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Festive drinks: Toast the season

Dec 1st, 2012 | Category: Cooking

by Jessamyn Tuttle

Winter is a great time to stay inside with a cup of something, especially as the first real storms come through. Egg nog is often considered the definitive drink of the season, as well as mulled wine or apple cider, but in our house we have some favorite cocktails to drink while decorating the tree or fixing a holiday dinner for friends and family.


Bubbly drinks are always festive. It’s hard to beat a cold glass of Champagne, Cava or Prosecco, but sometimes it’s fun to gild the lily with a cocktail like the French 75, which adds gin and lemon. Created in 1915 by Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, it’s bubbly with a kick. We like to give it some holiday color by switching out the lemon juice in the drink for cranberry or pomegranate.

Another cocktail that’s become a holiday staple in our house is the little-known Diva Quaranta, a classic drink possibly named after a long gone Italian actress. It’s a wonderful concoction of gin, pomegranate juice and the bitter aperitif Campari, creating a drink rather like a not-so-sweet Cosmo. It’s tart and refreshing, and glows a beautiful deep red in the glass. We like to serve this one at holiday parties, especially to guests who don’t think they like gin.

Then there are hot drinks. When I was a kid, I didn’t think there was anything better than coming inside from playing in the snow to a hot cup of homemade cocoa. It’s incredibly easy to make from scratch, and so much better than storebought packets. Plus you can add any kind of flavoring you want – I like vanilla, but I’ve seen people add fresh mint, Nutella, spices, espresso powder, peanut butter, or even cayenne.

And for chilly wet evenings, a wonderful drink to warm up with is Irish coffee: a good strong brew with whiskey, a little sugar and whipped cream. It’s been said that it offers all four food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat – so I tend to think of it as a dessert rather than just a beverage. Sip it after dinner, by the fire, while the rain pours down outside.


Diva Quaranta cocktail


Simple syrup is made by combining equal parts white sugar and water in a saucepan, bringing to a simmer to dissolve the sugar, then cool and store in the refrigerator. Makes one serving.

1 ½ oz gin

½ oz simple syrup

1 oz pomegranate juice

½ oz Campari

orange twist


Combine the gin, syrup and juice in a shaker with ice cubes, shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with the Campari, add an orange twist and serve.


Homemade Hot Cocoa


2 Tbsp cocoa powder

2 Tbsp white sugar

pinch of salt

2 Tbsp water

1 cup milk

1/8 tsp vanilla extract

You can also make this by melting good quality chocolate and stirring in milk, but I love the distinctive taste of cocoa powder. Makes one serving.


Whisk together the cocoa, sugar and salt in a saucepan, then stir in the water to make a paste. Heat gently to melt, then stir in the milk and continue heating until warm through. Add vanilla and whisk well to fluff up the cocoa. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or marshmallows.

Additions: instead of the vanilla, you can add powdered cinnamon and/or ginger, a spoonful of nutella, or a drop of Bailey’s or Crème de Cacao for the grownups. Or tuck a candy cane or cinnamon stick into the mug for stirring!

French 75


A great holiday variation is to substitute pomegranate or cranberry juice for the lemon juice and leave out the sugar. Makes one serving.

2 oz gin

2 oz lemon juice

2 tsp sugar or simple syrup

Champagne or other sparkling wine


Stir together the gin, lemon juice and sugar with ice, then strain into a flute or other tall glass. Fill the rest of the way with sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Irish Coffee


1 ½ oz Irish whiskey

1 spoonful sugar

strong brewed coffee

unsweetened whipped cream


Stir together the whiskey and sugar in a coffee mug, fill with hot coffee, top with cream.

Makes one serving

Published in the December 2012 issue of Grow Northwest

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