Celebrating the Holiday Season With Spirits: 10 Holiday Cocktails for Your Upcoming Party

The holiday season is upon us, and it’s the perfect time to gather with friends and family for festive celebrations. Whether you’re hosting a holiday party or simply looking to enjoy some cozy evenings by the fireplace, there’s no better way to set the mood than with a delicious cocktail in hand. Today, we’re going to cover a brief history of the holiday season and finish up with 10 cocktails that will add that holiday je ne sais quoi to your party. From traditional holiday classics to creative holiday cocktails, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Let’s get started!

Holidays During the Holiday Season

Before we jump right in, let’s chat about the holidays that are coming up and when they’ll be. This way, if you haven’t started planning yet, you can get a good overview of what days these holidays will fall on and how long you have to prepare.

When Is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving always falls on the third Thursday of November. This means that the day number might change, but it’s a pretty reliable holiday. Most of us will have Thanksgiving and the day after off – Black Friday. Here is what the numerical day for Thanksgiving looks like for the next several years:

Thanksgiving 2023: Thursday, November 23rd

Thanksgiving 2024: Thursday, November 28th

Thanksgiving 2025: Thursday, November 27th

Thanksgiving 2026: Thursday, November 26th

Thanksgiving 2027: Thursday, November 25th

When Is Christmas?

Christmas is a bit different, since it always falls on the 25th of December. The day number is always the same, but the day of the week changes from year to year.

Christmas 2023: Monday, December 25th

Christmas 2024: Wednesday, December 25th

Christmas 2025: Thursday, December 25th

Christmas 2026: Friday, December 25th

Christmas 2027: Saturday, December 25th

When Is New Year’s Eve? When Is New Year’s Day?

To finish out the holiday season, we have New Year’s – two days that both end and begin the year. Most celebrations happen around midnight New Year’s Eve and ending early on the morning of New Year’s Day. Since these two days fall on the same number during the month, the weekday tends to change. Here’s the next several New Year’s Eve and Days:

New Year’s Eve & Day 2023: Sunday, December 31st & Monday, January 1st

New Year’s Eve & Day 2024: Tuesday, December 31st & Wednesday, January 1st

New Year’s Eve & Day 2025: Wednesday, December 31st & Thursday, January 1st

New Year’s Eve & Day 2026: Thursday, December 31st & Friday, January 1st

New Year’s Eve & Day 2027: Friday, December 31st & Saturday, January 1st

Other Holidays During the Holiday Season

If you don’t celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving, that’s fine, too! Here are a few other holidays that also fall during this time that you might celebrate and throw a party for:

6 Holidays This Holiday Season Besides Christmas

A Brief History of the Holiday Season

The holiday season, a time of year marked by celebrations, traditions, and festivities, has a rich and diverse history that varies across different cultures and regions.

Ancient Origins:

Holiday traditions have deep roots in ancient cultures. Many civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Romans, and Celts, celebrated various festivals and holidays to mark the solstices and equinoxes. These festivals often had religious significance, involving rituals and ceremonies to honor gods, nature, or ancestors. For example, the Roman festival of Saturnalia, held in December, was a time of feasting, gift-giving, and revelry – sound familiar?

Winter Solstice Celebrations:

One of the most significant influences on the modern holiday season is the celebration of the winter solstice. As the shortest day and longest night of the year, the winter solstice has been celebrated in various forms across cultures. 

The Yule celebration of the Germanic peoples and the Celtic festival of Alban Arthan are among the many winter solstice traditions that contributed to today’s holiday customs. These celebrations often included lighting candles and fires to symbolize the return of light and warmth.

Christian Influence:

The Christian faith played a pivotal role in shaping the holiday season as we know it today. The celebration of Christmas, marking the birth of Jesus Christ, became prominent in the early Christian church. Over time, the traditions and customs of Christmas blended with existing winter festivals and developed into a holiday that included nativity scenes, caroling, and the exchange of gifts.

The Evolution of Santa Claus:

The figure of Santa Claus, known by different names in various countries, also has a complex history. The modern image of Santa Claus, with his red suit and white beard, draws inspiration from Saint Nicholas, a Christian bishop known for his generosity and gift-giving. 

The concept of Santa Claus as a jolly, rotund figure emerged in the 19th century, influenced by a mix of literature, art, and advertising, particularly the famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas”).

Cultural Diversity:

As we mentioned above, the holiday season is not limited to Christmas; it encompasses a wide range of celebrations observed by different cultures and religions. 

Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, and Eid al-Fitr are just a few examples of diverse holiday traditions that occur during this time of year. Each of these celebrations has its own unique customs and significance, reflecting the cultural and religious diversity of our world.

Modern Commercialization:

In the 20th century, the holiday season became increasingly commercialized, with retailers promoting gift-giving and shopping as central elements of the celebration. Iconic holiday characters, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, were popularized through media and marketing.

