The holidays are for celebrating. Often at a moment's notice. Stock your liquor cabinet with these seven spirits and liqueurs -- and keep the top-rated Christmas cocktail recipes at hand -- and you'll have all the stuff for instant holiday parties, with Christmas cheer to spare.
Campari was clearly made for Christmas celebrations -- it's the color of Santa's coat, after all. Unlike Santa, however, it's a bit bitter. Deliciously so. Campari is the perfect companion with gin and sweet vermouth in a Negroni. Campari is also a terrific choice sipped simply over ice or combined with a splash of soda water to stretch it out -- perfect if you're planning to go the distance at the Christmas party.
2. Apple Brandy
If autumn is for apples, winter is for sipping their spirits. Apple brandy warms us like a fire from the inside. Try it in place of whiskey in a Hot Toddy -- or in this old-school classic with lemon juice and grenadine:
Applejack and fresh lemon juice with a bit of grenadine. It's a terrific cocktail for autumn and the holidays.
3. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
If festive were a flavor, this would be it: the Allspice Dram. Also known as "pimento dram," it tastes like holiday spices. Mix it up with bourbon and lime juice. It's like celebrating the holidays out on the islands...by way of Kentucky.
The Lion's Tail: In a cocktail shaker over ice, combine 2 ounces bourbon, the juice of 1/2 lime, 3/4 ounce of allspice dram, dash or two of Angostura bitters, 1 scant teaspoon of simple syrup. Shake it up. Celebrate!
Does the name give you a Brangelina kind of vibe? Fair enough, in the sense that Frangelico is also a mash-up -- of toasted hazelnuts plus cocoa, vanilla, herbs, and berries. The name Fra Angelico, however, refers to a liqueur-making hermit. You'll instantly recognize Frangelico's distinctive bottle: It looks like a friar dressed in a habit, complete with a rope tied around his waist. The delicious nutty liqueur is not actually an austere sip in the least. And we mean no disrespect here by mixing it with vodka, coconut-flavored rum, and half-and-half, and dressing up the glass like Rudolph, with cinnamon sticks as antlers and a cherry for the nose. Think of it as abstract art you can imbibe.
Cinnamon sticks and a cherry on the edge of the glass for garnish become the antlers and reindeer nose. "Yummy!" says SLDROE. "My husband suggested a dash of nutmeg on the top, and it really pulled it together."
5. Pear Brandy
If you love a classic Sidecar cocktail, you'll go bonkers for this pear-brandy version. It's like biting into the most succulent fresh pear -- only, bonus, there's booze!
"It's like biting into the ripest, most redolent pear you've ever eaten," says c-biskit.
6. Dry Vermouth
At the holidays, keep some gin and dry vermouth on hand for mixing up what is arguably the world's most sophisticated cocktail: the martini. Also, and this is not strictly speaking sophisticated, but you might find that it kinda tastes like your Christmas tree. Green olives stuffed with red pimentos will add an additional Christmas touch. The gin martini is also available in vodka flavor.
Green pimento-stuffed olives give this potent cocktail instant Christmas cred. "This refreshing cocktail will remove the furrows from your brow," says shaggy. "Use only the best quality gin. Note: Skewering the olive with a toothpick makes it easier to pick out when you're ready to eat it."
7. Sparkling Wine
OK, true, sparkling wine isn't a spirit or a liqueur. But you just gotta have it for the holidays. Bubbles make an instant party. So we included it here without apology. Add a splash of cranberry juice, and it's like holding a glass of liquid Christmas.
"This is a nice holiday cocktail," says Kathy. "We always serve this at our Christmas Eve open house. It has such a nice taste!!"