The beauty of preparing cocktails is the wide range of variations and seasonings that bartenders can play with. When it comes to the holidays, certain flavors are traditionally associated with this special time of year. People think of strong peppermint, bitter citrus, and aromas of hot spices like cinnamon or star anise. Freshly baked gingerbread and crispy champagne on New Years Eve are images that also spring to mind during winter, with much of our experiences being closely tied to the foods and drinks we enjoy. If you’re planning on hosting guests over the holiday season or want to get in the mood yourself, your bar cart redesign might be just what your home needs.
There are many ways to introduce holiday elements to your bar cart, whether it’s accessories, certain spirits, or bitters that give your cocktails that extra something you’re looking for. Making great winter drinks is all about balancing the bitter, sweet, and fragrant notes that smoothly descend and warm you up in cold weather. But more importantly, your bar cart should be something that represents your unique taste while providing guests with a bit of everything. Here are 10 great additions to your holiday bar cart that will surely get anyone in the holiday spirit:
Port wine is largely out of fashion, but there are still people who are trying to bring it back in fashion. This sweet dessert wine is originally from Portugal (hence its name) and can be enjoyed as a digestif after a meal. It comes in different colors and flavor profiles, such as fruity white port, caramel-colored tawny port, and rich ruby port with hints of chocolate and black berries. If you want to impress your guests, invest in port glasses for an elegant presentation and end a dinner with a toast. These bottles are traditionally reserved for special occasions and they also vary in price, so you can easily find one that fits your budget. Call us old-fashioned, but port is both delicious and a timeless classic.
If you’re a candy cane fan and want to incorporate a bold peppermint flavor into your cocktail, Peppermint Schnapps is your choice. On its own, Peppermint Schnapps is intensely minty, with some even comparing it to an astringent mouthwash. This is why you will usually find this potent liquor mixed in punch bowls or drinks with other ingredients that balance its flavor. Throw that flavored schnapps in spiked hot chocolate, White Russians, or the cheeky-named Peppermint Pattie shots with vodka and creme de cacao. It might not be the most refined spirit you’ll buy, but it’s incredibly versatile and, more importantly, fun to work with.
Campari can be polarizing due to its floral but intensely bitter taste. This Italian liqueur has a beautiful dark red color and carries notes of orange peel, cloves, cinnamon and black cherry. While you can sip it neat over ice, it’s generally considered a key ingredient in some popular cocktails. Negroni is an instant classic and consists of bitter Campari, gin, rosso vermouth and orange peel to bring out the citrus notes of the cocktail. Another reason to buy Campari is the fact that citrus is in season during the winter months, which pairs exceptionally well with this Italian import. Add it to blood orange cocktails or spritzes with fresh orange slices for a drink that feels like summer but is actually peak season. The deep ruby color also makes it festive, so use it however you like for a touch of red.
There are many reasons why you should add candied ginger to your bar cart this holiday season. Besides making a delicious, sweet snack, candied ginger can bring the essence of ginger to a drink without being too potent. Add wedges to Old Fashions or place it on the edge of your Negroni. You can even turn candied ginger into a simple syrup that can be added to drinks for added spice. Overall, it’s a stylish way to incorporate those holiday flavors that keep longer than gingerbread.
Cranberries are a staple this holiday season, but they usually need to be processed before they enjoy their natural acidity. You can incorporate cranberries into your cocktail repertoire by purchasing a bottle of juice, but we also like cranberry bitters for a more subtle approach. Fee Brothers makes wonderful bottles of Cranberry Bitters that add the flavor of the fruit to the background of your cocktail, rather than making a bold statement. Use this ingredient to make cranberry martinis or drizzle with whiskey sour for added acidity. It’s an inexpensive way to make a statement with your drinks.
It is undeniable that mulled wine and winter go hand in hand. This popular bowl drink requires a little cooking while you infuse the wine with oranges and various spices like cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. Once the flavors set in and the wine is completely infused, you’ll have a comforting drink that brings people together this time of year. However, getting all the necessary ingredients might turn some people away, which is why it’s a great idea to buy a mulled wine gift box for your home. These kits usually include all the usual spices you’ll need, plus a few aromatic extras like cardamom or whole nutmeg. And if these holiday flavors aren’t exactly your favorite, this idea still makes a great gift for a loved one who appreciates hot cocktails.
There is a lot to celebrate this time of year, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas or the New Year. Champagne is an instant classic when it comes to those special moments, but neither is it cheap and should never be wasted. Instead of wasting your bottle or feeling pressured to finish it, invest in a champagne bottle opener that will preserve the carbonation and taste of the drink. You can keep your open bottle in the fridge to keep it crisp and resurface it later to pour yourself a drink, make a mimosa, or even make spritzes for your next holiday party guests. If you are a frequent champagne drinker, this is definitely an investment to make that could minimize your waste.
When we think of honey and whiskey, we instantly think of hot toddies. Hot toddy (not to be confused with the hot, non-alcoholic drink used to treat colds) is another popular bowl drink that requires whiskey, honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon sticks. These ingredients are slowly reheated together to create a hot, tangy, sweet and very smooth cocktail. The Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey Whiskey is already accompanied by sweet notes of honey, which makes it ideal for this recipe. And like all whiskeys, this bottle has a multitude of cocktail uses or can be enjoyed neat over ice.
A little holiday rocket never hurt anyone, which is why we’re big fans of bottle sleeves. Not only are these sleeves used to keep your bottle of champagne or wine chilled cool, but they can also be attached to your home decoration or used as gifts for your friends and family. If you don’t particularly like decorating your bar cart, this detail could be the right amount of party for you.
Licor 43 is a Spanish liqueur which takes its name from its alleged 43 ingredients; however, it is now extremely popular in the Spanish speaking world due to its famous carajillo cocktail. Carajillo is a simple caffeinated drink that consists of a dose of Licor 43 and a dose of espresso on ice, as well as a citrus zest for additional aromas. Carajillos are generally enjoyed after dinner as a digestif, as the vanilla and citrus notes of the alcohol blend wonderfully with the chocolate espresso. While you can drink carajillos year round, there is something about its flavor profile that suits the holiday palate.
Sylvio Martins is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and actor. He specializes in Latinx cuisine and food culture, and has previously been featured in Eater and Enthusiasm.