Contemporary Traditions:

Today, the holiday season is a time of year when people come together with family and friends to exchange gifts, enjoy festive meals, and express goodwill. Decorations, music, and holiday lights contribute to the festive atmosphere. Holiday movies and stories continue to be a beloved part of the season, reinforcing the themes of love, compassion, and the joy of giving.

Celebrating the Holidays With 20 Delicious Cocktails

The holiday season calls for joyful gatherings and, honestly, a touch of indulgence. What better way to set the mood than with a yummy cocktail? Whether you’re hosting a festive party or just hoping for a cozy evening in, we’ve got you covered. We have both timeless classics and creative ideas to make your holiday season extra special. Let’s get started!

#1: The Classic Eggnog:

Let’s kick things off with a timeless favorite. Eggnog, a creamy blend of eggs, milk, and spirits, is the epitome of holiday indulgence. A sprinkle of nutmeg on top completes the experience.

  1. Begin by separating the egg whites from the yolks of four eggs. Place the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another.
  2. In the bowl with the egg yolks, whisk in 1/4 cup of sugar until the mixture becomes creamy and light in color.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups whole milk, 1 cup heavy cream, ½ cup rum or bourbon, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Stir well.
  4. Slowly pour the egg yolk mixture into the milk mixture, stirring continuously to prevent the eggs from curdling.
  5. In the bowl with the egg whites, use an electric mixer to beat them until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar as you continue to beat the egg whites.
  6. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the eggnog mixture, being careful not to deflate the egg whites.
  7. Chill the eggnog in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld and the mixture to cool.
  8. Before serving, give the eggnog a good stir. To serve, pour the spiked eggnog into glasses or mugs, garnish with a sprinkle of ground nutmeg, and optionally, add a cinnamon stick or a dollop of whipped cream.

#2: Hot Apple Cider with Rum:

Warm up your guests with a steaming mug of apple cider infused with a shot of rum. It’s like a cozy blanket in a cup – no joke.

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, pour 4 cups of apple cider and add 2-3 cinnamon sticks, 4-6 whole cloves, 4-6 whole allspice berries, and 1-2 slices of orange peel (if using).
  2. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat. Do not boil.
  3. Stir in brown sugar to sweeten the cider. Adjust the amount to your taste. You can start with 1-2 tablespoons and add more if needed.
  4. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Once the cider is hot and aromatic, remove it from the heat. You can strain out the spices and orange peel if you prefer, but many people like to leave them in for added flavor and visual appeal.
  6. Stir in the dark rum. Start with 1/2 cup and adjust the amount based on your preference for strength. Some may prefer a slightly stronger or milder rum flavor.
  7. Ladle the hot apple cider with rum into mugs or heatproof glasses.
  8. If desired, top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish with a cinnamon stick or a slice of apple.

#3: The Cranberry Mule:

A holiday twist on the classic Moscow Mule, this cocktail combines vodka, ginger beer, and cranberry juice. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and fresh cranberries for a festive touch.

  1. Fill a copper mug (or your preferred glass) with ice.
  2. Add 2 ounces of vodka to the glass.
  3. Pour 4 ounces of ginger beer over the vodka.
  4. Add 2 ounces of cranberry juice to the mix.
  5. Squeeze the juice from half a fresh lime (about 1/2 ounce) into the glass.
  6. Stir the ingredients gently to combine.
  7. Garnish your Cranberry Mule with a few fresh cranberries, a slice of lime, and a sprig of rosemary (if desired) for an extra touch of holiday charm.

#4: Spiced (& Spiked) Hot Chocolate:

Upgrade your hot chocolate game by adding a splash of spiced rum and a dollop of whipped cream. Don’t forget the cinnamon stick for stirring.

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together 2 cups whole milk, ½ cup heavy cream, ¼ cup granulated sugar, and ½ cup cocoa powder over medium heat. Continue to whisk until the mixture is well combined and begins to steam. Do not let it boil.
  2. Stir in ½ tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, ¼ tsp vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. 
  3. Add 4 oz chopped dark chocolate to the mixture. Stir continuously until the chocolate is completely melted and the hot chocolate is smooth and creamy.
  4. Once the hot chocolate is ready, remove the saucepan from the heat.
  5. Carefully pour the hot chocolate into mugs and add about 2 oz spiced rum to each mug.
  6. Top each mug with a dollop of whipped cream for an extra touch of indulgence.
  7. For a finishing touch, sprinkle a pinch of ground cinnamon or grated chocolate over the whipped cream.

#5: The Peppermint Martini:

Candy canes are a staple during the holidays, so why not incorporate that sweet peppermint flavor into a martini? Peppermint schnapps and crème de menthe create a refreshing winter wonder.

