Between all of the holidays and pseudo-holidays (hi, Friendsgiving), end-of-year gatherings tend to involve plenty of food, festive games, enthusiastic gift-giving, and tasty drinks. If you find yourself hosting a holiday party, coming up with a solid bar-cart game plan will save you time, money, and stress, allowing you to fully enjoy the event. One easy way to minimise your drink-related woes is to swap your loaded table of liquor and mixers for a large-format cocktail capable of serving the whole party.
INSIDER consulted bartenders, beverage directors, and event experts from around the country to gather their favourite holiday-appropriate big-batch cocktails, and we’re bringing you 13 recipes perfect for your November and December party life.
Apple Cider Mimosas are perfect for a holiday brunch.
Got a holiday brunch in the works? Give your traditional mimosas a seasonal spin by swapping out the OJ for some apple cider, as chef, blogger, and Instagrammer Jason Goldstein of Chop Happy suggests in this delicious day-drinking specialty.
- 2 Bottles of Prosecco (or Champagne), chilled
- 2 Bottles of apple cider, chilled
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tbsp pumpkin spice seasoning
- 12 slices of apple to garnish
- Mix the sugar and the pumpkin spice seasoning.
- Dip the top of each champagne flute in water and then into the sugar/pumpkin spice mixture to create a flavorful rim for each glass.
- Combine the Prosecco and apple cider in a punch bowl and mix well.
- Garnish each glass with an apple slice.
The Waterbury Royale transitions watermelon from summer vibes to holiday vibes.
Yeah, it’s the holidays, but we don’t need to do away with “summertime” cocktail flavours. Watermelon can be plenty festive, as proven by the Waterbury Royale, a refreshing vodka cocktail from Brooklyn bar/restaurant/party venue/coworking space Freehold. It’s totally fine to serve this one in a regular punch bowl…but if you can get your hands on a swan-shaped one, that definitely won’t hurt.
- 16 oz vodka (Freehold recommends Absolut Elyx)
- 10 1/2 oz watermelon juice
- 8 oz lime juice
- 8 oz simple syrup
- 8-10 oz Champagne or sparkling wine
- Fresh lime wedges and watermelon Sour Patch Kids
- Combine vodka, watermelon juice, lime juice, and simple syrup in a punch bowl with ice and stir.
- Ladle into glasses and top with sparkling wine.
- Garnish with fresh lime wedges and 4-5 watermelon Sour Patch Kids per glass (optional).
Bourbon Chai Punch is the perfect cosy, cold-weather drink.
In the context of cool-weather cocktails, bourbon stands above other liquors as an absolute champion. It’s smoky, woodsy, smooth, buttery- the ideal libation for eggnogs, hot toddies, and holiday punches. During this time of year, lead bartender John Henderson of The Happiest Hour in NYC likes to whip up a shareable bourbon-based cocktail with gentle spice and classic autumn flavours.
- 2 cups strong chai tea, brewed
- 2 cups apple cider
- 3 cups bourbon (Henderson prefers Maker’s Mark)
- 1 ½ cups fresh lemon juice
- 1 ½ cups maple syrup
- 2 cups hard dry cider
- 4 dashes orange bitters (Henderson prefers Fee Brothers West Indies)
- 4 cups sparkling water
- Apple slices, for garnish
- Lemon slices, for garnish
- Cinnamon sticks, for garnish
- Combine chai tea, apple, and hard ciders, bourbon, lemon juice, maple syrup, and bitters in a punch bowl and stir.
- Immediately before serving, top with sparkling water and add a few generous scoops of ice.
- Garnish glasses with apple slices, lemon slices, and cinnamon sticks.
Bengal Kitty Punch combines chai and bourbon.
Thanks to its herbal profile of clove, cinnamon, and cardamom, chai tea makes an excellent addition to late-fall and early-winter cocktails. It pairs well with bourbon, but as owner Akash Kapoor of Mortar & Pestle in Northern California shows in his Bengal Kitty Punch recipe, rum and brandy are also welcome additions to the chai party.
