Chilled out & cheery – your guide to a sane, happy holiday season
November 30th, 2010
12:00 AM ET
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Now that we've got Thanksgiving under our belts (in more ways than one), holiday season is in full swing. For some folks, it's a frenzy of merry-making and hall-decking. Others just grit their teeth and Grinch on through to the New Year.

Whichever approach jingles your bell, we've got you covered with cheer-inducing cocktails, festive nibbles, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Solstice and New Years traditions from celebrities, chefs and iReporters as well as sanity-saving tips for guests and hosts alike.

On the first day of holiday countdown, my Eatocracy gave to meeee: a workable cocktail strategy

It's the holidays. People are going to drop by. They just will. You might as well have something on hand to serve them.

Keep these in stock:

– Lemons or lemon juice (squeeze 6-12 and freeze in ice cube trays if you don't think you'll use it all at once)
– Ginger simple syrup*
– Triple sec
– Maple syrup
– Cinnamon sticks
– Nutmeg
Allspice dram
– Cardamom
– Whole cloves (a little goes a long way)
– Fresh apple cider
– Box of fabulous, yet inexpensive, full-bodied red wine** (Three Thieves Bandit Cabernet Sauvignon, Black Box Shiraz or Big House Red will do the trick.)
– Dark rum – Gosling's or Meyer's
Laird's Applejack
– Whiskey – Evan Williams Bourbon, Jim Beam Rye or Jack Daniel's
– Prosecco
– Ginger beer***

Consider these the Garanimals of your holiday season cocktails. Just mix and match these elements - following a few basic proportional guidelines - for boundless hot and cold holiday beverages. This is not hardcore mixology or a recipe for dazzling your cocktail fetishist friends, but if they have any sense they'll just clam up and enjoy themselves.

For instance, try:

Mix & Match Cocktail (Cold)

1 oz lemon juice
1 oz ginger simple syrup
2 oz bourbon
2 oz fresh apple cider
Pinch of nutmeg
Shake over ice, strain over ice into a double old fashioned glass and top with Prosecco

Mix & Match Cocktail (Hot)

1/2 cup red wine
1 cup fresh apple cider
2 oz dark rum
1/2 oz maple syrup
Pinch of cardamom

Heat all ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan, then carefully pour into two mugs. Serve with a cinnamon stick in each.

Getting the hang of it? Classic proportions of a cocktail are one part sour, one part sweet and two parts strong (if you are indeed tippling), but feel free to shake it up and balance it out with elements of seasonal spice, freshly-pressed apples, a kiss of hearty red wine and a festive fizz of Prosecco or ginger beer. Don't be afraid to play around; all of these ingredients meld well, because they're basically the building blocks of a warm, gingery apple pie.

Just don't forget to jot down measurements as you go so you can recreate your favorites - even if you've gotten just a little bit Blitzen.

*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, straining out 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.

**Don't go wasting the schmancy stuff if you're going to go mixing it with spices, juices and booze. Good boxed wine - of which there is plenty - brings plenty of bang for the buck, has a much smaller impact on the environment, and stays fresh for weeks.

***Ginger beer is non-alcoholic. Then again, you may have already known that. Not everyone does.

Share your best combos in the comments below and give the drink a memorable name. We just might feature it in an upcoming post.

Previously: Winterized cocktail recipes

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. FirstAve

    Drink beer

    November 30, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  2. T3chsupport

    We went ghetto fabulous.
    Blackberry Brandy and OJ.
    It was a very redneck Thanksgiving.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  3. Trip

    I like that this is right next to another article explaining (poorly) that drugs are causing more fatal car crashes these days. Good one, guys.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:16 am |
  4. Dyson

    I made a spiked cider over Thanksgiving that was delish! Prosecco, cinnamon schnnaps, and apple juice.

    November 30, 2010 at 10:40 am |
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