Oh, the Holidays, there’s nothing quite like getting hammered and pretending to enjoy your family’s company. I jest…kind of.
But with the weather starting to get precarious and the daylight virtually gone, drinking indoors becomes the de facto activity. And if you’re looking for a way to avoid high bar bills, those drinks are likely to be consumed in the comfort of your own home.
But first, you’ll need to stock your bar cart appropriately. That is unless you plan on dusting off that bottle of Jack Daniels and going hard on the rum and cokes. And let’s be honest, I love myself a gin and tonic (or soda for the health-conscious), but they just don’t have the same appeal when it’s 30 degrees outside. It’s time to put those summer drinks away in favor of some winter cocktails.
Whether it’s a literal bar cart or a cabinet full of booze, we got you covered on how to set up a bar car – keeping in mind the holiday liquors you’ll need for some of those classic cocktails.
The winter weather is unequivocally bourbon season. Nothing really says cozy cocktail quite like bourbon drinks. So if you’re like me, bourbon is going to be the base for most of the drinks you’ll likely end up making. Some easy bourbon cocktails are hot toddies and whiskey sours. You can even put it in your coffee, or have it neat, just know bourbon will be a crucial fixture for some winter-themed drinks. Go for a brand like Bulleit for a quality, cheap(er) bourbon that isn’t too good and you don’t feel bad putting it in cocktails. Oh, and definitely opt for the bigger bottle size. Maybe even just go to Costco and snag a liter.
Good for Cocktails: Buillet Bourbon
Good for Sipping: OOLA Waitsburg Bourbon
I’m always a fan of gin. TIt’s also versatile as hell. If your holiday parties are commencing my go-to holiday martini is a classic gin martini. Classy and efficient; you drink a martini when you need to get hammered quickly in an elevated, elegant manor.
And the gin actually matters. If you like something drier and juniper-forward, you’ll want a classic London Dry. I’m partial to these types of gin; the heavy juniper notes in your classic London Dry Gin always remind me of the Pacific Northwest.
Recently, many distilleries have been making gins with all sorts of botanicals, sometimes upwards of 50. These new-age, types of gins tend to be less dry but have a much more complex flavor to them. To be honest, I tend to really enjoy these in martinis because they add depth to the martini that is sometimes lost.
Budget Option: Tanqueray Gin
Better Option: The Botanist
Is there anything better than sipping Scotch by the fire on a cold, dark winter night? I think not. If you like it smokey, an Islay scotch like Laphroaig or Lagavulin will be your best bet. If you want something a bit more balanced, go for Scotch from the Speyside region like Glenlivet or a Macallan Scotch.
For the most part, Scotch can be substituted for bourbon in most cocktails (within reason, people). It’s easy enough to switch it up and make a scotch old-fashioned or treat myself try out a Penicillin cocktail.
Though the preferred method is simply siping some neat; please opt for a more expensive scotch, you’ll thank me
For Cocktails: Johnnie Walker Black Label
For Sipping: Lagavulin 16
Another versatile booze that warms the belly just like bourbon. You can go a few different routes with rum since you have different types such as spiced, white, or dark rums.
A white rum will suit you well for drinks like a coquito and or daiquiri (ok, maybe more of a summer drink, but there’s not a wrong time to drink a daiquiri).
On the other hand, dark rum or spiced rum will be useful for a twist on classic winter cocktails such as hot toddy, hot buttered rum, or some eggnog.
Cocktail Rum: Plantation Three Stars
Sipping Rum: Ron Zacapa Rum Solera Gran Reserva Especial
Those first few categories should cover the basics of your bar cart. But of course, there are a few more areas you can venture down.
Beer & Wine
Making sure that your wine cabinet is fully stocked during the holidays is definitely a good idea. Red wine is likely to come to mind first since most of the food will be a bit heavier this time of year. I always love Pinot Noirs (it’s one of the best red wines if you ask me). They are especially good from the Willamette Valley of the Pacific Northwest. Pinot Noirs go well with red meats, of course, but if your family goes for seafood during the holidays, they can pair well with that too.
