Holiday Drinks

This year, it’s a sure bet that holiday gatherings will likely be more intimate, with perhaps more celebrating online rather than around a table. As you cozy up to the chimney…or computer, it’s nice to have a drink in hand either to take the chill off or to make things feel more festive. Unless you’re the lovely Ina Garten, who prefers to make drinks by the pitcher, individual drinks are a nice way to celebrate more intimate gatherings and you can make just one to two, or scale ’em up to make four or six, if necessary. My hot chocolate recipes (below) can easily be made in advance – in fact, they’re better if they are – then rewarmed right before serving. Marshmallows and whipped cream are optional, but if I’m going to be honest, they’re encouraged.

Here are my favorite and most popular drink recipes on the blog that’ll warm you up, including two types of hot chocolate (there are several others in Drinking French, including a Salted Butter Caramel version), French mulled wine, an apple-based cocktail, and a few libations with cranberries. There’s also a brown-buttery Old Fashioned, a pink Cosmo to brighten things up, a creative Kir, and Jeff Morgenthaler’s amazing eggnog. So no matter where you are, whether you’re at home with friends and family or able to gather out and about, here are some drinks I hope will help make this holiday season more enjoyable…

Vin Chaud

A winter classic in many countries, when they’re open (they’re closed at the moment), cafés in Paris will have the words ‘Vin chaud’ scribbled on a blackboard either inside or out, beckoning people to come in from the cold to have a glass. Patrons are usually huddled around terrace tables or standing at the bar, sipping glasses of warm spiced wine, but this year, mulled wine maison will be in fashion. My version of vin chaud is spiced with cardamom, star anise, cloves, and fresh ginger. And it’s even better if you tip a bit of brandy in it!

Montparnasse

‘Tis the season for apples, and nothing pairs better with these fall fruits than calvados, the famed apple brandy from Normandy. Named for the Gare du Montparnasse in Paris where trains depart for Normandy, this spirited cocktail is tempered with a dash of floral elderflower liqueur and bolstered with apple cider (or juice) to make it just the right cocktail for toasting the season.

Parisian Hot Chocolate

People travel to Paris from all over the world to sip the ultra-rich chocolate chaud sold in cafés and swanky tea salons. This year that’s likely not in your cards, but not to worry, it’s easy to make Parisian hot chocolate at home…and it’s quicker than you think, as mine his just two ingredients. (Spoiler: One of them isn’t cream…)

Belgian Hot Chocolate

When I went to chocolate school in Belgium, then did an apprenticeship at a notable chocolate shop, one of the things I picked up was this recipe for a sensational Belgian hot chocolate. It’s silkier and milkier than its Parisian counterpart and has a touch of spice and salt. You can add a plouf of whipped cream if you want to take it over the top, but it’s delicious enough on its own and doesn’t necessarily need any embellishment.

Cosmopolitan

I don’t know about you, but on some days this year, I’ll admit to being Monsier Crankypants. (Sorry, I don’t know how to say “crankypants” in French. So if you’re French, maybe help me out with that one?) It’s been an up and down year, with more downs than many of us can count. However, there’s nothing that brightens things up like a good ol’ Cosmo. Carrie and the girls from Sex and the City knew how to turn any event into a good time with these pink libations and I take a tip from them and whenever I make one up at home, I feel like I’m drinking in celebration of better times ahead. Here’s to 2021!

Negroni Sbagliato

I am a very fast drinker, something I picked up working in restaurants. But I’m also a very fast eater and am inevitably the first person done at the dinner table. (Probably because I’m also keen on moving on to dessert.) But hand me a glass of something, whether it’s water or wine or whiskey, and I tend to down it quickly. Which is why I love the Negroni Sbagliato. It’s based on the flavors of the classic Negroni, but in place of the gin there’s prosecco which makes it light and spritzy. It still has the same forceful flavor of the Negroni, courtesy of the Campari, so it won’t leave you feeling like you’re missing anything. But unlike Negronis, having a second round won’t knock you for a loop. Serve it in a tall wine goblet if you want to make it more festive.

Jumpin’ Genepi

Genepy liqueur isn’t widely known in the U.S. but in the French alps, it’s a classic winter drink. Made from yellow flowers found in the mountains, its herbaceousness comes through loud and clear in whatever it’s added to, or enjoyed on its own. (Forthave Spirits in the U.S. makes a genepy liqueur if you want to give it a taste. And French-made Dolin is also available stateside.) Dialing up the herbal flavors in this sunny cocktail is gentian liqueur and Cap Corse blanc (made with citrons), from sunny Corsica, or you can use Lillet blanc, which will add some orangy notes.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Eggnog

Toss all other eggnog recipes out. Go ahead, I’ll wait. This one from bartender and author Jeff Morgenthaler surprises with tequila and sherry in place of the usual whiskey or brandy, and hoo-boy, is it good. The eggnog is as fun and delightful as Jeffrey, and that’s saying a lot. So give this recipe a go this year, and he’s also no slouch in the chocolate chip cookie department either, which happens to be a perfect accompaniment to a tall glass of his holiday nog.

Cranberry Shrub Cocktail

Cranberry Shrub

Fresh cranberries aren’t easily available in France and when I find them, I use them intelligently. (Which will only make sense to you if you live abroad and are used to rationing things like aluminum foil and chunky peanut butter.) One of the best ways to use them is in this cranberry shrub. With vinegar as a base, it makes a slightly sharp, refreshing non-alcoholic drink mixed with sparkling water or tonic. But for those who want a cocktail, a little bourbon, some maple syrup, and a dash of bitters, make a great cocktail.

Kir Normand

Many know – and love – the Kir royal, which is a short pour of crème de cassis topped up with champagne, but sparkling apple cider takes this regional apéritif in a new direction. Using hard cider for the adults and non-alcoholic sparkling cider for the kids, or for those who aren’t imbibing, means that everyone can join in any holiday toasts around the table. Or in the case of this year, around the tablet. (Or computer.)

Cranberry Auberge

Inspired by a mythical-sounding French auberge, rather than relying on fresh cranberries, widely-available cranberry juice is the base of this sprightly apéritif which also includes red vermouth, or another wine-based apéritif like Byrrh or Lillet rouge, which is topped off with eau-de-vie, which’ll warm your soul and make you feel like you’re tucked away in a cozy retreat in the French alps, drinking like a local.

Brown Butter Old Fashioned

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take butter anywhere I can get it. And if bourbon happens to be part of the bargain, so be it. Browned butter “fat-washes” the bourbon during a leisurely maceration in the refrigerator, which is a fancy word for saying, “Let the marriage begin!” Once strained, the brown-butter bourbon goes right into the glass along with bitters. While the easy-going classic Old Fashioned has a sugar cube in it, maple syrup in its place will take it in a decidedly holiday-friendly direction.

Rosemary Gimlet Cocktail Recipe

Rosemary Gimlet

This is everyone’s favorite cocktail from Drinking French, including Romain’s, and with good reason. It combines aromatic rosemary and gin with tangy lime juice to make what I, too, consider the perfect drink.

Byrrh-Cassis

Looking for a low-ABV drink that isn’t low on flavor? This Byrrh-Cassis combines two French stalwarts; black currant liqueur and Byrrh, which was once the most popular apéritif in the world. It’s worth tracking down a bottle of this juicy, fruity, quinine-based spirit just to make this drink, although I’d admit I often enjoy a glass of it over ice with a twist of orange. (Don’t tell, but sometimes I add a little mezcal, too.) When I garnish this drink with fresh currants, which resemble tiny holiday ornaments, I feel like I’m decorating the drink for the holidays. But a simple twist or an orange slice will do, too.

Orange Margarita cocktail recipe-4

Orange Margarita

Is anyone else dreaming of going to the beach right now? When I first arrived in France I was surprised by all the advertisements for tropical beach vacations in the métro stations during the winter. After shivering through a few frightfully cold hivers, I understood the appeal (and marketing genius), and now I dream of Mexico from November through March, and there’s nothing like a good Margarita to take you there. I’m always up for a classic Margarita but these Orange Margaritas, which I confess I make by the pitcher because it’s hard to drink just one, are border-openers for me. So even though I can’t enjoy one on a Mexican beach at the moment, I can hold on to my dreams – and one of these Margaritas – and pretend I’m there.

 

 

Holiday Drinks

21 comments

  • Susan Riggs
    November 12, 2020 11:54am

    What a great line up of delicious-ness! Makes me want to go right out to buy all the ingredients and start sipping! Reply

    • November 12, 2020 12:02pm
      David Lebovitz

      Fortunately the Parisian hot chocolate just takes two, which you may already have on hand : ) Reply

  • Carol Charkow
    November 12, 2020 12:39pm

    My husband and I have had a new drink a day since the pandemic began, starting with your book, Drinking French, and expanding to three other cocktail books. We have downed 193 different cocktails so far and have repeated a few of our favorites like the Montparnasse. It is a distraction from the frustrations of this pandemic. Reply

    • November 12, 2020 1:17pm
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you and your husband are enjoying Drinking French! The good thing about drinks is that they can be easily scaled up or down. 193 different cocktails is being my record around here! Reply

  • Ellen A.
    November 12, 2020 2:45pm

    @CarolCharkow,
    Will you and your husband adopt me? I think it would be like living in a Noel Coward play!

    David, Thank you for sharing so generously many of your most famous drink recipes. A nice holiday gift for your fans. Will reciprocate by buying a couple more of your books to give as presents to others. You’re a prince. Reply

  • November 12, 2020 2:51pm

    Ahh.. I will drink all of these. But I need to buy it first. Hmm that`s a problem.. Thank you for all those beautiful drinks. Have a nice day sir. Reply

  • Deborah N Flanagan
    November 12, 2020 3:02pm

    Wow! What a fabulous line up of drinks. Where do I begin? Thanks, David Reply

  • Magdau
    November 12, 2020 5:01pm

    Mr Crankypants = Monsieur Grincheux :) Reply

  • thelma scudi
    November 12, 2020 7:35pm

    lingon berry preserves, which in the US I get at IKEA, bears a pretty strong resemblance to cranberries. how about some experimentation on how to use that in france to replace hard to find cranberries.? Reply

    • November 13, 2020 8:08am
      David Lebovitz

      We can get airelles frozen at Picard, or sold in jars packed in syrup, which I think are lingonberries. They are similar to cranberries but don’t have the same tart/tangy flavor as cranberries. Although some people use them as a substitute, they are quite different. Reply

  • November 12, 2020 7:42pm

    That brown butter old fashioned looks great. I usually favor a Manhattan over the Old Fashioned, but you can’t go wrong when butter is involved. Reply

  • Janet Sims
    November 13, 2020 1:05am

    I see you received the French translation of Crankypants, which Google translates back to English as Grumpypants – and that’s exactly what my friend calls her husband! Reply

  • Ellen
    November 13, 2020 1:24am

    I have made Morganthaler’s eggnog recipe and it is delicious. Nothing like anything in a carton! You won’t be disappointed. Reply

  • Oliver
    November 13, 2020 9:11am

    I absolutly love the Orange Margarita! It makes me wanna go straight back to Bondi Beach in Sydney :-) Reply

  • Ellen
    November 13, 2020 5:15pm

    What a great holiday season ahead with this list of drinks and snacks! Thank you for sharing! I sent Drinking French to a friend as a surprise (to take a break from the news) in October and she’s over the moon just reading it. Bravo! Reply

  • Cori Roth
    November 13, 2020 7:22pm

    I will take one of each David. They all look delightful. Thank you. Reply

  • NaomiD.
    November 14, 2020 4:09am

    Oh, definitely diving into the book now. I’ve fluttered the pages at several neighbors, tempting them. I’m hoping to get a neighborhood “bar” set up (one neighbor has a tiny house with a bar and stools already) and get going on this. One can be inside, finding a recipe, making the drink while the rest of us imbibe in the yard. I’m sending them all a link! Reply

  • Blaire
    November 14, 2020 11:29pm

    I added this book to our newly formed bar shelf right as the lockdown happened. We have French 75’d and Hemingway Daquiried our way through quarantine (and not a small amount of wine). Next up, eggnog. Reply

    • November 15, 2020 9:59am
      David Lebovitz

      Happy you like Drinking French and enjoy Jeff’s eggnog :) Reply

  • jenniferc
    November 15, 2020 10:25pm

    what comfort david- during the holiday season in COVID times. Brown butter bourbon – yes please! And lots of hot chocolate. Another fave of mine is the bourbon milk punch from Smitten Kitchen’s blog – the nutmeg just reminds me of the holidays… Reply

  • whitney
    November 24, 2020 1:42am

    I made the Belgian hot chocolate for my girls last week (they are weird kids that don’t like hot chocolate) and they loved it, although they wanted to add peanut butter to it but I wouldn’t let them haha. Reply

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