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Festive Yuletide Libations: There’s More to the Holiday Bar than Eggnog

Nov 23, 2020 05:00PM ● By GINA BIRCH

Holiday gatherings might look a little different this year, but the festivities will continue and the spirits will still flow. Most people have a favorite adult beverage or perhaps a traditional holiday cocktail. This is a perfect time of year, however, to try something new.

Whether you are the host, looking for a host gift or just wanting to stoke your creative bar juices, here are both new and tried-and-true ideas for spirited holiday giving and entertaining.

Chocolate Whiskey

If you like chocolate and you like whiskey, you might just love 8-Ball. The first American chocolate-infused whiskey is like dessert in a glass, perfect for sipping over ice. Mix in cocktails like mudslides, spike your hot cocoa or pour over vanilla ice cream. 8-Ball uses all-natural ingredients, sourced from Madagascar, Indonesia and Mexico, combined with premium aged bourbon; it has a smooth and sophisticated flavor with subtle notes of oak, maple and vanilla. 

Double Buzz

When you can’t decide between coffee or a cocktail, you can have both with Mad Bean. This new gourmet iced coffee-flavored malt beverage comes in two flavors. The vanilla is creamy, not too sweet, with just a hint of alcohol on the backside that can fool you if you have too many; each can is 4.5 percent alcohol by volume. It also comes in mocha. (Four-pack of 12-ounce cans, $8; single 24-ounce can, $2.50) 

New From Nevada

Kentucky may be the most prominent but it’s not the only state producing whiskey. Located in the Lake Tahoe watershed, Frey Ranch Distillery is Nevada’s first and only whiskey producer to grow 100 percent of its grains on site. Released just this year, Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey is aged for a minimum of four years; the 90-proof bourbon is smooth yet complex and can easily be enjoyed on its own, yet also holds up in a variety of holiday cocktails. ($50)

Creamy Wines

Michigan-based Round Barn offers cream wines, which are great for the holidays or to usher in a relaxing evening; serve as an aperitif for a party or add to desserts for even more delight. 

With a rich flavor and velvety texture, the cream wines are available in mint chocolate, black walnut and salted caramel. Mint chocolate has a rich chocolate flavor and a cool peppermint finish; enjoy it in your favorite cocktail, coffee, baked goods or simply on its own. Black walnut has notes of mocha, chocolate, toffee and espresso, finishing with a black walnut twist. Salted caramel, a combination of smooth caramel and salty goodness, is a decadent treat. ($25.99-$29.99)

Chambord and Champagne

Kir royale is a popular holiday cocktail, and Chambord is making it easy to achieve with new holiday gift sets. The famous raspberry liqueur is available in two holiday gift sets this year: One includes a 375 ml bottle of Chambord and two Korbel Champagne mini bottles; and the other includes one 750 ml of Chambord and one 500 ml Q Mixers club soda. Talk about an ideal hostess gift! (Chambord and Korbel set, $33.99; Chambord and Q Mixers club soda, $30.99)

Wildly Fermented

Mocktail lovers now can be both social and more healthful with Shrub-Bucha drinks from Ferm Fatale. In flavors such as Nojito, Margarita, Madame Mule and Cosmopolitan, these raw, live, vegan, wildly fermented beverages are loaded with good bacteria, yeast, enzymes and acids to support healthy digestion, immune function and radiant skin. Combining vinegar-based fruit juice with kombucha, Shrub-Bucha is only 22 calories per bottle, so you can splurge on dessert without blowing your diet. (Six-pack of seven-ounce bottles, $23.99)

Spanish Botanicals

Travel restrictions may keep you grounded, but spirits are still soaring thanks to importers. From Barcelona, Gin Mare brings a unique Mediterranean blend of botanicals such as Spanish arbequina olive, Italian sweet basil, Turkish rosemary and Greek thyme. It makes a great Spanish gin and tonic or Negroni, and is a perfect gift for the gin lover or even those who are not. ($40)

Gina Birch is a regular contributor to TOTI. A lover of good food, good drinks and a fun time, she is also a well-known media personality in Southwest Florida.