A Home Bartender's Guide for Surviving the Holidays
The holidays are a time for making memories with family. Generations gather in a single home, sharing heartwarming tales while they sit around a crackling fire. Children quietly play while the adults catch up after months apart. You can finally relax because your boss gave you a week off since she understands the value of a good work-life balance. Everyone is happy.
At least this is what the greeting card companies want us to think. But the holiday reality is very different.
A recent study shows that, during the holidays, 68 percent of people experience increased fatigue, 61 percent experience increased stress and 52 percent experience increased irritability.
For more than half of us, the holidays aren’t a time to relax. They’re the exact opposite: They’re a time for higher blood pressure, acute stress headaches and cold sweats.
But we don’t need science to tell us why the holidays can be such a drag. No matter what the holiday commercials say, we know the true holiday experience is a far cry from the idyllic scene described above.
So let’s paint a more accurate picture:
Children scream because hugs from Grandma smell like weird, ancient perfume. Your uncle, who started drinking cheap beer around 6 a.m., is well into an uncomfortably racist rant about the country’s future. Your mom not-so-subtly steers every conversation towards your perpetual singlehood.
You’ve only recently arrived at this delightful family get-together, and it’s eerily familiar. Before arriving, you first had to attend a mandatory work holiday party where the lady in the cubicle next to you overdid it with the cheap perfume, all of the office bros were pounding cheap beers while reliving their college years, and your “work friend” kept explaining how you blew it with your ex.
Needless to say, there comes a time at every holiday gathering when you need a cocktail, and you need it quick.
To make surviving the holidays a little easier, we have collected a list of recipes for our favorite holiday drinks. Some are strong, some are light and all are designed to make celebrating the holidays more of a celebration and less of a chore.
Hopefully, after artfully employing these holiday cocktails, either your family will start to relax and stop nagging you or your mind will get just hazy enough to make all of the stress seem like a heartwarming Christmas special. Either way, the holidays are about to get survivable!
So make a list of the necessary ingredients, make sure you have a cocktail shaker and the proper glassware handy and get ready to drink your way towards a more bearable time with your family.
The Best Cocktails for Thanksgiving DinnerBefore we get to our more wintery holiday drinks, let’s start with the Christmas/Hanukkah warm-up known as Thanksgiving.
The centerpiece of this November whirlwind of gluttony is a dinner known for its autumnal flavors, including cranberries, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and the traditional turkey — it’s not known for being a light meal.
You have one of two options when approaching Thanksgiving cocktails: You can either embrace the tendency towards indulgence or you can instead try to counteract the calories with lighter, less filling options. Either way, booze is the key to surviving the most stressful Thursday of the year.
The Lighter Options
- Pass the Turkey
Don’t be deceived. Despite its name, this cocktail is a refreshing cranberry drink with a hefty dose of booze.
Unsurprisingly, the punch in this cocktail comes from one and a half ounces of Wild Turkey 101. Before adding the bourbon, muddle one sage sprig and one thyme sprig with two ounces of apple cider in a cocktail shaker. Add the bourbon with one tablespoon of cranberry jelly and ice. Shake well and then strain into a glass rimmed with turkey jus and breadcrumbs.
This is a great cocktail if you want to trick your family into getting toasted with you. The thanksgiving flavors mask the intense booziness of the 101-proof bourbon. If you think surviving turkey day will be easier if your great aunt has a nice buzz, just sneak her a couple of these. Just make sure to save at least one for yourself.
- Fall Sangria
This is a big batch cocktail that you can serve in a punch bowl, ensuring your family will have a hard time keeping track of how many you’ve had.
Combine one chopped and cored apple, a bottle of unoaked chardonnay, a half cup of peach brandy, a quarter cup of raw honey, a quartered orange, a quartered lemon, a quartered lime, two cinnamon sticks, three whole cloves and two quarter-sized slices of ginger. Refrigerate this mixture overnight.
