In Good Spirits

Cheers to the Season

By Cheré Coen  |  Photography courtesy of Cheré Coen

Traditional holiday cocktails range from creamy to sugary sweet with hints of winter flavors, but they all deliver that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Maybe it’s the stress of an ongoing pandemic or the numerous tropical cyclones hitting the Gulf this year, but the holidays cannot come fast enough. I’m ready for Hallmark movies, cheerful decorations, and a drink to remind me of family gatherings and the love the season brings. The big question remains: What holiday drink to choose?

​Traditional holiday drinks fall into two categories, those thick creamy concoctions that send your blood sugar soaring or something hot with flavors of apple, pumpkin, or, if you’re Southern, a hint of pecan.

For the sugar lover, there’s eggnog with its requisite eggs, sugar, cream, and homey spices, all blended together in a frothy delight. Colorful martinis run the gamut in the sweet category. A pumpkin martini, for instance, combines equal parts vanilla vodka with pumpkin and Irish cream liqueur, topped with pinches of ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

Chef Robert St. John of Hattiesburg likes to mix a half ounce of vodka and Kahlua with one-fourth ounce each of Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur and Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur with a tablespoon of Half-and-Half for his chocolate martini, the recipe found in his whimsical book, “Deep South Parties.” Talk about a delightful sugar rush!

Daytime affairs that need a little kick might want to include the RumChata Mocha Fire cocktail blending 2 parts RumChata, 1 part Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire, a half part Dark Crème de Cocoa and 8 ounces of coffee. That’ll wake you up for festivities.

For those cold winter evenings, when a roaring fire is in order, there’s nothing more soothing than hot cider — spiked of course, — or a Hot Toddy, which doubles as a combatant to the most virulent cold (at least my mother’s version worked its magic). My mom added honey, lemon, and a shot of whiskey or bourbon into a cup of hot tea.

Milk Punch is an old holiday favorite that’s popular in New Orleans from now through the Carnival season and the following recipe created by Constance Snow, who wrote the recipe exchange column in the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper, will offer comfort on a cold night. For something more spirited, try the Naughty Elf as a stand-alone cocktail or shooters.

Milk Punch

(Makes 8 servings)

12 ounces brandy, bourbon or dark rum for a Cuban version

4 cups Half-and-Half

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

Nutmeg for sprinkling

Directions: In a large pitcher, stir together the liquor, Half-and-Half, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Serve in small crystal cups or stemmed glasses, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Alternatively, pour into a small punch bowl, float whipped cream on top, and sprinkle with nutmeg.

The Naughty Elf

1 1/2 ounces Vavoom Vodka

1 1/2 ounces Jagermeister

2 ounces cranberry juice

Directions: Combine the vodka, Jagermeister and cranberry juice in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain the ice and pour into a highball glass with new ice or into three shot glasses to serve as shooters.

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