Festive Party Drinks | Beverages to Serve Your Holiday Guests

Who doesn’t love hot chocolate on a cold day?

Outside, the world is cold and gray, but inside we have the perfect antidote to winter: decadent, delicious holiday drinks, contributed by some of our favorite food-loving people. Whether you want to curl up with a mug of something hot on a chilly night or you’re looking to add a little sparkle to your holiday get-together, we’ve got a recipe for you!

Hot Apple Cider
(makes 1 gallon)

Chef-owner Katy Meyer of Trumpet Blossom Café in Iowa City serves this delicious beverage in her restaurant. “It’s a traditional fall and winter drink, but we make it our own by using high-quality apple juice, fair-trade whole spices we blend ourselves, and fresh ginger.” You can easily reduce the amount by halving all the ingredients except the ginger, which Katy recommends keeping the same.

1 gallon organic unfiltered apple juice
2 Tbsp. organic whole cloves
2 organic cinnamon sticks
3 1" pieces of peeled fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. organic cardamom pods

Bring the juice and spices to a boil, then turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the spices.

Serve warm on its own or add some Templeton Whiskey or Cedar Ridge Rum.

Allow leftovers to cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

As a sauce: Katy also uses this recipe to make an apple cider reduction for dressing winter greens, roasted sweet potatoes, and spiced nuts. Reduce the cider by cooking it over medium-high heat until it coats the back of a spoon. She recommends watching it closely so it doesn’t burn.

Decadent Hot Chocolate
(makes 2 servings)

Lauryn Shapter is one half of the American music duo Truckstop Souvenir; her husband Dennis James is the other half. When Lauryn craves a hot decadent drink, she makes this recipe. The secret, she says, is to use whole milk and grade B maple syrup: “The grade B maple syrup is darker and has a stronger taste than grade A or sugar, which is why I think this particular recipe is so darn tasty.”

2 cups whole milk
2 Tbsp. Dutch process cocoa powder
3 Tbsp. grade B maple syrup

In a small bowl, mix the cocoa powder and maple syrup. Add a little of the milk to  thin it, and then pour it, along with the rest of the milk, into a small saucepan.

Whisk well and heat thoroughly, but do not let the milk boil.

Variations: You can add a little cinnamon and a bit of chipotle powder or cayenne powder if you want to make it a Mexican hot chocolate.

Add a little whiskey (or your favorite spirit) to make it an adult beverage!

Holiday Punch
(makes 13 ½ cups)

Steve Boss, host the KRUU radio cooking show Great Taste, shared his favorite holiday punch recipe. “This is a recipe that my wife Rachel always made as our kids were growing up when she wanted something pretty and nonalcoholic for a holiday party. The kids especially like this drink.” If you have older party guests in mind, Steve says you can make this into an adult beverage by adding the spirits of your choice. Steve recommends using all organic ingredients.

1 quart cranberry juice
2  6-oz. cans of lemonade concentrate
4 cups cold water (or use sparkling water)
1 quart ginger ale
Orange slices for garnishing

Combine all ingredients and serve. 

The Oak’s Winter Hot Toddy
(makes 1 serving)

Frances Donald, owner of the Burning Oak in Fairfield, shared this traditional Scottish drink, which she serves at her restaurant and recommends for those times when you’re a little under the weather. “This drink was a great favorite of my dear father, Tom Donald. It improves digestion, kicks the backbone out of a cold or flu, puts the partaker in a calm and mellow state, and tastes delicious!”

1 oz. Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whiskey
1 oz. Knob Creek Bourbon
1/4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 oz. ginger syrup (the Burning Oak makes its own)
1/4 oz. simple syrup
Sprinkle of ground star of anise

Boil 5 ounces of hot water and set it aside. In a mug, mix all the ingredients thoroughly, then pour the hot water over them. Cool slightly before drinking. 

Grapefruit Mimosas
(makes 8 cups)

I like to serve this drink at brunches. Adjust the agave nectar as desired to achieve your preferred level of sweetness. For a grown-up brunch, use sparkling wine instead of water.

4 cups unsweetened grapefruit juice
4 cups sparkling water
½ cup light agave nectar

Place ingredients in a nice pitcher and stir to combine.