Holiday Cocktails
Holiday Cocktails

Holiday Cocktail Recipes

By Trish Bales

During the holidays, we entertain like mad, typically serving wine and champagne at parties and beer for those all-important holiday bowl football games. However, there are lots of other interesting drinks Texans are familiar with but maybe have forgotten about. They sure can spice up your holiday gathering and, with names like Massacre and Mexican Itch, they make for some very interesting conversation.

Tequila is certainly the liquor of choice for Texans with their love of margaritas and all, but there are many other drinks you can make with Tequila. For example, the Poker Face, made with tequila, triple sec, pineapple juice and lime, or the Pepper Eater, made with tequila, triple sec, pepper vodka, orange juice, cranberry juice and one hot red chili pepper. There is no doubt this drink will spice up any party quite nicely.

For game day, the Brown Betty makes a nice, warm drink on a blustery Texas afternoon and, since it is made with beer, it will also please those football fans. It's made with amber ale, brandy, brown sugar, lemon, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Another bonus is that it will make your house smell good. The Bumbo is another winter or holiday warm drink make with rum, lime, sugar and nutmeg.

For New Year's Eve or an afternoon New Year's Brunch, try serving a Confetti Punch made with white rum, champagne, lemonade, white grape juice, orange juice and topped with halved strawberries.

Mocktails for the kids can easily be done as well, so that they feel included. I guarantee you they will love the Flamingo. It's made with cranberry juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice, soda water and a lime wedge. Serve it in a tall glass with a straw and a pink plastic flamingo.

Unless your guest list numbers in the triple digits, it is possible to use inexpensive attractive glasses. Glassware is important when mixing drinks. Try to have an assortment around for some variety, such as wide-rimmed cocktail glasses (4-5 fluid ounces) with a stem long enough to protect the bowl from the heat of the hand and the opening wide enough to display a garnish. Tall highball glasses (8-10 fluid ounces) are useful and can serve many purposes. Old-fashioned glasses (also called a rocks glass - 6-8 fluid ounces) is used for any cocktails served "on the rocks". Toddy glasses are heat-proof glasses with handles and are necessary for hot or warm drinks.

Of course, don't forget to serve some savory snacks to your guests to accompany their cocktails. I like to serve homemade potato chips flavored with herbs. To make them even more interesting, use both russet potatoes and sweet potatoes. Place them in a thick silver serving bowl or a crystal bowl with a homemade dip on the side.

Homemade White & Sweet Potato Chips

  • 4 russet (baking) potatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 4 sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 4 cups canola oil for deep-frying
  • Salt
  • Finely chopped fresh rosemary, dill and thyme
Peel potatoes and put in a bowl of cold water to cover. Pat 1 potato dry. Using a mandolin or vegetable slicer, slice potato into uniform, paper-thin slices (about 1/16 inch thick). Let potato slices stand 5 minutes in another bowl of cold water to cover.

Drain potato slices and spread without overlapping on a triple layer of paper towels. Blot slices completely dry with another triple layer of paper towels.

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat oil until a deep-fat thermometer registers 380F degrees. Working in batches of 8 to 10 slices, fry potatoes, turning once or twice, until golden, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, making sure oil returns to 380F degrees before adding next batch. Transfer chips as fried with a large slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt and a generous amount of finely chopped fresh rosemary, dill and thyme. Continue to pat dry, cut, dry, and fry remaining potatoes in same manner. Potato chips may be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container.

For the dip, combine 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream, 1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons minced chives, 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, salt and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork.

Remember to serve your guests responsibly and have a wonderful holiday season.


  • Ice cubes
  • 2 measures tequila
  • 1 teaspoon Campari
  • 4 measures ginger ale
Almost fill a highball glass with ice cubes, add the tequila and Campari. Top with ginger ale, and stir well.

Mexican Itch

  • 1 measure tequila
  • 1 small pinch salt
  • 1 wedge of lime

Poker Face

  • Ice cubes
  • 1 measure tequila
  • 1/2 measure triple sec or Cointreau
  • 4 measures pineapple juice
  • 1 lime wedge
Almost fill a highball glass with ice cubes. Pour on the pineapple juice, triple sec, or Cointreau, and tequila. Stir well and garnish with the lime wedge.

Pepper Eater

  • Ice cubes
  • Broken ice
  • 1 measure tequila
  • 1 measure triple sec or Cointreau
  • 1 teaspoon pepper vodka*
  • 1 measure orange juice
  • 1 measure cranberry juice
  • 1 hot red pepper
Half-fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Pour in the tequila, triple sec or Cointreau, pepper vodka, orange juice, and cranberry juice. Shake well and strain into an old-fashioned glass three-quarters filled with broken ice. Garnish with the red pepper. Take bets on who will eat their garnish!

*To make your own pepper vodka: Steep a hot Mexican or Italian pepper in regular vodka for a few weeks.

Brown Betty

  • 4 x 12-ounce bottles amber ale (1.3 liters in total)
  • 12 measures brandy
  • 2-1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
In a large saucepan, over a medium heat, add the sugar, lemon slices, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and water. Stir continuously to dissolve the sugar and let the mixture come to the boil. Turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer for around 10 minutes. Add the brandy and the ale, then heat, but do not boil. Serve hot in beer mugs, each garnished with a slice of lemon.


  • 2 measures hot water
  • 2 measures rum
  • 1 measure lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ground nutmeg
Dissolve the sugar in the glass with the lime juice and hot water. Add the rum and dust lightly with the ground nutmeg.

Confetti Punch

  • 700 ml (2-1/2 cups) white rum
  • 1-1/2 liters (2-2/3 pints, or approximately 42 ounces) champagne or dry, sparkling wine
  • 1 liter (1-3/4 pints or 3-1/2 cups) lemonade
  • 700 ml (1-1/4 pints or 2-1/2 cups) white grape juice
  • 500 ml (18 ounces) orange juice
  • 1 punnet (or small basket) strawberries, halved
Chill all the ingredients for at least two hours-the longer the better. Simply pour all the ingredients into the punch bowl and stir gently. Add the halved strawberries. Serve in chilled balloon wine glasses.


  • Ice cubes
  • 4 measures cranberry juice
  • 2 measures pineapple juice
  • 1/2 measure lemon juice
  • 2 measures soda water
  • 1 lime wedge
Half-fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Pour in the cranberry and pineapple juices and add the lemon juice. Shake well and strain into ice-filled highball glass. Top with the soda water and garnish with the lime wedge.

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