There should be a photo of retro-classic winter cocktails when you look up the definition of “crowd-pleaser.” These tried-and-true party drinks, with ingredients like salty olive brine and ginger beer, invented decades ago, have been present for countless countdowns on New Year’s and who knows how many office-party Secret Santa occasions (since they were built with fun in mind).
That’s also a key reason cocktail bartenders look to the past for inspiration. Turns out an awful lot of throwback cocktails have what you’d call “good bones,” which makes them easy to riff off to created new twists or simply update with fresh ingredients and trending spirits. Throwback energy and style mixed with seasonal flavours for contemporary taste? Sounds like a foolproof formula and a sure way to win at holiday home bartending. Here are six easy holiday cocktails to make home bartending (without or without the alcohol) a big win this season.
A drink with serious “main character energy” if ever there was one, this gin Caesar takes a page out of the dirty martini’s book for extra-savoury flavour.
Rim the outside of a large tulip glass with Compliments Cajun Seasoning, taking care the seasoning doesn’t get into the glass. Fill the glass with ice, then add 1½ oz (45 mL) gin, 4 oz (120 mL) Compliments Tomato Clam Cocktail, 1 oz (30 mL) brine from a jar of Compliments Whole Queen Olives and ½ oz (15 mL) lime juice. Season to taste with Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire sauce; stir a few times with a long bar spoon. Garnish with a snow crab claw clamping a queen olive. Makes 1 drink.
Zero-proof it: Omit the gin and use an extra ½ oz (15 mL) lime juice and an extra 1 oz (30 mL) tomato-clam cocktail.
Cookies and Milk
Since this delicious play on the cookies-and-milk holiday tradition is sure to please the crowd, you might want to scale up and bottle a batch in advance. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to three days.
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add 1½ oz (45 mL) bourbon, 1½ oz (45 mL) 2% M.F. milk (or whipping cream, if desired), ½ oz (15 mL) Compliments Organic Very Dark Maple Syrup and ⅛ tsp (6 mL) Compliments Pure Vanilla Extract; shake well for 45 sec. Strain into a brandy snifter. Garnish with a Compliments Maple Crème Cookie on a cocktail pick. Sprinkle with ⅛ tsp (6 mL) nutmeg. Makes 1 drink, but can be scaled up and pre-batched to suit larger gatherings.
Zero-proof it: Swap 1 ½ ounces (45 mL) of iced tea for bourbon.
At heart, this is a simple rye and ginger, but it’s dressed up with a few frills inspired by the 1950s-era Moscow mule and traditional champagne cocktails.
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add 1½ oz (45 mL) rye whisky, ¾ oz (22 mL) lemon juice and ¼ oz (7 mL) Compliments Organic Very Dark Maple Syrup; shake well for 30 sec. Strain into a chilled champagne flute. Carefully pour in 5 oz (150 mL) Panache Ginger Beer Soda. Garnish with a good cocktail cherry and a sprig of fresh mint. Makes 1 drink.
Zero-proof it: Up the lemon juice to 1 oz (30 mL) and add an extra 1 oz (30 mL) ginger beer in lieu of bourbon.
This festive and punchy riff on the classic 1990s-era appletini calls for clementine and pomegranate, two of our favourite holiday treats brought together in one smart cocktail glass.
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add 1½ oz (45 mL) vodka, 2 oz (60 mL) pomegranate juice, ½ oz (15 mL) lime juice and ½ oz (15 mL) simple syrup (15 mL); shake well for 30 sec. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with 1 oz (30 mL) Panache Clementine Italian Soda. Garnish with a big chunk of pomegranate and a clementine twist. Gently sprinkle the fruit with pumpkin pie spice, being careful not to get any in the drink. Makes 1 drink.
Zero-proof it: Swap out the vodka and use 2½ oz (75 mL) pomegranate juice and 2 oz (60 mL) clementine soda instead.
Bartenders love making mash-ups and hybrids, such as this one that’s inspired by both the white Russian and a classic cola float finished with mistletoe ice cream for a little extra seasonal fun.
Ahead of time, make 1 oz (30 mL) espresso (or strong coffee); stir in 1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar until dissolved. Refrigerate until nicely chilled, about 30 min. Next, build the drink by pouring 1½ oz (45 mL) amber rum into a soda fountain–style ice cream sundae glass (or old fashioned glass). Add the chilled coffee and 3 oz (90 mL) Compliments cola. Add 1 scoop (60 mL) Compliments Mistletoe Wish Ice Cream; gently pour in 1 oz (30 mL) 1% M.F. milk. Garnish with 2 wafer rolls and sprinkle with ½ tsp (2 mL) cocoa powder. Makes 1 drink.
Zero-proof it: Omit the rum and add an extra 1½ oz (45 mL) unsweetened coffee.
Once upon a time, cranberry was the hero ingredient at all martini bars. This tart delicious juice is making a comeback in drinks like this festive twist on the paloma cocktail.
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine 1 oz (30 mL) tequila, 1 oz (30 mL) Compliments Organic 100% Cranberry Juice from Concentrate, ½ oz (15 mL) lime juice, and ½ oz (15 mL) agave syrup; shake well for 30 sec. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with 4 oz (120 mL) Panache Pink Grapefruit Italian Soda. Using a long bar spoon, stir a few times. Garnish with 5 cranberries on a cocktail pick and a sprig of rosemary. Makes 1 drink.
Zero-proof it: Swap out the tequila and use 2 oz (60 mL) cranberry cocktail instead.
Find more easy holiday cocktails here (all with zero-proof options!)