The Ultimate 2017 Winter Cocktail Guide

The holidays are a time to eat, drink, and be merry. But with so many things happening and being pulled in so many directions, it can be hard knowing what to make.

What you need is some alcohol to calm the nerves, and thankfully I have you covered.

In the whirlwind of whiskey we got in this month were quite a few bottles of other liquors, cordials, and tasty treats. We couldn’t just stick to the whiskey roundup – we had to gather as much liquor as possible to see what kind of winter cocktails we could concoct.

Many of the distilleries and PR companies were happy to provide some of their favorite recipes, and we looked up a few random ones while trying to make a few our own that looked like they may be fun to try.

Then I pretty much did my part to get the city of Flagstaff drunk for the holidays…

The best way I could figure out how to organize this list is by alcohol, so each subheader has a type of alcohol and the best brand we found to sip on. Below that are recipes to make using the liquor.

It’s not meant to be an all-inclusive list of every possible drink. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Instead, this is a guide to taking the edge off the winter season while exploring flavorful drinks at home better than anything you’d get at the bar.

Rum/Rhum/Cachaca

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Best Sipping Rum: Flor de Cana Centenario 25 Nicaraguan Rum – Rum is distilled from either pure sugarcane or sugarcane byproducts like molasses. Dark rums are then aged in oak barrels, and the darker the rum, the longer it’s been aged. Although it’s produced around the world, Caribbean and Latin American rums are most treasured.

Brazilian rum is called cachaca, and several criteria have to be met to qualify. There are subtle differences between cachaca and rum due to the processes used. In other places, it’s called rhum.

Centenario 25 is Flor De Cana’s finest rum and the absolute best rum I’ve ever had in my life. If you’re a rum fan looking for a treat, I wouldn’t mix Centenario with anything except maybe an orange slice for garnish.

Glasses_of_Butterbeer

Hogsmeade Butterbeer
from Matt Walker, Beverage Director at Nighthawk Cinema

Combine in ingredients in a mug and top with boiling water. Stir well. Garnish with one cinnamon stick.
butter batter –
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp group nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 pinch of salt
Use a standing mixer or stir well by hand until ingredients are thoroughly combined.
porter syrup –
Bring porter and cloves to a boil on the stove, stirring continually, then set to simmer. Reduce liquid by half (about 25 minutes). Turn off heat and add sugar, stirring well until sugar is completely dissolved.
Reverse Margarita 

Mix ingredients in shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass rimmed with lime and salt. add lime and orange wedges.

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Rum Punch

This is a great one for large parties. Mix ingredients together in a punch bowl. Chill in the fridge overnight. Before serving, garnish with sliced fruit.

Brazilian Mojito

Place lime slices, mint sprigs, and sugar in mason jar and muddle together. Add ice and rum, then fill the glass with club soda and stir. 

Dark and Spicy

Mix ingredients (minus ginger ale) in shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Pour in long glass over ice and add ginger ale to fill. Garnish with lime if desired.

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Fleur de Lis

Combine ingredients (minus ginger ale) in shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Pour into a rocks glass and add ginger ale to fill.

Whiskey/Bourbon/Scotch

Best Sipping Whiskey: Flaviar – Whiskey is distilled grain mash aged in wooden barrels for flavor and color. Bourbon is American whiskey and scotch is Scottish whiskey, both with their standards to be considered. We did a comprehensive whiskey roundup last week.

Instead of sticking to one whiskey, it’s best to tour the many flavors. Flaviar allows you to sample a variety of liquors for only $20 per month.

The Flaviar kit we got had vials of Koval Single Barrel, Few Bourbon Whiskey, and Journeyman Featherbone Bourbon with enough for 3 people to taste each flavor.

Although the tastes are just that and you’ll barely get a shot out of it, it’s a great way to discover the complicated flavors of whiskey to find your favorite.

Kansas Kiss

Kansas Kiss

Muddles strawberries in half the lime juice. Pour and mix remaining ingredients. Top with Sprite and strain.

Butter Cream

Combine ingredients in a rocks glass filled with ice, stir, and enjoy.

Dry Rob Roy

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an Ole Smokey Moonshine cherry.

Bellini Manhattan

  • 1 ½ parts Maker’s 46 Bourbon
  • ½ part peach puree
  • ¾ part sweet red vermouth
  • Dash bitters
  • ¾ part splash champagne

Fill a mixing glass with ice. Measure in the bourbon, peach puree and vermouth. Add a dash of bitters. Cap and shake. Strain into large martini glass. Add a splash of champagne. Garnish with Ole Smoky Mountain Moonshine Cherry on a pick.

