The holidays are here and that means traveling and also spending time with lots of family. It’s a time when alcohol and family come together. When used in the correct situations alcohol can provide many benefits for these social settings.
There are times when you want to sip and laugh, times you want to sneak a drink and situations where only lots of hard liquor will do. Everyone is familiar with the concept of comfort food. I propose you embrace comfort drinking; matching the proper beverage with the right situation, leveraging its effects as well as its cosmetic worth. I am a firm believer that there is a right drink for the right time. Note: If you don’t drink, well some of these can be “virgins”; however, I would suggest you stick to the comfort food philosophy in order to get by.
The list of best holiday drinks runs the gamut from extremely festive to just finding a way to cope. There are family outings to celebrate and others to dread. Sometimes you have good news and sometimes that news is trumped; others may have news as well, some of it depressing and some of it just too damn happy. Don’t forget about the kids, not your kids – they are angels – everyone else’s kids and the non-stop noise. Why are they such monsters? These ideas will help take the edge off and provide that warm, merry feeling that sometimes we all need a little help finding.
Take a deep breath; it’s going to be okay. Here are 20 of the best holiday drinks to help deal with family.
20 Hot Toddy
What exactly is a Hot Toddy? Simply, it’s a hot whiskey. A Hot Toddy is the perfect hard drink that will keep you warm on Christmas Eve as you venture out to sing Christmas carols or gather around the tree. It’s also the perfect beverage to sip on the freezing porch while sneaking a cigarette. You can add cinnamon or other garnishes as you prefer, but be careful, not everything mixes well with whiskey. Other liquor (rum, brandy) can also be used as a substitute, just not in Ireland. In fact, don’t even bring this up as an option in Ireland.
Port is a very strong and very sweet wine. It’s typically poured as a dessert wine which is perfect for the holidays when there never seem to be a shortage of treats. Note that you don’t need a port glass to enjoy this wine, that’s more of a suggestion and not necessary to enjoy the taste or body of a good port. This drink is perfect if you find yourself in a “here’s my life story” type conversation that seems like it will never end. Especially if you have heard it once before, it’s like an oral Christmas letter and we all know they are the worst. Seriously, don’t get me started on those Christmas letters.
18 Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout Beer
I’m picking the Samuel Smith version, but there are many other swell Oatmeal Stout beers. They are warm and spicy and very dark (it is a stout after all). The beer looks manly and very thick which is ideal as a conversation starter, but also just scary enough to keep others from asking for one. If you’re not a fan of wine then this is a great holiday beverage that is great pre-dinner or after dinner. Be sure to pour it in a glass and relish the thick head and dark body. This is beer for sipping, not slamming. Please don’t slam oatmeal stout beer; please don’t be that guy at the holiday party.
17 Brandy Slush
The brandy slush is a Midwest favorite that combines tea with brandy and some mix of lemons, lemonade or lime flavored drink. It’s known as a summer drink, but when summer is only 3 months long it's okay to break out a bucket of brandy slush for your holiday party. It’s really the same as having a punch except there’s just brandy, and also slush. For holiday swingers in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota this should be the drink of choice. Serving brandy slush (suggest a bucket) is a super quick way to get people drunk and ensure their clothes are off before midnight; a great way to beat the winter cold and fast track a holiday orgy.
16 Bailey’s Irish Coffee
The makers of Bailey’s don’t even try to hide the fact that their product is made to be put into coffee, which is a morning drink and a questionable time to get your buzz on. Bailey’s and coffee is a great way to beat the morning hangover or fight off that morning holiday stress. Is it Thanksgiving morning already? That means the in-laws will be here in 2 hours. Where’s my Bailey’s? The drink itself is good, really good. After all, it's minty, and coffee and mints go together like apples and pie. For those looking for something a little more old-school try a straight Irish coffee, which is really just whiskey in your coffee. Definitely an acquired taste, no longer minty coffee flavored.