Before serving, strain the sangria and then place it in a punch bowl filled with sliced apples. Serve in a cinnamon-and-sugar-rimmed wine glass topped off with club soda.
Although this sangria is lighter on the booze, it is easy drinking. Don’t be afraid to double the recipe if you have a stressful family.
The Heavier Options
- Warm and Toasty
In a coffee mug, combine five ounces of hot apple cider, an ounce and a half of cranberry puree, and an ounce and a half of bourbon. Top with a heaping helping of whipped cream and cinnamon and garnish with an apple slice.
Drinking to make your family more tolerating may seem cold, but with this warm drink you can easily ignore that frigid feeling growing in your heart. And if the conversation becomes so burdensome that you have to go run into the backyard or retreat to the toolshed, you’re holding something warm in your hands as the late autumn night gets frosty.
- Pumpkin Martini
Combine two ounces of vodka and two ounces of pumpkin liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with whipped cream and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
This is a simple cocktail to make, so if you find yourself wracked with acute family-related stress, you won’t have a complicated recipe to remember. As a bonus, it’s mostly alcohol.
Perfect Cocktails for a Work Christmas PartyThe dreaded work holiday party: Inappropriate co-workers. A drunken, flirtatious boss. The IT department “dancing” to Beyoncé. Nothing sucks out your soul quite like mandatory fun at the last place you want to be during the holidays.
Here are a couple drink ideas to make those parties a little more tolerable. Just don’t get so drunk that you start to flirt back with your boss. You don’t want those rumors making their way through the office email chains.
- A Flask Full of Tequila
Maybe your company is providing drinks for the party. But your company is probably also cheap, meaning that the drinks will be watered down and terrible.
Take out a funnel and a flask and fill it with tequila. Add tequila to any lame punch or cocktail being served at the party. Or skip the punch and just sneak sips in the supply closet. We won’t judge.
- Rum and Grapefruit Spritzer
Combine three fourths of a cup of light rum, two cups of pink grapefruit juice and one cup of ginger ale. Serve in a salt-rimmed glass garnished with candied ginger.
This recipe serves four, so multiply the recipe accordingly. And if you feel it needs to be stronger to make the party go faster, a little more rum won’t hurt.
Perfect Cocktails for a Family Christmas PartyNow that you’ve survived the warm-up acts, it’s time for the main event. You fly halfway across the country to sleep in your childhood room along with your cousins and great uncle Barry who suffers from the worst sleep apnea you’ve ever heard. You wake up in the morning having slept about 20 minutes total and choke down some burnt, cheap coffee, only to see your grandma walking around in an ancient threadbare nightgown.
It’s almost enough to make you want to start drinking first thing in the morning.
We do insist that you wait at least until brunch. But once it becomes socially appropriate, we want to help you survive the holidays.
Whether you are celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, family is family, which means stress headaches and heartburn. Thankfully, a good stiff drink can help you relax and make the experience a little more tolerable.
With that in mind, here are a few of our favorite holiday survival serums.
- Holiday Mimosa
In a pitcher, combine one chilled bottle of champagne, one cup of chilled orange juice, half a cup of chilled cranberry juice, and orange slices. Serve in a champagne flute garnished with an orange wheel.
The best part of having a mimosa is that people forget it’s a cocktail designed for the morning. So while people might judge you for drinking a martini with your eggs, you can usually sneak a few of these without getting too many strange looks.
- Gin and Rosemary Cocktail
In a small saucepan, simmer a half cup of water, four rosemary sprigs and a half cup of sugar. Strain the rosemary syrup into a pitcher. Add one cup of grape juice, half cup of club soda and one fourth of a cup of fresh lemon juice. Finally, add three fourths of a cup of gin, pour the mixture over ice, and garnish with grapes and a sprig of rosemary.
This is a classy cocktail, which will help give your family the impression that you actually are an adult. Plus it’s tasty and balanced, so you can have additional drinks as needed.
