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vesper mimosa cocktail

Ramona King

Vesper-Style Mimosas


10 festive cocktails for a holly, jolly and still very Southern Christmas

I don't know about you, but in my house we are in full holiday swing. The Christmas tree is up and decorated, and my entire home looks like a winter wonderland. I absolutely love it. Still, nothing helps to put or keep me in the Christmas spirit quite like a nice cocktail. 

These 10 cocktails are the ones I reach for night after night when I'm in the mood for Christmas carol sing-alongs. While I tend to have them at night around dinner time, these beverages can be enjoyed at any time — like when your in-laws arrive. 

Vesper-Style Mimosas
Traditionally made with gin, the Vesper gained prominence in the 1953 novel Casino Royale as James Bond’s drink of choice. We’re giving the classic a bit of a brunch update by turning it into a mimosa. Lillet Blanc and Cocchi Americano are both wine-based aperitifs: the former coming from France, and the latter originating in Italy. Lillet will provide more floral and citrusy notes, while Cocchi offers a slightly bitter finish. Personally, this is a Christmas morning drink for me but you can enjoy it any time you choose. 
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Two-Boil Flip Cocktail
Some of my absolute favorite cocktails make use of things I already have on hand at home and this cocktail makes great use of molasses. This jar of rich, dark syrup sitting often sits in my cupboard waiting for summer time where I use it in my baked beans or even when I'm really sick during the winter time and use it to make a super sweet (but strangely comforting) spiced tea. In this cocktail, molasses adds a unique, smoky undertone to a stiff drink. This complex tasting cocktail combines bourbon, coffee liqueur and a whole egg for a luxuriously rich holiday beverage you'll want to sip on after dinner time. 
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Classic Negroni Cocktail
This classic, bittersweet cocktail is a perfect aperitif, which is a fancy way of saying a drink you should have before you eat. In my humble opinion its crucial to seek out high-quality spirits here; since you're making the drink with equal portions of all of the components, you'll really be able to tell the difference. You can serve your negroni on the rocks, as pictured, or up, in a coupe glass. This drink can be fairly polarizing due to the bitter-tasting Campari, so make sure you're guests are game before you stir up a big batch.
Get the recipe Hurricane Cocktail
I know what you're likely thinking, "A hurricane for a Christmas drink?" While, admittedly, this drink isn't a classic holiday sipper, any time is a good time for a hurricane. This fruity, rum-filled cocktail originated at the New Orleans bar, Pat O'Brien's, allegedly as a way to sell off unwanted rum. While the mix of fruit juices certainly can disguise poor flavors in a cheap rum, we'd recommend celebrating the spirit with a high-quality, full-bodied choice, such as Appleton Estate Signature or Bacardi 8 Años. Speaking of rum, feel free to use the full four ounces in your drink, or scale it back to a more demure two — or land somewhere in between. Just don't forget the crushed ice.
Get the recipe Classic Manhattan Cocktail
Manhattans are never go out of style. This boozy stirred cocktail manages to be both incredibly strong and super well balanced. Made traditionally with 2 ounces of rye whiskey, if you prefer bourbon for its sweeter flavor, you can totally substitute it here. 
Get the recipe Slow Cooker Hot Buttered Rum
If aren't a fan of butter then you probably shouldn't be making this cocktail. (But if you aren't a fan of butter, are you really Southern?) Along with a stick of the best butter you've got, this recipe calls for cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, nutmeg, dark brown sugar and, of course, rum. We like to use a slow cooker for this drink because it allows the flavors to more deeply develop, plus it perfumes the entire kitchen with warming spice. Even better? It's almost entirely hands off.
Get the recipe Classic Martini
Full admission here: I'm not a martini drinker. In general I try to avoid vodka at all costs — leftover PTSD from my college days. That being said, this cocktail recipe from cocktail columnist Jerry Slater swaps vodka for gin, so I'm game to give it a try. 
Get the recipe Comfortably Numb Cocktail
This cocktail is based on both the income tax cocktail and the painkiller cocktail, and it boasts Bluebird Distilling's dark rum and coconut-infused sugarcane rum. Bluebird Distilling is a craft distillery that produces small batch whiskies, such as wheated whiskey, four grain bourbon, rye and white rye whiskey, along with other amazing craft spirits such as Juniperus Gin, vodka and sugarcane rum.
Get the recipe Old Fashioned Cocktail
If the world ended today, this is the cocktail I would reach for. The Old Fashioned is truly 2 ounces of pure perfection. Made with angostura bitters, sugar and whiskey (rye or bourbon), this simple-seeming cocktail is anything but. There are almost endless ways to personalize this drink should you choose. Make it smoky, with maple syrup or add in some orange bitters. It's your drink. 
Get the recipe Slow Cooker Mulled Wine
Making fragrant mulled wine in a slow cooker can be a nice hands-off approach to entertaining. Just combine all the ingredients over low heat and let the slow cooker work its magic for a few hours. Because the sugar and spices would kill any of a good wine’s subtle nuances, be sure to use a less expensive bottle for this cocktail.
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Photo (vesper, negroni, hurricane, Manhattan, Old Fashioned): Ramona King
Photos (buttered rum, mulled wine): Ryan Hughley

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Ryan Shepard is the editor-in-chief at Southern Kitchen. Though originally from Los Angeles, she has lived in Atlanta since early 2017 and cannot imagine calling any other city home (except maybe New Orleans). Before joining Southern Kitchen's staff, Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on public policy issues. When she's not at work, she enjoys hunting down the best Mexican food in the city and drinking whiskey, obviously.