You invite friends and family over for a holiday party and it’s boring. Everyone is just staring at the television or worse, the tree. Don’t fret, it’s just time to turn your Christmas party into a fiesta and the easiest way to do this is introduce bottles of tequila. Just place them in the open with limes and salt and someone will do a shot, then another and then your only problem is putting the couch fire out. A tequila bonus is of course body shots, in case your guests want to turn the party into sexy fun. Note: Much better if friends and not family.
Sherry is from Spain and is another dessert wine that goes well with cakes, cookies and pies. You can also drink it straight if you need to fit in with a new sweater-tying brother-in-law from Greenwich, Connecticut. William Shakespeare wrote about Sherry and both Frasier and Niles Crane enjoyed daily glasses of this wine on the sitcom Frasier. This is a fancy wine to show off the fact that you are better than those drinking Cabernet and Pinot Grigio in the room. I mean, a Cabernet during the holidays? Is it the end of the world already? Seriously, unless you want to project yourself as a tool, it may be best to pass on bringing the bottle of sherry.
13 Jack and Coke
Everyone is yelling, the kids are screaming and you just realized you left all the gifts at home. Your wife is pissed and your kids are tired and are already asking to go home. You just don’t give two shits and want to drink. That’s when it’s time for the old Jack and Coke standby. Pour them stiff and pour them often. In no time the world will calm down and everyone will turn their focus to world issues and how to solve Uncle Charlie’s cocaine problem (Note: not curable). Just think, all it took was 1-3 bottles of Jack Daniels. Now if only you remembered where you put those presents.
12 Vodka Coffee
Now here is the real deal morning kick-start to your day. It’s simple, just brew a cup of coffee and then pour in vodka. I would suggest you mix the vodka in one cup at a time, but it’s your world and if you want to create a full pot of coffee mixed with vodka, have at it. Note: Do not argue with anyone that wants to do this, ever. The cheaper the vodka the more hardcore you are, and look, you are saving money during the holidays! Of course it may be a good idea to keep this practice to yourself - there’s something about vodka and coffee before 7a.m. that people don’t understand.
11 Riesling Wine
Riesling wine always seems to get a bad rap or be categorized as only a “dessert” wine due to its sweetness. It doesn’t have to be that way, especially today when there are so many dry and not-too-sweet Riesling wines out there. A great wine that is light for those times you don’t want to really drink, or maybe you do want to drink a lot, but not get too wasted. Don’t forget, Riesling comes in those long narrow bottles so that’s a bonus. One of these bottles is great for a gift, looks better than a standard bottle of poor old Sauvignon Blanc which is for losers.
10 Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
Most know Sierra Nevada as makers of the I.P.A. beer that is on tap everywhere. They were one of the trailblazers of the I.P.A. renaissance we are currently experiencing. The Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale still has that hoppy bitterness you know and a hoppy flavor that is reason enough for a celebration. It’s a good beer to bring over on Thanksgiving Day and drink during the football games as well as right through turkey. You may want to take a break if you plan to have Pumpkin Pie, but anything else is a go with Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. Be sure to remind everyone each time you toast that you are drinking celebration ale. By the third beer they will be annoyed and you won’t have a care in the world.
9 Holiday Hopper
A Holiday Hopper is mint and melon liquor mixed with crème de menthe. It’s very minty, very green and very thick. This is really just a holiday version of The Grasshopper which means ice cream is optional. Personally, mixing ice cream with booze ruins any drink, but if this floats your boat then by all means. The Holiday Hopper is another one of those drinks to offer family members when they first show up and don’t worry, you won’t be making these drinks all night long - no one can have more than one. Too thick and not as tasty as they look, but man, they do look good!
8 The North Pole
Here’s a drink with a great name that when you offer it to your guests they will first accept and then ask what’s in it. They may be sorry they asked when they learn The North Pole contains whipped cream, egg white and lemon juice (or lemon infused vodka). Still, the name alone screams holiday fun and if you’re like me then anytime I hear there is egg in a drink the theme music from Rocky kicks in. The North Pole is a good idea if you have lots of light drinks and are looking to add a heavier item to your cocktail menu.
