Winterized holiday cocktails
November 3rd, 2010
08:00 PM ET
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Over the next 23 days – including yes, the very day of – we'll be sharing our time-tested hosting tips and recipes, as well as plenty from chefs, hospitality experts, celebrities (that's always fun, right?), hosts and home cooks we love. Our goal – sending you into Thanksgiving with a confident smile on your face, and seeing you emerge on the other side with your sanity intact.

Previously: T minus 23 - Pitcher drinks and Prosecco are a host's best friend.
Reader "Hosting 18 this T-Giving" asked:

These drink ideas (at least the non-wine or champagne types) seem a bit on the summer side to me.. are there more spicy options available? To clarify – I served mulled wine last year (which I love), but found it wasn't everyone's favorite. Would love something along these lines, but different than the traditonal mulled wine recipe.

We maintain that lemonade goes surprisingly well at any time of the year, but we also get where you're coming from.

Today's lesson:

Crowd-pleasing cold-weather drinks for T-Day

Winterized Lemonade

2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger
12-24 lemons

Slice ginger into 1/4" rounds. Bring 4 cups of sugar, the ginger slices and 2 cups of water to a boil, then a simmer until it thickens. Let it cool, then pour it into a clean jar with a tight lid, removing the ginger pieces. This is ginger simple syrup. Any that you don't use can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months.

Slice the lemons in half, place them in a nonreactive baking dish and roast in a 350° oven until they're lightly browned. Squeeze half of them into a pitcher, discarding the peels. Muddle the other half with a wooden spoon at the bottom of the pitcher.

Stir in ginger simple syrup, tasting as you go, but don't over-sweeten. Add water to taste, but leave it a tad strong so it won't diluted over ice. Serve with a ginger slice garnish.

*Update: a reader below says, "I can't quite wrap my head around randomly combining sour/sweet/water until I get something drinkable. I'm more comfortable with rough proportions – 1:2:4"

My response: I used to publish ratios for sour/sweet/water, then inevitably people would complain – too sour and too sweet on the very same recipe! Tastes vary so wildly (I like mine very much on the sour side, and my husband likes his twice as sweet), so I believe people's own palates should be their guide.

Spiced-Up Cider

So your guests didn't dig the mulled wine. Hey, that's their loss - but you don't have to ditch the idea of a warm, spiced drink. We love to heat up locally-pressed (if possible) apple cider in a large pan on the stove, and then amp up the flavor with pinches of cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, ginger and allspice to taste.

If there's a clementine orange on hand ('tis the season for them), stud it with cloves and let it sit on a radiator overnight. When you're ready to start simmering, cut it in half and add it to the pot.

Ladle the warm mixture into mugs and serve - offering a shot of dark rum or whiskey to those who might appreciate such a thing on a long, cold night.

The spiced cider can also be cooled down and served over ice, topped with a bubbly bite of ginger beer. Skol!

Got a Thanksgiving query or dilemma? Need techniques for roasting turkey or just looking for recipes to bust up your holiday rut? Wanna know what one of our anchors eats for T-Day? We're here to help. Post your question in the comments below and we'll do our best to assist.

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Di

    Place brie/crushed walnuts/dried cranberries in a heating type dish, with sliced easy and yummy.

    November 4, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  2. Jorge

    I hate ALL stateside winters north of Jacksonville, FL; for that reason the ONLY way to winterize after-work beverages for me is to spike them with Bacardi (two times) and wash them down to the beat of some mambo, boogaloo or tropical jazz right after I chuck my damn coat and crank up the fireplace.

    November 4, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  3. Karen

    One trick I learned at coffee shops abroad: a great addition to warm apple cider is a splash of red wine. You wouldn't think it would work , but it's actually delicious

    November 4, 2010 at 1:49 pm |

    Sometimes it's good to look back and see what our mothers and/or grandmothers served – one of our favorites is cream cheese with a raspberry jalapeno jelly spread over the top serve with a variety of crackers. Crockpot cocktail meatballs are good and easy with Costco help. Then you can still do a veggie tray, but it won't seem bad with the other items. Good luck – it sounds fun!

    November 4, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  5. Kat Kinsman

    They're called "turkey frills," for the record.

    November 4, 2010 at 11:02 am |
  6. Proper Turkey Dressing@Eatocracy Editors

    I am in a Dressing dilemma as to where I can find those little white socks that fit on the turkeys legs after being removed from the oven. I have seen these before on BBC cooking shows and I want to show proper etiquette when presenting the Bird to my friends and family. Hopefully they are Not only available overseas as Thanksgiving is approaching fast. Thank You.

    November 4, 2010 at 10:56 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Looking for a buying link, but you can make 'em at home!

      November 4, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  7. Anita

    Put a clementine "on a radiator overnight"?? It gets pretty greasy and dusty under the hood – I don't think I've seen any other kind of radiator in years.

    November 4, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • vincenzo cunnilinguini

      ha, that's funny! "you mean i have to leave the car running overnight?"

      November 4, 2010 at 11:30 am |
    • Victoria

      Come to New England, we've got them all over the place. 6 in my house alone.

      November 4, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
      • Mary

        There are 5 in my New England apartment (would be 6, but there isn't one in the bathroom in this place). They are a great place to dry your sweaters that you can't put in the dryer! :)

        November 5, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  8. Dyson

    i like to add a little captain to my spiced cider

    November 4, 2010 at 10:04 am |
    • John

      Use a real rum. If you can't get Havana Club, then use Gosling's Black Seal. Don't use that CM garbage.

