Cheers! Mixin' it up for the holidays


Holiday gatherings. Workplace gatherings. Home parties with friends coming over. Families congregating to exchange Christmas presents.

At the center of this annual social nexus, hosts are always looking for ways to make interesting libations. Luckily, several regional mixologists have offered their recipes to help make your season brighter.

Scott Corey, bar manager at the Barrows House in Dorset, Vt. said the holidays are a perfect time to try something new for a cocktail party.

"You can spike an eggnog or hot cider, but having one signature cocktail for an event is fun, as well," Corey said. "Try an update of an old standard, or anything, with fruit and herbs, which bring out the flavor of the liquors quite nicely.

Corey added that hosts can show guests how drinks are made and send home gift packages with small bottles to make the drink at home. Here are two of his favorites:

Spicy Maple Bourbon Cider
(Courtesy of Scott Corey)

This easy, three-ingredient cocktail gives a warm winter feeling and any bourbon or rye can be used. It features local Dorset Maple Reserve Smoked and Spicy Maple Syrup [which can be substituted]. It's perfect for larger crowds.

Fill a large glass with ice

Add a healthy squeeze or two of Dorset Maple Reserve Smoked and Spicy Maple


Add 1.5 ounces Bullit Bourbon

Top with Vermont apple cider

Shake well

Garnish with an apple wheel

* Type of rum and maple syrup can be substituted.

Trees' Knees
(Courtesy of Scott Corey)

This cocktail is a little more involved and meant more to enjoy with a small group or just to impress your friends. The foamed egg whites add a nice frothy head. The mint and Tom Cat Gin go perfect together.

Muddle mint with lemon in a shaker

Add a tiny squeeze of any maple syrup

Fill with ice

Add Tom Cat Gin* and egg whites (you can dry shake the egg whites or use a portable frother).

Shake well and put into rocks glass

* Type of gin can be substituted.


An hour southeast of Dorset, another Green Mountain expert had a few cocktail recipes in mind. Declan O'Donnell, bar manager of the Turquoise Grille in Brattleboro, Vt., assessed feedback from customers in passing along his choices.

"The first drink always makes an appearance on our cocktail menu during the holidays," O'Donnell said. "It's easy to make, easy to build in a batch for a party, and features Vermont rum and Vermont maple syrup. Our guests always mention how the fresh nutmeg reminds them of the holidays."

Angry Tiger's Milk

(Courtesy of Declan O'Donnell)

2 ounces Smuggler's Notch distillery rum*

2 ounces cream

1 ounce Vermont maple syrup*

Combine ingredients with ice and shake (if making in a larger batch use a blender).

Strain into a rocks glass

Top with fresh grated nutmeg

* Type of rum and maple syrup can be substituted.

"The second is a cocktail that takes a little more finesse and technique," O'Donnell said. "As the cold sets in, Vermonters often reach for whiskey to warm them up. Every year after Daylight Savings Time our menu is graced with this cocktail. It's a twist on the classic Manhattan featuring black walnut bitters, a flavor familiar to Vermonters."

(Courtesy of Declan O'Donnell)

50 ml Whistle Pig Straight Rye

20 ml Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

20 ml Noilly Pray dry vermouth

4 dashes black walnut bitters

Combine ingredients with ice and stir gently

Strain into a chilled cocktail couple

Garnish with a twist of orange peel


Crossing into Massachusetts, a classic cocktail with a hint of the exotic awaits those prepping holiday parties.

Steven Lawrence, general manager and bar manager at Spice Root Indian Cuisine in Williamstown, said that ethnic touches to cocktails don't need to be extensive or excessive, but just enough to add a nice touch to a holiday gathering.

"Our bar is small and intimate, and sometime customers like to eat their dinner at the counter," Lawrence said. "During the Christmas holidays, we feature a classic drink with a little addition of spices that then complements a later meal with a robust taste. Our customers often like to drink it with their dinners, but also enjoy sipping it while chatting at the bar."

Spice Martini

(Courtesy of Steven Lawrence)

11/2 ounces vodka

1/2 ounce blue cura ao

1/4 ounce Triple Sec

1/4 ounce lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon cardamom and cinnamon

Shake with ice and strain into cocktails glass

Garnish with slice lime

Back north at the Barrows House in Dorset, Scott Corey offered up a final piece of advice for hosts of festive gatherings.

"Have some knowledge of the particular liquor used in the drink and sound like a professional," Corey said. "But the bottom line is to have fun and experiment and find what works best for the guest, or guests, in question."

Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at or on Twitter: @TellyHalkias


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