It’s Not Merry Christmas Without The Cocktails
Neal Dewing
By

Merry Christmas! As Bethany Mandel noted here in the Federalist the other day, it is indeed Christmas time. It’s no good pretending otherwise. Whether you’re trying to Scroogishly ignore the holiday, or Frankenstein it into some kind of trite “Winter Festival,” I’m here to tell you not to bother. You will fail. Christmas is irrepressible. Embrace the reality that Christmas is its own marvelous thing, and it’s going to stay that way.

This is not to say you should go around preaching sermons at people who don’t seem to get it. If you are one of those who actively try to ruin someone’s Christmas, whether by humbugging or God-bothering, be warned: The only gift you’ll get from this drinks writer is a taste o’ the back o’ me hand.

Kidding aside, as another year comes to a close I want to take the time to thank you for reading—not just these drink reviews, but for your support of all the writers at the Federalist. We’ve had a heck of a year, and I don’t think I’d be speaking out of turn to say we’re glad you’re along for the ride.

Wherever you find yourself this year, I hope you and your loved ones have a safe, happy, and peaceful Christmas.

Now, let’s hit the booze. I put out the call a few weeks ago for readers to send in their favorite Christmas cocktails, and you didn’t disappoint. I’m happy to share two very tasty recipes from the generous souls of the Internet, and one traditional mix. I’d like to thank everyone who shared his or her favorites with me. I wish I could have included them all. Thankfully, it’ll be Christmas again next year!

The Winter Waltz

This recipe was sent to me by Father Kyle S. Since Father K is a Catholic priest, you can rest easy knowing this beverage was exhaustively tested before it ever came to me. It involves one ingredient that may be difficult to obtain, so check your local liquor stores. If you can’t find it, don’t fret—you can make it yourself.

You’ll need:

  • 1 oz Bulleit rye whiskey
  • 1 oz Laird’s Applejack
  • 1/2 oz Amaro Averna
  • 1/4 oz Allspice dram (this is the key ingredient)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Chill a cocktail glass and set it aside. Add all ingredients to a shaker and do the needful. Pour into the glass and serve neat.

A quick word about the Allspice dram: there is a brand out there called St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram that you may be able to find. If not, you can make it at home easily enough with this recipe. If you’re pressed for time, simply heat the rum and crushed spices to a simmer on medium heat, then reduce to low and allow it to sit for 20-30 minutes (perhaps longer), depending on how it tastes to you. This will speed the process of infusion along. I was able to produce a dram that was redolent of allspice and had a strong taste that reminded me of the Angostura bitters, albeit much sweeter.

The cocktail is subtle, but flavorful. It’s not terribly hard hitting—an 80-proof rye is recommended so as not to overpower the delicate influence of Averna and the dram. As the good Father told me, the Allspice dram is crucial, as it makes the drink taste like Christmas. Friends and relations will love this libation, sure as the stars shine above.

Yuletide Cherry

Our second cocktail suggestion came from Denise M. The Yuletide Cherry is very light and drinkable, and would be great for a large party or some light drinking on your day off (you are taking at least one of those, right?). Here’s how to do it:

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz R.W. Knudsen Just Tart Cherry Juice
  • 5 oz ginger ale
  • sprig of mint for garnish

Add alcohol and the tart cherry juice to a glass full of ice. Pour ginger ale on top and give it a quick stir. Garnish with the mint and enjoy!

This is a departure from the typically heavy, sweet Christmas beverages. The tart cherry juice adds a good bit of sour to it, which is mollified by the ginger ale. It also has a fantastic color and looks just great in the glass. The vodka is barely discernible, as is vodka’s wont. I stuck with the mint for a garnish, but there’s no reason you couldn’t get more creative with it.

I’d suggest this one for when you’re frazzled from all the Christmas cheer, but still need a steady hand for wrapping presents.

Hot Buttered Rum

Ah, now we come to a more traditional drink. It’s cold during winter, and a body needs to keep warm. Hot buttered rum is a sure remedy. It can be very basic, or you can jazz it up as you prefer. The point is, if the weather outside is frightful enough, there’s no way you’ll regret drinking it. It’s easy as can be:

  • 1 pat of unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • Spices to taste (optional)
    • nutmeg
    • cloves
    • allspice
    • cinnamon
  • 2 oz dark rum (typically Jamaican)
  • Hot water

Place the butter, spices, and sugar into the bottom of a heat-proof mug or Irish coffee glass. Muddle them all together, then pour in the rum. Finally, top up the glass with hot water and stir until it’s dissolved.

Despite the fact you’re drinking butter, this really isn’t too heavy a drink. The butter and sugar mix with the rum and water to give it a smooth, soothing taste that spreads warmth all the way to your fingertips.

Neal Dewing lives and works in Portsmouth, Virginia. He is the co-host of The Fifth Estate, a podcast examining culture and politics.

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