      November 4, 2010 at 10:21 am |
      • Sir Biddle-Dee-Bobity-Boo

        Have to give props to Gosling's Black Seal Rum, its usefully in more drinks than just Dark and Stormys

        November 4, 2010 at 10:56 am |
      • Jorge

        You guys want to try some REAL rum? The stuff that made leather-skinned cane cutters and Rough Riders giggle and whine like little girls? If you can find it, spike your drinks with some Don Q Gran Añejo (Limited Edition) distilled in my home town, Ponce, Puerto Rico since 1865.

        November 4, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
    • Joe

      Appleton Estate is another good choice.

      November 4, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  9. Meghan

    Kat – minor detail. Your lemonade ingredients call for Limes but your instructions specify Lemons. I was also expecting that the ginger syrup would be strained, leaving the slices in would seem to shorten the safe shelf life.

    I am guessing that roasting the lemons in anything other than a glass pan could cause trouble – yes?

    And I guess I would have to actually try it, but I can't quite wrap my head around randomly combining sour/sweet/water until I get something drinkable. I'm more comfortable with rough proportions – 1:2:4.

    November 4, 2010 at 9:47 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      You're right about the lemon/lime mix-up.

      But – I used to publish ratios for sour/sweet/water, then inevitably people would complain - too sour and too sweet on the very same recipe! Tastes vary so wildly (I like mine very much on the sour side, and my husband likes his twice as sweet), I figured that people's own palates should be their guide.

      November 4, 2010 at 10:24 am |
    • vincenzo cunnilinguini

      for any such drink that calls for lemonade or other acidic additives, consider adding a decent club soda to the mix (if you don't mind the bubbles). these waters generally have a base added to them (such as sodium bicarbonate). it helps to cut down on the acidity while still retaining the citrus flavors.

      November 4, 2010 at 11:34 am |
  10. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    Did you mean 'lemons' for the recipe?

    November 4, 2010 at 9:35 am |
  11. tasting turkey already

    I wouldn't reject the vegetable tray just yet. That is one thing that you can prepare the night before. Clean and prepare the vegetables and the next day put the tray together. Use colorful vegetables like bright red radishes, orange bell pepper slices, green onions, sweet baby carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, maybe add some sweet pickles and olives or some cheese cubes and present them on a fancy platter. Also put the dip in glass bowls and set out small plates for people to serve themselves on. This gives the guests something to do, they can mingle and munch and it also looks festive. A child who can't use knives can arrange the vegetables and feel included in making the meal.

    November 4, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  12. Sockness Monster

    Lauren, we do cider with cinnamon sticks,
    Roasted chestnuts, and celery sticks with cream cheese.
    Easy, tasty, and not filling.
    Along with the football game, it keeps guests happy
    while we prepare the feast.

    November 4, 2010 at 8:57 am |
    • giovanna

      another great thing to add to the celery sticks with cream cheese is thai sweet chili sauce. the bright red color of the sauce makes it look more festive plus it gives it a bit more flavor.

      November 4, 2010 at 10:28 am |
    • Swerds

      A good twist on cider is wassail. If you look, there's tons of recipes available. My favorite adds the following to cider:
      Pineapple juice & orange juice (or a pineapple/orange juice combo)
      Cinnamon sticks
      Whole cloves

      I'll pop it on the stove or in a crock pot and let it simmer until it's just about gone.

      November 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  13. Lauren

    I'm doing my first Thanksgiving for about 18 people in a few weeks (giving my grandmother a break this year). Usually we eat early – around 1:30-2pm to make everyone happy. People should be arriving around 12:30pm which leaves about an hour to 1.5 hours of hungry guests waiting. I want to serve an appetizer or two to hold them over but nothing too filling, and since the kitchen will be occupied with creating the Thanksgiving Feast, I want a few somewhat simple items, yet a little more sophisticated and Thanksgiving-like than a veggie tray. Have some ideas?

    November 4, 2010 at 8:12 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Love this question! We'll address it on Eatocracy in the next few days, but yup - we have some great ideas for you.

      November 4, 2010 at 8:13 am |
    • FoodieSquid

      Two words: spanakopita triangles. Make 'em in advance, they freeze well, put 'em on a cookie sheet and bake for 50 minutes. A bit unconventional, but absolute heaven.

      November 4, 2010 at 10:24 am |
      • Spucky

        Better yet: Buy them premade at Costco or BJs. They both have wonderfully prepared and delicious frozen appetizers. Heat and eat!

        November 4, 2010 at 10:53 am |
      • NicM

        My mom made spanakopitas one year and they were an instant tradition.

        November 4, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
    • Farhibide

      Oooh, good question! I always host an hors d'oeuvres party on Christmas eve and one thing everyone seems to love is crab rangoon. It's easy to whip up a couple dozen at once using mini-muffin pans. You can toss them in the oven above/below/beside the turkey and they'll be done in about ten minutes.

      Also, keep an eye out around the holidays for special appetizer editions of certain food magazines. I think Taste of Home usually does one, but I'm not sure of their distribution. They have tons of good recipies.

      November 4, 2010 at 11:38 am |
    • Ashley

      baked brie! you can make it savory or sweet. google it for recipes. always a hit for the holidays at my house.

      November 4, 2010 at 11:43 am |
    • Miss Boyardee

      Great appetizers (any time of the year) ~
      * Pineapple chunks and small cubes of sharp cheddar cheese on toothpicks (1:1 ratio). Very flavorful and light!
      *Club crackers with a smear of cream cheese and pepper jelly.
      *Prosciutto wrapped mozzarella balls.
      *Grape Tomatoes (halved) with Mozzarella balls marinated in Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing (a cheat-sheet mini Caprese salad)
      * Roasted Spiced pecans either sweet with brown sugar and salt or savory with season salt spices (can be made in the oven the day/night before).

      ****I hope this helped!****

      November 4, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
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