  1. Begin by preparing your martini glass. Take a small plate and pour some white crème de cacao on it. On another plate, place the crushed candy canes. Dip the rim of your martini glass in the crème de cacao and then in the crushed candy canes to rim the glass. Set the glass aside to allow the rim to set.
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker with crushed ice.
  3. Pour in 2 oz Peppermint Schnapps, 1 oz Vodka, and 1 oz White Crème de Cacao into the shaker.
  4. Shake vigorously until well chilled.
  5. Strain the mixture into the prepared martini glass.
  6. Garnish your Peppermint Martini with a small peppermint candy or a candy cane.

#6: Irish Coffee:

For a pick-me-up with a festive twist, try an Irish Coffee. Combine hot coffee, Irish whiskey, brown sugar, and top it with whipped cream.

  1. Start by warming a heat-resistant glass or mug by rinsing it with hot water. Discard the hot water.
  2. Brew a fresh cup (8 oz) of hot coffee using your preferred method.
  3. Add 2 tsp brown sugar to the warm glass or mug.
  4. Pour the freshly brewed hot coffee into the glass and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  5. Stir in 1 ½ oz Irish whiskey until well combined with the coffee.
  6. Gently float 1 oz lightly whipped heavy cream on top of the coffee by pouring it over the back of a spoon. The cream should sit atop the coffee and not fully mix in.
  7. Do not stir the cream; it should remain as a distinct layer on the surface.

#7: The Cranberry Champagne Cocktail:

Toast to the season with a bubbly blend of champagne, cranberry juice, and a hint of orange liqueur. It’s elegant and effervescent.

  1. Start by chilling your champagne flute in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes to ensure your cocktail stays cold.
  2. Pour 1 ounce of cranberry juice into the chilled champagne flute. Add 1/2 ounce of orange liqueur to the glass.
  3. Gently stir the cranberry juice and orange liqueur together in the flute.
  4. Carefully pour 4 ounces of chilled champagne or sparkling wine into the flute, allowing it to mix with the cranberry juice and orange liqueur. 
  5. If desired, garnish your cocktail with a few fresh cranberries for a festive touch, and add a twist of orange peel to enhance the aroma.
  6. Give your cocktail a gentle stir to combine the ingredients, but be careful not to let the fizz escape.

#8: Gingerbread Old Fashioned:

This is a modern take on a classic cocktail. Mix bourbon, gingerbread syrup, and a few dashes of bitters for a rich and spicy cocktail.

  1. In an old-fashioned glass, add a few ice cubes.
  2. Pour in 1/2 ounce of the homemade gingerbread syrup. (link here)
  3. Add 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters.
  4. Pour in 2 ounces of your chosen Bourbon or Rye Whiskey.
  5. Stir the ingredients together in the glass to combine.
  6. Garnish your cocktail with a strip of orange or lemon peel. You can express the citrus oils by giving it a gentle twist over the glass.

#9: Winter Sangria:

Sangria isn’t just for the summertime. Create a winter version with red wine, brandy, and seasonal fruits like apples and pomegranates. It’s both fruity and warming.

  1. In a large pitcher, combine the bottle of red wine (Cabernet or Merlot are good options), ¼ cup brandy, and ¼ cup orange liqueur.
  2. Add 2 tbsp honey to the mixture and stir until it’s well incorporated.
  3. Toss in 1 orange, sliced into rounds; 1 apple, cored and sliced into wedges; 1 pear, cored and sliced into wedges.
  4. Drop in one cinnamon stick, 3-4 whole cloves, and 1 star anise berry.
  5. Gently stir in ½ cup cranberries.
  6. Let the sangria chill in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours, but it’s even better if left overnight.
  7. When you’re ready to serve, add 1 cup sparkling water or club soda to the sangria.
  8. Fill glasses with ice cubes and pour the winter sangria over the ice, making sure to include some fruit pieces in each glass.
  9. Garnish with additional cranberries or a cinnamon stick for a festive touch, if desired.

#10: The Hot Buttered Rum Cocktail

The name says it all. Butter, brown sugar, and a generous amount of dark rum come together to create a warm and comforting cocktail.

  1. Start by warming a heat proof mug or glass by rinsing it with hot water and then discarding the water.
  2. Add 2 tsp brown sugar, 1 pat of butter, and a pinch of each spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) to the warmed mug.
  3. Pour in 2 oz dark rum.
  4. Fill the mug with boiling water, leaving a little space at the top for stirring.
  5. Stir vigorously until the sugar and butter are completely dissolved and the spices are well mixed.
  6. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or a slice of orange, if desired.

Where Do I Find Local, Craft Spirits for My Holiday Cocktails?

When it comes to crafting the perfect holiday cocktails, the quality of your spirits matters! Local, craft distilleries offer a unique and flavorful twist, of course. But… where do you find these hidden gems? The answer might be closer than you think.

Here at Distillery Nearby, we have a by-state distillery directory! It’s your gateway to discovering the artisanal spirits produced right in your region. Whether you’re looking for a small-batch gin with botanical nuances or a rich, locally distilled bourbon, this directory connects you with the heart and soul of craft distillation.

So, what are you waiting for?

Browse Your State’s Local Listings Today at Distillery Nearby →

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