When you ask Berkshire Mountain Distillers founder Chris Weld what makes a good holiday drink, he simply responds, "well, the company."

And some good bourbon, of course.

When there’s a nip in the air why not try a nip of something in your eggnog to warm up? Or, if you’re hosting the party, liven up the holiday spirits with a twist on traditional cocktails with local flair.

"In this day in age, I’m not a traditionalist. You can play with any drink recipes you want," said Weld, whose award-winning artisan spirits -- including Greylock GIn, Ragged Mountain Rum and Berkshire Bourbon -- are anything but traditional. "Our whiskeys have Berkshire corn in them, which is different. ... If it doesn’t work, pick yourself up and try it all over again."

When it’s cold out, Weld prefers a hot mulled cider with rum, or an eggnog toast with some Berkshire Bourbon stirred in.

"I’m not opposed to anything," said Weld. "Aside from putting Coke with my rum."

If you’re planning a last-minute holiday get together, or want to be prepared for the unexpected guests that often accompany this time of year, Weld suggests stocking your bar with the essentials: gin, vodka and whiskey.

"That covers it for most everyone’s spirit choices," he said. "I think people can get overwhelmed with choices."

Throwing together a good holiday punch that’s no fuss and self-serving is perfect for the host and hostess who are looking to enjoy the party, according to Meld.


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"Inevitably the host or hostess ends up dealing with the minutia," he said. "The less of that the better."

Premixed drinks like punch, which can stay cold all night with a block of floating ice in the bowl, are key for party planning.

If you’re looking to make your mark on the party as a guest, Jason Dennis -- cheesemonger at Kelly’s Package Store in Dalton who has years of experience in the food, wine and spirits industry -- says you can’t go wrong with a host/hostess gift if you go local.

"We like to use local items as much as we can in our gift baskets," said Dennis. The store packs their specialty baskets with Berkshire County favorites, like Ooma Tesoro’s Marinara sauce, Berkshire Bark chocolates from Great Barrington and baked goods from the Richmond Cafe and Bakery in Pittsfield. For spirits, they stick with Berkshire Mountain Distillers and wines from Balderdash Cellars in Pittsfield.

"[Balderdash Cellars is] having great success over there and some wines are out of stock," said Dennis of the downtown winery. "But you can still find bottles of Giraffa, a chardonnay. It’s great to give something that is not just local, but is also a really good bottle of wine."

A hot trend in spirits right now that also makes a great gift is whiskey or scotch finished in different casks. Dennis suggests Angels Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that was recently named one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 50 Spirits of the Year.

"It’s very nice smooth with a sweeter finish," he said.

Or, if you would rather stick with the old standby of wine when invited to a holiday dinner, Dennis recommends a bottle of Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, which is an affordable gift under $20.

"It’s hard to go wrong with a Cabernet," he said. Bourbon Nog

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon

1 pint whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

3 ounces of Berkshire Bourbon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 egg whites

In the bowl of a standard mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup of sugar and continue to beat until completely dissolved. Add the milk, cream, bourbon and nutmeg and stir to combine. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks. With the mixer still running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the mixture. Chill and serve.

Jingle Bell Punch

5 cups of Greylock Gin

3 cups of Aperol

1 cup of Yellow Chartreuse

1 3/4 cups of freshly squeezed lime juice

2 1/2 cups of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

3/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice

10 dashes of orange bitters (optional)

1 750-ml bottle of sparkling wine, chilled

2 oranges sliced in thin round slices

In a large punch bowl, mix gin, Aperol, Chartreuse, lime juice, grapefruit juice and orange juice. Add bitters and stir. Add several cups of ice, stir and let chill 15 minutes. Top with sparkling wine, stir gently, and top with orange slices. Serve over additional ice.

Bourbon Hot Toddy

1.5 oz Berkshire Bourbon

.25 oz lemon juice

.75 oz sugar syrup

1 slice of lemon

1 clove

4 oz. hot water

Heat first three ingredients in the microwave in a heat-resistant glass. Then add hot water and a lemon slice speared with a clove and serve.

Cider Ginger Cocktail

3 oz apple cider

1.5 oz Berkshire Bourbon

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

thin slice of fresh peeled ginger

thin slice of apple for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add cider, bourbon, lemon juice and ginger. Shake to combine. Strain cocktail into a coupe and garnish with apple slice.

All recipes courtesy of Berkshire Mountain Distillers

Spirited gifts

Thinking about bringing more than your own good cheer to the party? Jason Dennis, Kelly’s Package Store cheesemonger,

suggests these bottles:

- Beer from Big Elm Brewery in Sheffield

- Berkshire Mountain Distillers limited Samuel Adams Utopias Cask Finished Bourbon, $55-$65

- Meads from Green River Ambrosia in Greenfield, such as Ginger Libation, gluten-free.

- Imported seasonal Belgian ales, like Affligem Noel, which age well and don’t have to be opened right away

- Citizen’s Cider from Vermont, also gluten-free

- Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered Scotch Whiskey Collection

- La Maison du Cremant Cremant de Bourgogne Brut, sparkling wines for less than $20. Berkshire Mountain Distillers limited Samuel Adams Utopias Cask Finished Bourbon, $55-$65

- Meads from Green River Ambrosia in Greenfield, such as Ginger Libation, gluten-free.

- Imported seasonal Belgian ales, like Affligem Noel, which age well and don’t have to be opened right away

- Citizen’s Cider from Vermont, also gluten-free

- Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered Scotch Whiskey Collection

- La Maison du Cremant Cremant de Bourgogne Brut, sparkling wines for less than $20.