7 Stevens Point St. Benedict’s Winter Ale
Stevens Point is located in central Wisconsin, so it’s safe to say they know a lot about two things: beer and cold winter weather. Stevens Point St. Benedict’s Winter Ale is sweet and spicy. There is also a toasty malt flavoring that will keep it interesting and keep your insides warm. Despite some bitterness resulting in an edge, this is a beer you can have several of while shoveling snow (or even better, watching others shovel snow), watching football or standing around while people open presents. It’s always good to have something to do when others are opening presents; otherwise you’re just standing there.
6 The Grinch
One of the most famous anti-Christmas heroes is represented here as well. Welcome to the world of drinks, Mr. Grinch. Here’s a good drink to offer to that grumpy Uncle who only drinks Budweiser and is always complaining about taxes. To make The Grinch, mix 2 ounces of Midori and lemon juice, that’s it! You will get a nice green, Grinch-like color and after 2 or 3 there is a guarantee to turn any frown upside down. Bonus for anyone who spikes with an extra shot of vodka or skimps on the ice cubes, that’s more Grinch for you, sir! Feel free to garnish with anger.
5 Mistletoe Martini
The Mistletoe Martini is vodka and cranberry with mistletoe as garnish. It has a nice red color, so you know; holidays! Be careful with this one, especially if there are non-family people at your holiday gatherings. This is the ideal drink for any “bro” who can’t handle the taste of whiskey and typically drinks wine coolers (he also drank Zima back in the day). He will have several of these drinks and then think it’s a good idea to hold his martini glass over girls and force his lips on them. This is not a good idea and I’m proposing this drink be outlawed in states where “bros” reside.
4 Samuel Adams Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout
Samuel Adams and company are not rookies when it comes to winter and holiday beers, and the Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout definitely lives up to their quality. The gingerbread taste is real, which is strange to me, but I guess what you want when you get a beer with gingerbread in the name. Here is another beer that can be enjoyed throughout the day with family. It is best to pour this one in a pint glass if available for two reasons. First, it’s a stout so you should really pour the beer and secondly, if the kids see the bottle they are going to keep bothering you for sips and that’s no good.
3 The Candy Cane
The Candy Cane is a drink that mixes berry vodka, peppermint Schnapps and grenadine. The color is red and you top it off by placing a candy cane inside the drink. I’m not personally a fan of the candy cane, one a year is plenty for me so finding uses for these hook-shaped mini barber poles is good by me. This is a fun drink to offer with friends or families around the holidays. This drink is an especially big hit with the girls who like sweeter drinks that have a festive connection. Just keep the kids away from this one; they always want to lick the candy cane.
2 Christmas Sangria
I’m a big believer in alcoholic drinks not being tied to a season. For example, I enjoy Corona year round. I don’t have to be on the beach and it doesn’t have to be July. Maybe that makes me insane, but it also makes me understand those who enjoy Christmas Sangria. What is Christmas Sangria? It’s just Sangria with the word Christmas in front of it. It’s already red (red wine) and you can stick all the berries and fruit you want in it (I suggest strawberries and blueberries). Perfect for a group of gossiping Aunts or a family member that requires ice with everything they drink.
Here we are, the all-time favorite holiday drink, eggnog. Eggnog is the candy corn of the holidays. It’s hard to even find this stuff after December. It comes in a milk carton because that’s what it is, a dairy-based drink made with milk and cream. Eggnog is perfect for sitting around the table with your family after a wonderful dinner of ham and buttered rolls. Also, when your sister announces she is getting married to your ex-boyfriend it is perfectly acceptable to add two shots of bourbon and repeat as necessary. I always wonder how many half-filled cartons of eggnog are discarded after the new year, I’m guessing at least 5 million cartons (note: estimate not based on research).