Holiday Drinks: What to Drink for the 2016 Holidays

'Tis the season...for all things spice, nice, and milk punch on ice. Am I right? Most people have a love/hate relationship with the holidays. For me, it's a love relationship. When else is it acceptable to eat an entire package of peppermint bark and a carton of eggnog. Wait, am I the only one who does that? So with Thanksgiving fast-approaching, it only seemed appropriate to share a few of my favorite holiday drinks. While I'm often sharing cocktail recipes in posts like this, today seemed appropriate to also share some Thanksgiving and Christmas beer, hard cider, and wine recommendations, especially ones that you may not drink any other time of the year. So without any further ado, find a few of my favorite holiday drinks for this year below.

Holiday Cocktail Recipes

New England Express

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 1/2 cups dark rum
  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. Angostura bitters
  • Club soda
  • Thyme simple syrup
  • Several sprigs thyme
  • Several lime slices

Since making this for Thanksgiving a few years ago, it's become a go-to fall cocktail pitcher when making cocktails for a group, and one of my favorite holiday drinks. And, you hardly have to have any bartending skills, since there's no shaking, peeling, muddling, or diluting required. Coming from Bon Appétit Magazine (with photo by Marcus Nilsson on Bon Appétit), you'll first make the thyme simple syrup by bringing one-third of a cup of sugar and one-third of a cup of water to a boil, and then add several sprigs of thyme and let it stand for 15 minutes. Next, add the cider, rum, lime juice, and bitters to a pitcher and mix. Pour into glasses filled with ice and top with club soda, and garnish with sprigs of thyme and lime wheels.


  • 1. 5 oz. rum
  • .75 oz. lime juice
  • .75 oz. honey simple syrup
  • Champagne

I mean for the name itself, if for no other reason. The Airmail, which dates back to the mid-1900s (first documented by Esquire), is basically the Caribbean version of a French 75. I adjust things slightly, using a honey thyme simple syrup (equal parts honey and water), but then follow the traditional recipe as it stands. To make the Airmail cocktail, you'll add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain into a glass filled with ice and top with champagne.

Cereal Milk Punch

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 2 oz. cereal milk (recipe to follow)
  • Dash of vanilla
  • .25 oz. maple syrup

Yes, cereal milk cocktails. You're welcome world. Except I can't take all the credit. That credit belongs to Momofuku Milk Bar for the cereal milk inspiration and PDT for the cocktail inspiration. But this, and milk punches in general, are easily customizable. You can go with straight whole milk, flavored creamer, or as I did, go with almond milk (which I think turned into cereal milk). For the cereal milk, I used the following recipe from Serious Eats, which is basically just corn flakes that are toasted, steeped in milk, and then strained. I do, however, recommend the brown sugar addition. For the milk punch cocktail, you'll add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. Pour into a rocks glass with ice and garnish with grated nutmeg.

Craft Beer

Provisions Saison, Tahoe Mountain Brewing. Just the fact that I'm even recommending a saison should tell you something about this beer. I rarely order saisons, but this saison by Tahoe Mountain Brewing has become a go-to of mine. It's crisp and light, yet feels like the perfect refreshing autumn beer with its hints of apple. According to Tahoe Mountain Brewing, it's their take on a sessionable, rustic multi-grain Farmhouse Ale. However, it's not something that's exactly widely available. Yet if you see a bottle, pick one up.

Pumpkin Patch Ale, Rogue Farms. Rogue is easily one of my favorite Pacific Northwest breweries. Their beer, their public houses, their "Bed 'n Beer," their marketing; it all hits the right notes for me. And if you thought Rogue's bottles stood out, just wait until you see the Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale (pictured below, from Rogue Ales & Spirits), perhaps the brightest bottle of beer there is. As the name would presume, you get a lot of pumpkin both on the nose and the taste of this one, yet without hitting you over the head with it. Naturally, it's made with pumpkins actually grown at the Rogue Hop Farm in Independence, Oregon.

Christmas Ale, Great Lakes Brewing Company. Great Lakes' Christmas Ale was recommended to me when attending last year's Great American Beer Festival (GABF), and upon drinking it, my mind was blown. It was one of my favorite beers that I tasted at a festival that had thousands of beers. This Christmas Ale is like autumn in a glass, with all the fall and holiday flavors and spices you'd come to expect, like cinnamon and honey. Of all the seasonal and holiday beers out there, this one stands up to any of them. Yes, there are good reason why it's a 6-time World Beer Championships award winner. But it's not easy to get your hands on. For an alternative, look for Anchor Steam's Christmas Ale, albeit a more malty, darker seasonal. Of my favorite holiday drinks, this is at the top.

Hard Cider

Spice Route Cider, Tieton Cider Works. If Christmas ales are the holidays in a beer bottle, then Tieton Spice Route Cider represents the holidays in a hard cider bottle. You get just about all of the fall spices in the smell and taste of this hard cider, yet it's neither too spicy, nor too sweet. Apples, check. Honey, check. Cinnamon, check. Cloves, check. Tieton Cider Works, however, also has a long list of other great ciders. For something just as autumny, check out their smoked pumpkin cider.

Hard Pumpkin Cider, Ace. Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider is to hard ciders what Rogue Farms Pumpkin Patch Ale is to beers, albeit sweeter. It's kind of like pumpkin pie in a bottle. Yet it has the taste of a number of the standard autumn flavors, like apple, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Ace's Hard Pumpkin Cider probably isn't just something you'll drink anytime of year, but if you see a bottle of it, pick it up to try.


Brut Rosé, Roederer Estate. I mean if you're going to have wine on the holiday dinner table, it should be bubbles, am I right? This Brut Rosé isn't your every day bottle of sparkling wine, however. Coming from one of my favorite wineries, Roederer Estate, in one of my favorite wine regions, Mendocino County's Anderson Valley, this sparkling rose is altogether complex, but smooth, refreshing, yet a fine bottle of bubbles. But to have rosé in the name, it's very pale, compared to what you probably typically think of with rosé wines. Yet it stands up to your favorite bottles of champagne and sparkling wine.

Cru Beaujolais, Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly. Don't worry, I didn't know what the hell Beaujolais was either. As Wine Folly puts it, "Beaujolais is like the smallest house in the fanciest neighborhood." For some, the light red wine (made with Gamay Noir grapes) is overrated, especially being that it's from Burgundy, where there are so many amazing red wines to choose from. Nonetheless, it's closely linked to the holidays, and especially Thanksgiving, since Beaujolais Nouveau is released annually on the third Thursday of November. However, I'm coming to you today with a Cru Beaujolais recommendation, made from the same grapes, but largely considered a much higher quality wine.

What are your favorite holiday drinks?