Old Fashioned

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain into an old fashioned glass over one large ice cube. Spritz and drop in orange peel. Add a cherry if you like.

Kentucky Mulled Cider
(Modified from Maker’s Mark’s original recipe)

Add bourbon to a footed mug. Fill mug with hot apple cider and the dash of allspice. Garnish with a tall cinnamon stick and lemon slice.

Smoked Caramel Apple

Drizzle caramel inside glass, and fill with ice. Pour ingredients over ice, and stir. Garnish with thin apple slices.

Moonshine Mule

Mix ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds and pour into a copper mug. Garnish with lime slice.

Vodka

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Best Sipping Vodka: Any Filtered Through Brita – Vodka is a distilled alcohol composed primarily of water and ethanol. It’s typically made from fermented cereal grains, although many modern brands like Ciroc use fruits. It’s not much different than moonshine, even though I grouped those recipes with the whiskies since we used American moonshine.

Over a decade ago, I, like many guys my age, read an article in either Maxim, Stuff, or FHM magazine about filtering vodka through a Brita filter, which several people have tried putting to the test since.

Regardless of the type of vodka you buy, pouring it through the Brita filter does help the taste. The trick is to run it through multiple times (as much as 10) with cheaper vodka, which most of the web imitators failed to do.

So feel free to buy bottom shelf vodkas, so long as you don’t mind spending the time to hack them for more flavor.

Screwdriver

Combine ingredients in highball glass and stir. Add ice, sip, and enjoy.

Limoncello Martini

Cut half the lemon into thin slices. Wet the rim of a martini glass with a lemon slice and dip rim in sugar. Cut a slit through half a lemon slice and coat with sugar and place on the rim.

Add vodka, limoncello, juice from the other half of the lemon, and simple syrup to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into prepared glass. Float unsugared lemon slice on top and serve.

Oreo Explosion

Chill bourbon cream and vodka. Mix ingredients (minus one cookie) in blender and blend on high for 30 seconds. Crumble the remaining cookie. Pour in glass, top with whipped cream and cookie crumbles.

The Rosebeet

Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Combine all ingredients in shaker and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a fresh rosemary twig.

Gin

Best Sipping Gin: Hendrick’s Gin – Gin is made from distilling grain mash and flavoring it with juniper berries and other botanicals that give it a distinct flavor. Popular in Europe, it’s also preferred by many hipsters.

Hendrick’s gin is one of few that are palatable on its own. Typically it’s paired with vermouth or tonic water and citrus flavors. It can also replace vodka in many cocktails if you’d prefer it with a twist.

A glass of Hendricks with an olive or lime for garnish is the perfect way to end an evening.

Celery Snapper

  • 2 oz Rutte Celery Gin
  • 1 quart fresh tomato juice
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce
  • 2 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder

Pre-Batch Mix – Combine all ingredients except gin in a pitcher. For best results, let stand in fridge overnight.

Cocktail – Pour 2 oz of celery gin over ice into a Collins glass. Top with 4 oz prepared batch mix and stir. Garnish with a celery stalk.

Gin and Tonic

  • 2 oz Rutte Dry Gin
  • 4 oz Tonic Water
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
  • 2 Lime Wedges

Fill a mason jar with ice. Pour gin, lime juice, and tonic water to fill. Seal lid and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Remove lid and enjoy.

Tequila/Mezcal

Best Sipping Tequila: Don Julio 1942 – Mezcal is a distilled spirit popular in Mexico. It’s made from the agave plant, and tequila is a type of mezcal derived from the blue agave plant. Tequila is also distilled different than mezcal, though both are often interchanged in American cocktail recipes.

Mezcal can be distinguished by its smokier flavor, but both are great cocktail drinks.

Don Julio’s 1942 tequila is among the finest in the world. Growing up by the Mexico border, I’ve tried dozens of tequilas in my days, and 1942 is easily the smoothest I’ve ever tasted. If you ever get a chance to splurge on a bottle, do it.

Pina de Fuego
from The Gastronom Blog

Rub the rim of a rocks glass with a slice of fresh pineapple. Dip the rim in brown sugar. Combine ingredients in shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with cilantro and pineapple.

Snow White
An alteration of a drink created by Cody Goldstein – Founder of Muddling Memories

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir for 10 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with 2 inch ice cube. Swipe lemon twist around rim and drop inside.

