Festive Winter Cocktails  - Ecuadorian Canelazo - Cinnamon Syrup, Citrus Juice, and Aguardiente, served warm {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Ecuadorian Canelazo

Canelazo is a traditional Ecuadorian drink made from naranjilla, a sweet-sour fruit similar to citrus, aguardiente, a sugar-cane based liquor, and cinnamon syrup. It was one of my favorite culinary discoveries in Ecuador, so I came up with this version to have at home.

Warm and Creamy

12 Festive Winter Cocktails  - Frangelico-Spiked Nutella Melt with Espresso Whipped Cream {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Nutella Melt

It’s hard to go wrong with nutella, and this nutella-laden and frangelico-spiked version of hot chocolate is no exception. Serve it without the frangelico for an equally appealing kids’ drink.

12 Festive Winter Cocktails  - Chocolate-Orange Tom & Jerry #CaptainsTable #ChristmasCocktails

Chocolate Orange Tom & Jerry

Another old-timey drink, a Tom & Jerry is similar to eggnog in that it’s made from whole eggs and cream, but it’s served warm. In the US it’s most popular in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but I promise this chocolate and orange version will go down well in the rest of the country (and world!), too.

12 Festive Winter Cocktails  - 1,001 Kentucky Nights - Dates, Coconut Milk, Bourbon, and Rum {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

1,001 Kentucky Nights

This drink is decidedly not a classic. Combining coconut milk, dates, cinnamon, bourbon, and rum, it’s a drink with its roots in the Middle East but a profoundly American accent. Sweet and rich but with smoky, woodsy flavors from the bourbon, it’s a great study in contrast.

12 Festive Winter Cocktails  - Salted Caramel Chai Lattte {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Salted Caramel Chai Latte

This chai latte sweetened with salted caramel wasn’t designed as a cocktail, but turning it into an Irish coffee with a shot of Bailey’s or whiskey sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Cold and Bubbly

12 Festive Winter Cocktails  - Cranberry-Ginger Sparkling Rum Cider #CaptainsTable #Thanksgiving {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Cranberry-Ginger Sparkling Rum Cider

Cranberry-ginger syrup, sparkling cider, and dark rum make a pretty addition to any holiday table. As a side note, this drink and the accompanying sweet potato souffle recipe won Captain Morgan’s Thanksgiving challenge last year – it was judged by Hugh Acheson, so you have someone’s word other than mine to go by when I say these are delicious.

12 Festive Winter Cocktails  - Pomegranate Mimosas for Christmas Morning {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Pomegranate Mimosas

These pomegranate mimosas are a standard part of my family’s Christmas brunch, which is slowly replacing opening presents as my favorite part of Christmas. Just looking at them reminds me of bright Christmas mornings spent eating cranberry and vanilla coffee cake and gruyere-baked eggs.

12 Festive Winter Cocktails  - Raspberry Sherbet Champagne Floats | Happy New Year! {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Raspberry Sherbet Champagne Floats

Although these floats could arguably be served at any time of year, I think they’re just right for New Year’s Eve. Festive and pink, they’re a fun way to celebrate a special evening.

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Ecuadorian Canelazo

Ecuadorian Canelazo - Cinnamon Syrup, Citrus Juice, and Aguardiente, served warm {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Ecuadorian Canelazo - Cinnamon Syrup, Citrus Juice, and Aguardiente, served warm {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Here in Boston, we’ve reached that point in the year where the warm, crisp fall days have given way to truly frosty, windy mornings when even the brightest sun can’t entice you to stay outside. I’m sure we still have a few nice days left, but we’ve already had snow flurries twice, the winter coats are out on our coat rack, and I’m guessing that this is the last week for those leaves still clinging to the trees. I’m not exactly thrilled at the prospect of hunkering down for the next four months, but one thing I do love about cold weather is the chance to invent and enjoy warm cocktails. On a cold day, there’s little that I find more enticing than the thought of a steaming mug of sweet, boozy cider or a honey-sweetened hot toddy.

Ecuadorian Canelazo - Cinnamon Syrup, Citrus Juice, and Aguardiente, served warm {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Ecuadorian Canelazo - Cinnamon Syrup, Citrus Juice, and Aguardiente, served warm {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

I think my love for warm drinks (at least for the alcoholic sort) must have been born during the four months I lived in Prague – I have a very vivid memory of sipping from a glass of piping hot mead at the top of a snow-covered mountain, the steam from the hot drinks and food condensing on the windows of the small wooden cabin. It was a completely blissful experience, at least in my memory. Since then, I’ve been collecting drink recipes from all the cold countries I’ve been to, and I’ve been waiting to share a new one with you since our trip to Ecuador in March. I was first served canelazo, a mixture of cinnamon, naranjilla juice, and aguardiente, when we arrived at our hacienda near Cotopaxi. The altitude in Cotopaxi means that it’s appropriate to serve hot drinks at pretty much any time of day/year. I loved the sweet-and-sour mixture (and perhaps the quick effect it had at altitude), and finished not only my own glass but the extra one on the tray. When I returned to Quito later in the year for work, a co-worker took us up to El Panecillo, a hilltop with a giant statue of a winged angel and a beautiful view of the city. At several of the stands near the statue, they were selling cups of canelazo, and at a price of $0.50, I couldn’t resist ordering one before dinner.

Ecuadorian Canelazo - Cinnamon Syrup, Citrus Juice, and Aguardiente, served warm {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

The ingredients for canelazo are a bit tricky to find in New England. Naranjilla, which I mistakenly described as a clementine in my first mention of it, and as a sour orange in my second mention of it, is actually a herbaceous nightshade shrub – not a citrus at all. It does have a sweet-sour citrusy flavor and a bright orange exterior, hence the name “little orange.” Although I read that you can find its pulp in the frozen section of many Latin groceries, and I’m sure I could scrounge some up somewhere in Somerville, I wasn’t in the mood for a grocery store scavenger hunt today, so I used a mix of freshly squeezed orange, tangerine, and lime juice instead. I know that using those fruits may not make for a very authentic representation of the drink, and I’ve also used a much higher ratio of juice to cinnamon water than seems to be typical, but it’s still a bright, warming combination that’s worth giving a try. I did find the traditional aguardiente, a spirit distilled from sugar-cane and sometimes flavored with anise. If you can’t find it near you, either rum or cachaça would be a fine substitute. Now that I have the ingredients, plus a healthy supply of cinnamon sticks, I’m all set to make these babies throughout the winter.

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Ecuadorian Canelazo - Cinnamon Syrup, Citrus Juice, and Aguardiente, served warm {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Ecuadorian Canelazo

Adapted from Laylita and Food.com. Serves 4.

  • 3 c. water
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 c. freshly squeezed orange juice, divided
  • 1 c. freshly squeezed tangerine juice
  • 2 limes
  • 4 to 8 oz. aguardiente or white rum
  • tangerine slices for garnish
  1. Place the water, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and 1 cup of the orange juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat slightly and simmer the syrup for 30 minutes. The syrup should be heavily perfumed with cinnamon and a dark brown color. Add the remaining orange and tangerine juice to the pot and heat just until steaming, then remove from heat. Ladle the cinnamon-orange mixture into four heat-proof glasses. Pour 1 or 2 oz. of aguardiente into each glass depending on taste. Squeeze juice from half a lime into each glass, then briefly stir. Garnish with tangerine slices if desired, and serve immediately.