Local Bartenders Share Seven Holiday Cocktails That Will Keep You Warm

Big-batch drinks that are perfect for holiday gatherings—in-person or virtual.

The warmth of bourbon. The fizz of champagne. The perfect cinna-blend of allspice. Holiday cocktails are a treat for the senses, especially when you make a recipe in bulk. Local bartenders share their favorite holiday cocktail recipes, ideal for serving by the pitcher at your next holiday gathering—even if that’s just a special night with those in your immediate household.

Photograph by Sea Wave/stock.adobe.com

Raspberry Lime Champagne Punch

Jessica Meyer, event manager at The Globe Covington, says the bulk of this cocktail can be made ahead of time. Add the champagne just before serving to keep this drink nice and bubbly.

3/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups tonic
1/2 cup vodka
1/3 cup water
1 bottle champagne
1 lime, sliced
2 cups raspberries

Mix first five ingredients together in pitcher and stir. Immediately before serving, add champagne. Garnish with lime and raspberries. Serves 8 to 10.

Pumpkin Hot Toddy

As the weather continues to cool down, Lauren Strasser, assistant general manager and bar manager at Bouquet Restaurant in Covington, turns to a warm beverage—even those that get a little boozy.

3/4 cup pumpkin ginger puree
1 1/8 cup bourbon
3/8 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups hot black tea
Honey or simple syrup, to taste, if desired

To make pumpkin puree:
1 14-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup mixture of white and brown sugars
Add all ingredients to a saucepan and cook over low to medium heat until sugar dissolves.

To make hot toddy:
Add all ingredients to a slow cooker and cook over low heat for several hours, occasionally stirring. Stir well before serving. Serves 6.

Boozy Cinnamon Hot Chocolate

If you’re looking to save a bit of time here, Strasser says, replace the DIY cinna-bourbon with cinnamon whiskey.

1 1/8 cup cinna-bourbon
3 cups hot chocolate
Whipped cream and cinnamon and/or cocoa for dusting, if desired

To make cinna-bourbon:
1 cup red hots candies
1 750-mL bottle bourbon
Combine candies and bourbon in a container with a tight lid, and keep the empty bourbon bottle. Let candies dissolve in the bourbon for 1 to 2 weeks (the bourbon will quickly become a bright red color, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready). Strain out the candies, and return bourbon to empty bottle.

To make hot chocolate:
1 quart half-and-half or non-dairy supplement
1 quart water
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over low to medium heat, slowly stirring until cocoa and sugar have been dissolved. Be sure not to scorch the half and half/non-dairy supplement.

To make Boozy Cinnamon Hot Chocolate:
Add bourbon and chocolate to a slow cooker, set to low for up to several hours, stirring occasionally. Garnish with whipped cream, cinnamon and/or cocoa dusting, if desired. Serves 6.


This recipe is a family favorite, Strasser says. Though she can’t be with her family this year, the tradition will make sure her holiday smells like home.

For maximum cheer, make this ahead of time, in a large slow cooker.

“The smell when that huge lid comes off and the steam from the wassail spreads all around the room—trust me,” Strasser says. “It’s worth the bigger container.”

2 quarts apple juice or cider
1 pint cranberry juice
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon aromatic bitters
2 sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 small orange studded with cloves
3 cups dark rum

Add all ingredients to a slow cooker on medium heat, mixing occasionally. Wait for the sugar to dissolve and the aromatics of cloves, orange, cinnamon, allspice, and spiced rum to fill the room. Turn down to low for serving. Serves 6.

Main Street Cooler 

This is a current favorite cocktail at Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar in Covington, created by whiskey expert and bartender Adam Mitchell. It’s a perfect mixture of spicy, sweet, and sour.

2 cups bourbon
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup Aperol
1/4 cup cinnamon simple syrup
Lemon wheels, for garnish
Orange zest, for garnish
Whole cloves, for garnish

Mix first five ingredients in a pitcher. Garnish servings with lemon wheel, orange zest, and/or cloves. Serves eight.

Night Drop Nog

Last season, before the coronavirus forced restaurants to limit their numbers, this was a favorite holiday cocktail at Night Drop in East Walnut Hills, says Giacomo Ciminello, Night Drop’s bar manager. This recipe uses rum, but Ciminello says it would also work well with brandy.

4 cups milk
5 whole cloves
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided, or one bean, split
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
12 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups rum
4 cups light cream
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine milk, cloves, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan, and heat over lowest setting for 5 minutes. Slowly bring to a boil.

In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Whisk together until fluffy. Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into eggs. Pour mixture into saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes or until thick. Do not allow mixture to boil. Strain to remove cloves, and let cool for about an hour.

Stir in rum, cream, 2 teaspoon vanilla, and nutmeg. Refrigerate overnight before serving. Serves 12.

Winter Sangria

For this pitcher recipe, James Beddie, beverage supervisor at Coppin’s Bar inside Hotel Covington, recommends using inexpensive versions of red blend and champagne. Leftover champagne? Use it in the morning for mimosas!

5 tablespoons cinnamon syrup
1 bottle wine, red blend
5/8 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 bottle champagne, divided
Blueberries and blackberries, for garnish

To make cinnamon syrup:
2 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 quart hot water
4 cups sugar
Steep cinnamon sticks in water for two hours. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Save cinnamon sticks for serving. Syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To make sangria:
Add syrup to wine in a pitcher. Add orange juice.

To serve, pour mixture into a glass and top with 3/8 cup champagne. Add ice, blueberries, and blackberries. For a more robust cinnamon flavor, add a piece of broken cinnamon stick from syrup into glass. Serves 5.

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