Maple Old Fashioned

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange peel and a cinnamon stick.

Brandy/Cognac

Best Sipping Brandy: Kohler Original Recipe Chocolates Dark Chocolate Brandy – Brandy is made by distilling wine and is one of the original drinks distilled for mass production. Distilling wine was meant to make it easier to transport and store wine, but the distinct flavor was soon treasured by many.

Cognac is a specific type of brandy made with specified grapes, distilled in a copper pot, and aged in French oak barrels from Limousin or Troncais.

Herb Kohler is the Wisconsin-based Executive Chairman of Kohler Co. (very likely the brand of your faucet, shower head, or other plumbing, but also with a five-star hospitality division) who loves brandy and infused his dark chocolate recipe with his favorite brandy to create one of the most pleasing sipping brandies around. It’s only available in Wisconsin, so be sure to check it out if you’re ever in the midwest.

Raisin and Cinnamon Blazer

Place a cognac glass containing cognac at an angle on a lowball glass of hot water. Add the raisins, sugar, cinnamon and orange zest to the cognac glass. Light the cognac and rotate the glass for about 45 seconds. Put the flame out by cutting off the air supply with some bar napkins.

Between the Sheets

Fill shaker with ice. Combine ingredients and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Flame an orange peel over the glass and garnish.

Grapparita
Modified from Difford’s Guide

Fill shaker with ice, combine ingredients and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled margarita glass and garnish with a lime wedge.

Pear Brandy Sidecar

  • 1.5 oz Clear Creek Distillery Pear Brandy
  • 1 oz Pear Nectar
  • .5 oz Lemon Juice
  • .5 oz Simple Syrup

Fill shaker with ice and combine ingredients. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds and strain into chilled martini glass. If desired, coat rim in sugar and/or garnish with a sliver of pear.

Extra Fuzzy Navel

Place 2-3 ice cubes in a highball glass. Mix liquors and stir. Add orange juice to taste.

Absinthe

Absinthe is a distilled liquor made of anise, wormwood, fennel, and other botanicals. Because it contains thujone, it’s been banned in several countries until the 1990s, when it slowly made a comeback.

While riding the green fairy is an experience that’s been mostly exaggerated, absinthe remains a popular drink in much of the U.S. and Europe.

You don’t simply sip absinthe. It’s drank by pouring water over a sugar cube into the liquor until it turns cloudy. The flavor is that of strong licorice, often with hints of mint. It’s a drink for those willing to live dangerously.

Sazerac

Dissolve sugar in water and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add whiskey and ice and shake. Pour absinthe in glass and swirl around to coat the inside of the glass and drink the excess. Strain the whiskey mix into the absinthe glass and garnish with lemon peel.

Death in the Afternoon

Pour absinthe into a champagne glass. Fill with sparkling wine and swirl your glass.

Cordials/Liqueurs/Misc

Best Sipping Cordial: Limoncello di Sonoma – An italian lemon liqueur, limoncello is made from lemon zest oil mixed with simple syrup and is used as an after-dinner digestif at many Italian restaurants.

Limoncello di Sonoma, like many fine wines, is produced in Sonoma County, CA and is just as good as anything produced in Italy. If you’re looking for the perfect way to finish any winter meal, you can’t go wrong with a small, chilled glass of limoncello.

Of course, you can always choose to make a cocktail with your cordials, and limoncello makes some excellent summer ones we’ll discuss when the weather warms up.

The Wildest Redhead

Dissolve honey in hot water and set aside to cool. Mix scotch, juice from lemon, pimento dram, and honey syrup into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Place a large ice cube in a rocks glass, strain mixture into glass and pour cherry juice on top.

Salted Pecan Mocha

Pour milk, coffee, cocoa, and drambuie in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Pour into glass, add salt and top with marshmallows.

Spiced and Spiked

Combine in shaker with ice, pour over ice in Collins glass. Sip and enjoy.

And, of course, for you sorority girls who just want to get trashed without mixing anything

Beach Whiskey – Flavored whiskey aimed at the flavored vodka crowd that, as far as I can tell, consists of underage kids stealing liquor from their parents. Available in coconut, cinnamon, and clear, this is basically sweetened moonshine.

Be Tini Spirits – Flavored vodka that, as far as I can tell, is for underage kids stealing liquor from their parents. Available in 6 flavors, including cake, lemon drop, cranberry, appletini, lime, and tropical sunset, these bottles look pretty, but contain artificial, sugary, white-girl liquor sure to give you a hangover.

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Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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