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12 days of Christmas cookies: Southern Kitchen's favorite holiday recipes

Southern Kitchen staff
These gingerbread cookies are made from scratch by Lisa Marie White, the pastry chef and culinary director at Biscuit Love in Nashville.

The tree is trimmed. The Christmas gift list is written. Prepare yourself for the onslaught of holiday party invites.

Have a cookie swap to attend? A Christmas potluck on the horizon? Here, Southern Kitchen helps you get ready for the holidays with some of our favorite cookie recipes, with fun, festive cocktails to match.

1. Super special gingerbread cookies

Lisa Marie White is the pastry chef and culinary director at Biscuit Love in Nashville.

Nashville baker Lisa Marie White grew up with slice-and-bake sugar cookies on Christmas. Now the culinary director for Nashville's popular Biscuit Love restaurants, White is an avowed from-scratch baker.

Here, she shares her tried and true recipe for crowd-pleasing gingerbread cookies, which use an uncommon ingredient: golden syrup. The British ingredient, which can be found online on sites such as Amazon, looks like honey. Also called "light treacle," there's no real substitute for its flavor. White also tested the recipe with King Arthur's Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour, so people with gluten allergies can also enjoy her Christmas cookies. Get the recipe here.

Cocktail pairing: Christmapolitan

2. Snowcap cookies

Virginia Willis’ chocolate Snowcap cookies.

The double whammy of cocoa and bittersweet chocolate make these cookies a chocolate lover’s dream. Bake the cookies immediately after rolling them in powdered sugar. If they sit, the sugar absorbs into the dough and the rich chocolaty cookies lose their snowcapped look. Get the recipe here.

Cocktail pairing: Snowball Old Fashioned

3. Pecan Sandies

Pecan Sandies are a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie dotted with pecan pieces.

A staple of childhood Christmas cookie tins, the original Sandie is a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie dotted with pecan pieces. You will have extra candied pecans, but — trust us — you'll be glad. Get the recipe.

Cocktail pairing: Tom and Jerry

More holiday cheer here:Sugar & Spice: Southern Kitchen presents the art, culture and science of holiday sweets

4. Thumbprint cookies

These simple, buttery thumbprint cookies are from "Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking."

Growing up in California, baker Cheryl Day brought back moments of summer trips to Alabama in jars of jams made by her grandmother. At Christmastime, she would open the jam to fill thumbprint cookies for her family.

"Everybody loves cookies," she said. "Cookies are a universal language."

These simple, buttery thumbprint cookies, a recipe from "Cheryl Day's Treasury of Southern Baking," stand back and let the jam shine.

Baker Cheryl Day is based in Savannah, Georgia. (Courtesy of Artisan Books)

"It's a classic recipe I've had as long as I can remember," she said. "If it's not broken, I'm not going to fix it."

Any jam, store-bought or homemade, will work. Get the recipe

Cocktail pairing: Dasher cocktail

More about Day:Cheryl Day's new cookbook is a treasure trove of delicious Southern treats

5. Chocolate Pinwheels

Chocolate Pinwheel cookies offer visual appeal and classic flavor.

The perfect holiday cookie plate needs a few things to sing, including a variety of appealing textures, visual appeal and classic flavor. These cookies stand out for their timeless appeal, striking but simple appearance and, of course, delicious flavor. Get the recipe.

Cocktail pairing: Two-Boil flip

6. Ambrosia cookies

These ambrosia cookies can be adapted with various ingredients.

You may tweak the mix-ins for these highly adaptable cookies as you see fit, swapping cranberries for raisins, for example. But to keep the spirit of ambrosia intact, you'll want to make sure to include the coconut and citrus zests. You can, if you must, use sweetened coconut flakes instead of unsweetened. Get the recipe.

Cocktail pairing: Moscow Mule

7. Bourbon-bacon chocolate chip cookies

Are these bourbon-bacon chocolate chip cookies the perfect chocolate chip cookies?

This is one of those recipes that has the power to change your mind about the best chocolate chip cookies you’ve ever tasted. The saltiness of the bacon combined with the tannins of the chocolate create an umami flavor that’s unforgettable. This will make a unique offering on any cookie plate. Santa will flip. Get the recipe.

Cocktail pairing:Bourbon-pumpkin pie milkshake

8. Chocolate meringue tarts

Chocolate meringue tarts make a sophisticated dessert after a holiday meal.

This is a sophisticated dessert that would be marvelous if served after a lavish holiday meal.

A word on meringue: Older egg whites are unlikely to hold air bubbles as well as fresher whites. To avoid collapse, use fresh, just-cracked eggs, but get your eggs to room temperature before you crack them.

Also, make sure your bowl is spotlessly clean, as a dirty bowl can keep your meringue from coming together. Get the recipe

Cocktail pairing: Espresso martini

9. Kentucky bourbon balls

These bourbon balls are quick and easy to put together.

These bourbon balls are easy to put together and don't require much time to set once formed. Don’t waste your best bourbon in this recipe, where its nuances will be masked. In this case, budget-friendly bourbons are welcome. Get the recipe.

Cocktail pairing: Hatton Smith cocktail

10. Classic sugar cookies

Sugar cookies, still naked.

This recipe from Southern Kitchen contributor Anne Byrn is made for a cookie swap. They're timeless and easy to decorate for some classic holiday fun. Get the recipe.

Cocktail pairing:Classic spiced wassail

11. Wedding cookies

Virginia Willis’ wedding cookies are super simple to make with children.

Wedding cookies, sometimes called Mexican wedding cookies or meltaways, are a holiday classic. They are essentially shortbread made with chopped pecans and are super simple to make with children. Get the recipe, courtesy of Virginia Willis

Cocktail pairing:Classic Hurricane

12. Peppermint brownies

Brownies with peppermint bark make a statement on your holiday dessert plate.

OK, we're cheating a bit here, but these brownies are just about the perfect holiday treat with their crisp peppermint and luscious, rich chocolate flavors. Get the recipe

What goes better with Christmas-y brownies than eggnog? Get the perfect boozy nog recipe below:

Jingle Balls Nog

Jingle Balls Nog from the holiday-themed Sippin' Santa bar pop-up.

Serve this festive sipper in your best silly holiday mugs. As fair warning, do note that this recipe makes 37 6-ounce pours, so invite a crowd of people over if you don't want to get too snookered. 

Ingredients

750 ml cognac (Pierre Ferrand 1840)

750 ml sherry (Harvey’s Bristol Cream)

72 fluid ounces almond milk, unsweetened

50 fluid ounces heavy whipping cream

3 cups sugar, white

24 eggs

12 drops almond extract

16 drops vanilla extract

1 ½ tablespoons ground nutmeg, plus extra to garnish

Instructions

In a large pot or container, beat eggs, nutmeg and sugar with a hand mixer until smooth and sugar is fully incorporated and dissolved.

Add almond milk and mix again.

In a separate pot or container, aerate the heavy whipping cream using a hand mixer (do not whip to any thickness). Add that to the original egg mixture and mix to combine all ingredients.

Add sherry, cognac and extracts. Mix again and refrigerate. Re-blend or shake the batch each time before serving.

Garnish each serving with freshly grated nutmeg.