Guys: next weekend is Christmas. Can you believe that?? We can’t. We can’t at all! We’re super unprepared for the upcoming holiday and barely even know what we are doing. But, we do know that we have some holiday parties to attend and know that, in Southern California around this time of year, cocktails can be tricky. It’s not that there is an absence of cocktails or anything but, because it isn’t “cold” and proper “holiday weather,” we’re less apt to be all about hot drinks all the time at these holiday parties. Thus, we have assembled five of our favorite drinks to make during the holidays that range from an spiced sangria to a rum punch to a deconstructed hot toddy for a warm day. We think they combine the spirit of the holidays with the spirit of Los Angeles. We hope you enjoy them!
Spiced Wine Winter Sangria
We actually made this a few weeks ago for Thanksgiving, when we had a “Southwestern Los Angeles Thanksgiving” and it was super easy and a success. It’s great for large parties and is a fun alternative to just “sangria.” It’s based off of a Martha Stewart recipe, but bastardized a bit for ease of creating more (as her recipe is a little too specific for a smaller batch: we’ve edited it to be suitable for more).
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Honey
1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
4 Whole Star Anise
4 Cinnamon Sticks
12 Whole Cloves
For Fruit Compliment–
2 Apples–preferably Golden Delicious, definitely not red
2 Handfuls of Kumquats (or, if unavailable, tangerines…but only buy one so it doesn’t overpower!)
3 Bottles Dry White Wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
1 Bottle Champagne
Start by preparing the base by combining the water, honey, lemon juice, star anise, cinnamon, and cloves and heating. Before it starts to boil, reduce to low/medium low for fifteen minutes. Stir occasionally! While the base is going, prepare the fruit: core the apples and pears and slice and slice the lemons and kumquats into circles. Place in a large bowl (that the punch will go in) or store for whenever you are ready to assemble this drink! After the fifteen minutes of the base on low heat, remove and let it cool to room temperature (you can leave it out or package it and store in the fridge–whatever you like). This spicy base is what is going to carry the sangria! When you are ready to combine (or, if you are being super pro about it, combine the night before and let the flavors absorb each other), put the fruit in a punch bowl, add the base, then add the bottles. This serves about fifteen people and–if you want to keep it going–buy extra wine and champagne and add a bottle whenever the bowl looks low.
Southwestern Hot Toddy
We have two toddies to share: one is a Southwestern slant on the classic while the other is a deconstructed one for a hot winter’s night in Southern California. While the hot nights don’t seem to be around this year, you can keep it in your back pocket for the summer or the inevitable January heat wave (we hope!!).
5 Cups Apple Cider
2 Strips of Orange Peel
2 Strips of Lemon Peel
1 Stick Cinnamon
3 Tablespoon of Agave (or Honey!)
1 Cup of Tequila (Preferably, not dark tequila.)
1/4 Cup of Triple Sec
Bring the apple cider, peels, and spices to almost-a-boil (essentially, heat it up). Keep this on low heat for about ten minutes, for the spices to absorb. Stir occasionally. If you like, you can add in the agave here–but it’s up to you. Since agave is so low density, you don’t have to add this to the heat. If you are using heat, add it for the last two minutes or so, stirring it in. In the pitcher or whatever you are preparing this in, add the tequila and triple sec. Using a sieve or any sort of strainer, strain the cider concoction and then add to the tequila mix. Garnish drinks with lemon! Serves four.
Cold Toddy For A Warm Evening
This is an admittedly silly one that we came up with per an old cocktail book we got from a local thrift store and another we got at an antique mall in Sherman Oaks (we highly recommend both books!!). This mainly is an alternative to a “hot” toddy and is almost like a Gold Rush.
1/2 Cup of Bourbon or Nice Whiskey
2 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Honey
2 Cups Tea (Preferably black)
If you’re using tea bags to make your tea, steep the bags in hot water, etc. and then bring to room temperature. You can also buy the tea already made–your call. What you are going to want to do with the tea is place it in an ice cube tray–whatever sized ice you want. Once ice is formed, mix whiskey, lemon juice, and honey (best to shake it up and then strain). Add this to a glass with one or two pieces of the tea ice (depending on the size of your ice). If you’re having trouble with the honey or want a, ahem, stiffer drink, mix the honey into the hot tea so the tea is slightly sweetened. You can also use the honey to taste, too. Serves one!
Festival Rum Punch
This one is also from the cool cocktail books we found. This one we have never made, but it’s a neat punch that you guys should see since it:
A.) Sounds suppppper old timey;
B.) Sounds pretty good on a cold night.
1 Quart Rum (They recommend Jamaican–definitely has to be dark rum)
1 Quart Apple Cider
3 Sticks Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Allspice
1 Tablespoon Butter (Wait: butter? Yes, butter.)
You’re going to take all of these components and mix them in a saucepan and heat to *almost* a boil. Reduce for ten minutes on the lowest heat. (Or, if you want to consume right then, don’t let it simmer! The recipe doesn’t call for more heat time but, duh, you should.) Serve into mugs, hot or warm (not cold!!). This should serve ten.
Glorified Champagne Cocktail
This is an amped up version of your New Year’s champagne drink. If you want to be getting your champs on but don’t want straight champs, opt for this sparkler. It’s based off of a few recipes we love along with trial and error. We think we have this right!
1/2 Cup of Champagne or Sparkling Wine
2 Ounces Vodka (You can use flavored orange, if you like.)
Splash of Triple Sec (or Orange Juice, if you’re on the mend.)
1 Sugar Cube
1 Maraschino Cherry
This drink really is made to the drinker’s taste. However, if you want to be precise, this is what we recommend: take the champs, vodka, and triple sec and shake over ice. Strain and add to flute or glass or whatever and then add in the sugar cube and garnish with cherry. You can stir if you like to dissolve the sugar!