- Belgian Winter Fizz
Shake two ounces of Tanqueray, one teaspoon maraschino liqueur, one heaping teaspoon of orange marmalade, a fourth of an ounce of lemon juice and one small egg white vigorously. Next add ice to the shaker and continue to shake. Pour into a snifter. Next, pour three ounces of Belgian beer into the shaker and swirl, pouring the foamy mixture into the snifter. Garnish with fresh cinnamon.
While this drink is certainly worth the effort, the involved preparation may invite more inquisitive relatives to ask the same kinds of nagging questions that you are drinking to avoid. Plan your preparation accordingly. Try slipping away just as the game of charades is about to begin: Everyone will be distracted and you can mix alone in peace. In fact, you could just stay in the kitchen and drink in peace too!
- Easy Eggnog
In a medium saucepan, bring two cups heavy cream, a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg, and a half cup of sugar to a simmer. In a blender, add four large eggs and blend on the lowest setting. Without turning off the blender, add the hot cream and let it combine until it is frothy. Turn off the blender and add three fourths of a cup of brandy. We recommend serving this eggnog warm.
Technically this recipe serves four, but considering how stressful the holidays are, you might as well keep all four servings for yourself.
- Chartreuse and Lime
Combine half a cup of light rum, half a cup of club soda, one third of a cup of Chartreuse, and another third of a cup of lime juice. Serve over crushed ice and garnish with a cherry.
Admittedly, this drink requires a refined taste. But if such sophistication is a reflection of your own drinking habits, then this is a perfect cocktail, because your wine cooler sipping cousins won’t ask you to share.
- Gingerbread Martini
Combine two ounces of vanilla vodka, two ounces of Frangelico, and one ounce of butterscotch schnapps in a shaker filled with ice. Shake and then strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with ginger beer and pour some dark rum over the back of a spoon to float on top of the cocktail.
The best part of this drink is its versatility. If you want to drink your dessert, go right ahead. You can blissfully doze off while the rest of the family gathers to watch a black-and-white Christmas movie for the millionth time.
But if you want to get the rest of the family to fall asleep, just make one of these for everyone. They taste so good that everyone will drink them quickly and start snoring on the couch before they know what hit them.
Of course, you still have to find a way to get the kids to leave you alone. Hopefully their parents packed them hand-held video games.
Bonus: A Holiday Hangover Cure
The one drawback to drinking in order to cope with family: The next morning you might have a killer holiday hangover. But have no fear — we have a perfect seasonal cure just for the occasion!
Combine three cups of tomato juice, three fourths of a cup of vodka, two thirds of a cup of lime juice, two teaspoons of Worcestershire Sauce, one teaspoon of horseradish, half a teaspoon of celery salt, half a teaspoon of hot sauce, half a teaspoon of salt and a fourth of a teaspoon pepper.
Pour this life-restoring Bloody Mary over ice and garnish with a celery stalk and a couple of sliced jalapeños.
Depending on your family, nursing a hangover with a little hair of the dog may raise some eyebrows. So you can prepare this ahead of time and hide it in the garage or sealed in a jar stuck in a snow bank. That way, when everyone else is checking out what they have in their stocking, you can sneak out the back and enjoy your cure in peace.
Spice Up Your Holidays With Your Favorite Cocktails
Hopefully this guide to Thanksgiving and holiday stress avoidance has made the prospect of spending time with your family just a little more bearable. Maybe you’re one of the lucky few who actually enjoy spending time with in-laws. Thankfully, these cocktails for a Christmas party are just as good for sharing with company you enjoy keeping. If, like the rest of us, you need a little libation to get you through the holidays, these drinks are sure to do the trick.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you to drink responsibly. If you do drink, make sure you either have a guest room to crash in or someone else to drive you home.
But since holidays with your family usually mean you’re stuck with your family overnight, you’re probably good to go. So raise a glass to health and drink up. It’s what the holidays are all about!