- 400mL chai tea
- 125mL brandy
- 60mL apricot brandy (Kapoor recommends Merlet Lune d’Abricot)
- 60mL Jamaican rum (Kapoor recommends Doctor Bird)
- 60mL overproof rum (Kapoor recommends Plantation OFTD)
- 375mL white vermouth (Kapoor recommends Dolin Blanc)
- 100mL lemon juice
- 40mL honey syrup
- 5 dashes bitters (Kapoor recommends Bittercube Jamaican #2)
- Fill punch bowl with ice.
- Add chai tea, brandy, apricot brandy, rums, white vermouth, lemon juice, honey syrup, and bitters to punch bowl and stir.
- Add flowers and lemon wheels for garnish.
1965 Milk Punch is a fancy egg nog.
A vintage party drink that’s now making a well-deserved comeback, milk punch feels like a slightly-more-refined spin on eggnog. At Mattie’s in Austin, TX, beverage director Jason Stevens bases his recipe on a version found in acclaimed culinary text “The Texas Cookbook”, written in 1965 by Mary Faulk Koock, the daughter of restaurant-namesake Martha “Mattie” Faulk.
- 4 oz bourbon (Stevens prefers Buffalo Trace)
- 3 oz Cognac (Stevens prefers Pierre Ferrand 1840)
- 1 ½ oz Jamaican rum (Stevens prefers Appleton Reserve)
- 16 oz half-and-half
- 8 oz whole milk
- 2 ½ oz grade A or B maple syrup
- 2 oz crème de cacao (Stevens prefers Tempus Fugit)
- 1 oz vanilla paste
- Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl and stir vigorously to make sure the vanilla is fully dispersed in the mix, then chill until very cold.
- Dispense milk punch into small chilled cups and garnish each cup with freshly-grated nutmeg.
The Bucky Barnes is inspired by Hawaii.
You might not expect a fantastic cool-weather cocktail to emerge from the tropical land of Hawaii, but Merriman’s Hawaii doesn’t like to be predictable. Beverage director Dusty Grable devised the Bucky Barnes as a harmonious merging of smoky bourbon and sweet persimmon, and the combination offers both a well-rounded richness and a fruit-forward nod to the cocktail’s homeland.
- 24 oz bourbon (Grable suggests Eagle Rare)
- 8 oz Amaro Nonino
- 8 oz persimmon-vanilla-brown sugar simple syrup (recipe below)
- 16 oz dry pear cider (Grable suggests Samuel Smith “Organic Perry”)
- Combine bourbon, Amaro Nonino, persimmon syrup, and cider in a punch bowl and stir.
- Add large ice cubes to punch bowl and garnish with clove-studded persimmons.
- Ladle into punch glasses and garnish with cinnamon sticks.
- 12 persimmons, peeled and diced
- 8 oz water
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 5 cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- Combine all ingredients in saucepan and cook over medium-low heat to melt sugar.
- After sugar melts, remove from heat and steep for 15 minutes.
- Remove cinnamon sticks and cloves and transfer to blender.
- Blend until smooth, then chill.
Alligator Monday combines the best of fall and winter.
While bourbon features a full body and soft notes of caramel and vanilla, rye whiskey brings a drier, spicier profile, which also jives perfectly with autumn botanicals. The Alligator Monday may be an L.A. invention, but Kalani Ben of The Spare Room taps into classic autumn flavours that seem tailor-made for crisp outdoor temperatures.
- 75 oz rye whiskey (Ben recommends Templeton)
- 37.5oz Fernet-Branca
- 25 oz maraschino liqueur (Ben recommends Luxardo)
- 33 oz cinnamon syrup
- 25 oz lime juice
- 1.1 oz celery bitters (Ben recommends Scrappy’s)
- 1.1 oz cardamom bitters (Ben recommends Scrappy’s)
- Combine all ingredient in a punch bowl and stir.
