Cocktails to toast the holidays

Sharyn Jackson
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“Winter Drinks: Over 75 Recipes to Warm the Spirits Including Hot Drinks, Fortifying Toddies, Party Cocktails and Mocktails” by Ryland Peters & Small.

No matter the size of your holiday guest list, don’t forget to put drinks on the menu. Whether dinner is served on a table for two or your pandemic pod extends into a larger social circle, these easily scalable cocktails will set a festive mood.

Find more recipes at startribune.com/taste.

Fireside Sangria

Who said rose wine was just for summer?

Here is a delicious sparkling wine punch to cozy up with on colder days, a lighter and refreshing alternative to mulled wine. From “Winter Drinks: Over 75 Recipes to Warm the Spirits Including Hot Drinks, Fortifying Toddies, Party Cocktails and Mocktails” (Ryland Peters & Small). Serves 6 to 8.

  • About 10 seedless white grapes, halved lengthwise
  • About 10 seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 small orange, finely sliced
  • 3 ounces orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
  • 3 ounces aged sweet red vermouth, such as Carpano Antica Formula
  • 3/4 cup fresh clementine or blood orange juice
  • 11/2 cups fruity white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc), well-chilled
  • 750 ml bottle sparkling rose wine (such as prosecco or Cava), well-chilled
  • Dried orange slices and cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Put the grapes and orange slices in a punch bowl or large pitcher. Pour in the orange liqueur, vermouth, clementine or blood orange juice, white wine and rose and stir to combine. Add plenty of ice cubes and stir again.

Serve ladled into tumblers or short-stemmed wine glasses filled with ice cubes and garnish each one with a dried orange slice and a cinnamon stick.

Chocolate Punch

William Schmidt was a prodigious experimenter and also quite the self-promoter; this recipe was found in Schmidt’s 1891 cocktail book.

For simple syrup, shake equal parts cold water and sugar until sugar dissolves.

From “The New Craft of the Cocktail,” by Dale DeGroff (Clarkson Potter). Serves 1.

  • 1 ounce cognac
  • 1/2 ounce ruby port
  • 1/2 ounce creme de cacao, such as Tempus Fugit
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup (see above)
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

Shake all the ingredients (except the garnish) very well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top.

Pastis Goes Pop

Anise and blackcurrant pair as beautifully together as a hammock and a snooze. Add the gentle refreshment of citrus and bubbly, and that hazy happiness of a southern French holiday is just one short sip away. From “Fizz,” by Olly Smith (Clarkson Potter). Serves 1.

  • 1 ounce pastis
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Cremant
  • 4 teaspoons creme de cassis
  • Lemon peel, for garnish

Pour the pastis and lemon juice into the glass. Top with the cremant until it’s around two fingers’ width from the top. Pour in the creme de cassis. Garnish with a twirl of lemon peel and you have a two-toned drink that’s as hazy as holidays.

AQUAVIT BLOODY MARY

Serves 8.

Note: Aquavit is a grain or potato distilled aperitif often associated with Scandinavia, and often flavored with caraway and/or dill. Given Minnesota’s healthy Nordic heritage, the spirit has long been celebrated as an opportunity to connect with the Old World. People in Minnesota are gifted in their ways of family, community and culture, and there is no cocktail better associated with that practice than the Bloody Mary, which stands on the Paul Bunyan shoulders of the Upper Midwest in triumphant glory. From “The United States of Cocktails,” by Brian Bartels (Abrams).

For the Bloody Mary Mix:

  • 3 cups tomato juice
  • 2 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ounces Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 ounces Tabasco chipotle sauce
  • 1 tablespoon steak sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt

For the Bloody Mary:

  • 11 / 2cups aquavit (or gin, tequila, or mezcal)
  • Garnishes: celery stick, lemon wedge, and olive or pickle

For the Bloody Mary Mix: Combine all the ingredients in a nonreactive container. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

For the Bloody Mary: Combine aquavit and 4 ounces Bloody Mary mix in a chilled pint glass with ice, briefly stir and add the garnishes.

Pomegranate Gimlets

Serves 6.

Note: What is it about drinking a cocktail in a martini glass that makes us feel so glamorous? This delicious gimlet was made for me by friends. They updated the classic cocktail with pomegranate juice and of course served it in frozen martini glasses because they really are glamorous. For simple syrup, shake equal parts cold water and sugar until sugar dissolves. From “Modern Comfort Food,” by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter).

  • 11 / 2 cups gin, such as Tanqueray
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice, such as Pom Wonderful
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (6 to 8 limes)
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup (see Note)
  • Pomegranate seeds, for garnish
  • 6 lime slices, for garnish

At least one hour before serving, place six martini glasses in freezer.

Combine the gin, pomegranate juice, lime juice and simple syrup in a large pitcher. Fill a cocktail shaker half-full with ice and add the drink mixture until the shaker is three-quarters full. Shake for a full 15 seconds (it’s longer than you think!). Pour the mixture into the frozen martini glasses and garnish with a teaspoon of pomegranate seeds and a slice of lime. Repeat with the remaining drink mixture and serve ice cold.