If mulled wine is your thing, go for something darker like a Merlot. Though you can do mulled wine too, maybe don’t.
For something a little more fun and festive, go for sparkling wine or get wild and try a Lambrusco wine, which is essentially a lightly sparkling red.
And let’s not forget the beer. Stouts are always lovely this time of year, especially if you’re looking for a high alcohol beer that you’re going to sip on for a while. Look for some of your local breweries and see what they are working up. Chocolate, coffee, hazelnut are likely going to be the dominant flavor this time of year. You can even find some ales that incorporate winter spices like mint, cinnamon, and cloves to provide a nice warmth.
And there’s nothing wrong with a classic like Guinness
If you want a low alcohol beer, I’d suggest a type of lager, maybe even find some Oktoberfest-style beer leftover from fall.
Cozy: Deschutes Brewery, Jubelale
Even Cozier: Ommegang Bourbon Barrel-Aged Adoration
Let’s face it, you’ll probably eat a lot. Despite your best efforts, those cheese boards are going to be calling your name.
If you want to take some preventative measures, look into getting an amaro liqueur for your bar cart. Italians have been drinking amari for years now to help aid digestion, which is perfect for this time of year. Try out Amaro Braulio, which basically tastes like a mountain forest. Throw back some Fernet Branca which will surely straighten you up after a full meal. Or for something a bit less intimidating and even a fantastic addition to many cocktails, Amaro Nonino.
Take the plunge into the world of amari. You won’t regret it. Look below for my favorite amaro cocktails recipe!
You can get pretty far with just the alcohol alone, but with only a few other ingredients, you’ll have infinitely more options. Ginger will be a great addition (try out a ginger simple syrup) to most cocktails and aid with digestion. Citrus is a no-brainer and should be kept handy year-round. And, of course, spices. Cloves & cinnamon will be necessary for your hot toddy, but others like nutmeg, star anise, and even cardamom will make great mulling spices or garnishes.
- Lemons & Limes
- Star Anise
Bar Cart Tools
No bar cart is complete without the tools. A cocktail shaker and a jigger are the obvious requisites. Glassware comes to mind next; some quality tumblers or even coupe glasses to feel extra classy. Make sure you get a juicer and peeler for all the citrus you’ll be going through. Throw in a spherical ice mold, and you’ll be unstoppable.
- Cocktail Shaker
- Coupe Glasses
- Ice Mold
- Wine opener
Now you’re ready to talk politics with your family. Well, I’m not sure there’s enough booze in the world for that. At the very least, you’ll be able to tackle winter like the champion you are.
An easy bourbon cocktail with three simple ingredients that is pretty damn crushable.
- 1.5 ounces of bourbon
- 1 ounce of ginger simple syrup
- 1 ounce of lemon Juice
- Combine ingredients, shake over ice.
- Pour into coupe glasses.
- Optional: add a couple of dashes of nutmeg on top.
On a cold winter night, there’s not much better than this classic hot cocktail. It almost feels like you’re drinking tea.
- 3/4 cup water
- 1.5 ounces whiskey
- 2 teaspoons honey, to taste (
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice, to taste
- 1 cinnamon stick, for garnish)
- A few cloves, for garnish
- Bring water to a boil and pour it into a mug
- Add whiskey, honey, and lemon juice to the mug and stir until mixed.
- Add cinnamon and cloves as garnish. Note: I like to add a bit of grated ginger to my hot toddies
Classic Gin Martini:
- 2 1/2 ounces gin
- 1/2 ounce dry vermouth, or to taste (I prefer mine bone-dry, meaning just swirling the tiniest amount of vermouth in the martini glass.
- 1 dash orange or aromatic bitters, optional
- Lemon twist or 1 or 3 olives, for garnish
- Combine ingredients and shake over ice (or stir, if that’s your thing).
- Pour into martini class, preferrably chilled.
- Add a lemon twist or some olives – I actually add both.
- 1.5 oz of Amaro Nonino
- 1.5 oz of Aperol
- 1.5 oz of bourbon
- 1.5 oz fresh lemon juice
- Shake over ice
- Pour and serve in coupe glasses.
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