- Add cubed ice and stir until desired taste is achieved.
- Ladle into cups and garnish with honeydew melon and/or celery ribbons.
Xalapa Punch features applejack.
Applejack, an apple-flavored liqueur with origins dating back to the American colonial era, is a natural drinking choice for this time of year. Thumbtack, a San Francisco-based platform that allows you to hire culinary and hospitality professionals for events, came up with a killer cocktail starring applejack that deserves a spot on your Thanksgiving roster.
- 25 oz bonded applejack
- 25 oz aged rum
- 25 oz dry red wine
- 25 oz lemon juice
- 20 oz simple syrup
- 15 oz strong black tea
- Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl and stir.
- Add ice.
- Ladle into glasses and garnish with lemon wheels.
Pomegranate Mule Punch is a ginger-y cocktail.
With its vibrant red hue and ginger undertones, this spin on the Moscow Mule from Natalie Migliarini of @BeautifulBooze makes a stunning and easy-drinking centrepiece for your holiday party beverage spread.
- 1 bottle of gin (Migliarini recommends Nolet’s Silver)
- 20 oz ginger beer
- 1 cup lime juice
- ½ cup pomegranate syrup (recipe below)
- 1 sliced lime for garnish
- Rosemary sprigs for garnish
- Pomegranate seeds for garnish
- Fill a punch bowl with ice.
- Combine all ingredients in punch bowl and stir.
- Garnish with lime slices, rosemary sprigs, and pomegranate seeds.
CranMerry Margarita makes tequila festive.
There’s no need to relegate margaritas to summertime-only drinking; the CranMerry Margarita at Del Sur Mexican Cantina in San Diego, California has plenty of holiday flair, and it’s common knowledge that a party with margaritas is a party worth attending.
- 15 oz blanco tequila
- 10 oz orange juice
- 5 oz lime juice
- 10 spoonfuls cranberry jam
- 5-spice for glass rims
- Sprigs of mint for garnish
- Lime wedges
- Pour 5-spice into a small bowl or on a small plate.
- Run a lime wedge around the rim of each glass and dip the glass upside down into the 5-spice.
- Fill each glass with ice.
- Combine tequila, juices, and cranberry jam in a punch bowl with ice and stir.
- Pour into glasses and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Frenchman in Jalisco has cinnamon and chocolate flavours.
Fans of warm beverages with a hint of spice rave about Mexican hot chocolate, which blends the rich flavour of chocolate with a cosy dose of cinnamon. At The Esquire Tavern in San Antonio, Texas, beverage director Houston Eaves adds French chartreuse and tequila to this winter standard, transforming it into a comforting cocktail with plenty of attitude.
- 32 oz añejo tequila (Eaves uses Tapatio)
- 8 oz Chartreuse
- 64 oz whole milk
- 10 discs grated cinnamon-infused Mexican chocolate (Eaves uses Taza)
- Add liquid ingredients to slow cooker and set to low.
- When liquid is hot, add chocolate and stir until incorporated.
- Transfer to pitcher and whisk until frothy.
- Pour into warm mug and top with whipped cream.
Mexican Harvest is basically the PSL of cocktails.
“Pumpkin” and “tequila” don’t sound like a natural fit, but the crisp and peppery qualities of the agave spirit actually provide a pleasant counterpoint to the buttery richness of everyone’s favourite autumn gourd. Tequila makers Partida agree, which is why they devised the Mexican Harvest, a party punch built around late-fall flavours.
- 34oz blanco tequila (Partida recommends their own Blanco)
- 5 cups lemon sour mix
- 5 cups pumpkin puree or pumpkin butter
- 1 bottle Prosecco
- 2 tbsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
- Fill a punch bowl with ice.
- Add all ingredients and stir.
- Garnish with lemon wheels and cinnamon sticks.
- Ladle into cups.
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