Cup of Cheer

As we head into Christmas day, I think it's a great time to pour yourself a cup of cheer, whether it be a hot mug of mulled cider or a holiday-inspired cocktail. The holidays are a great time to raise a glass with family and friends and enjoy one another's company:

Some of my favorite holiday drinks embrace the flavors of the season; in particular, the spices we've come to associate with holiday baked goods and cocktails alike. So I'm sharing two of my favorites with you to enjoy this Christmas. The first is a twist on my favorite Wisconsin cocktail, the (brandy) old fashioned.

Spiced Old Fashioned Cocktails

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 12 ounces sweet bourbon (or brandy)
  • 1 orange, cut into 8 wedges
  • 8 maraschino cherries

To make the spiced simple syrup, place first five ingredients (sugar thru cinnamon stick) into a saucepan and simmer over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil then cover and remove from heat. Allow the mixture to steep for 30 minutes. Strain the spices from the simple syrup. Allow the mixture to cool completely before placing in the fridge for at least an hour to chill.

Divide an orange wedge and two cherries into each of four glasses and muddle together. Place the chilled syrup, bourbon, and ice into a large shaker and shake until well combined. Divide the mixture into each glass and top with an extra orange wedge, squeezing the wedge before dropping into the glass.

  • Yields: 4 drinks
  • Preparation Time: About 2 hours (includes chilling time)

And my gift to you wouldn't be complete without something warm and warming from the frigid north country. Apple cider gets a spicy update with whole spices, orange rind, and a touch of your favorite alcohol. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Hot Mulled Apple Cider

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 8 strips of orange rind from 1 orange
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 t. whole allspice
  • 1/4 cup brandy or bourbon (optional)

Remove the orange rind using a vegetable peeler and place in a stockpot with the cider, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then turn off heat and allow the spices to steep in the cider for 15 minutes. Add the brandy or bourbon, if using. Ladle into mugs and serve warm.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes