holiday cocktail recipes

Making Spirits Bright

Mix a holiday-inspired craft cocktail recipe and toast to a better year ahead.

Lizbeth Scordo Current PSL, Restaurants

holiday cocktail recipes

The Yule Mule concocted at Little Bar in Palm Desert.

111 East


If you’ve limited your holiday cocktail repertoire to punch bowls full of sludgy eggnog or flutes of plain-Jane Champagne (not that we don’t appreciate a good glass of bubbly this time of year, of course), it might time to consider an upgrade.

After all, has there ever been anything more toast-worthy than the fact that 2020 is coming to an end? All you need is the right holiday-inspired aperitif to mark the celebration, which should absolutely last all month, if you ask us.

To prepare your bar for a merry season of sipping, we asked three local spirits experts to share recipes for their favorite wintertime tipples, equally perfect for a swanky soiree or quiet night in front the fire. Either way, you deserve a drink this December, so you might as well make it a festive and fabulous one.

Yule Mule

Joe Pickering, Little Bar, Palm Desert

“This is a spin-off of our really popular Paradise Mule. We have fun with new creations and enjoy trying new products packed with unique flavors and colors. People come into Little Bar for our excellent cheeseburgers and cool vibe, but they end up trying our craft cocktails and find themselves craving both on a weekly — and sometimes daily — basis.”


2 ounce Tito’s Vodka
1 ¾ ounce Top Hat Ginger Beer syrup
1 ounce soda water
¼–½ ounce pineapple juice
Splash of cranberry juice
1 fresh cranberry for garnish
1 rosemary sprig for garnish
Fill ¾ of a shaker tin with ice. Pour in vodka, ginger beer syrup, and pineapple juice and shake for 30 seconds. Add soda and shake once. (Make sure not to over shake, or soda will pressurize.) Fill a rocks or bucket glass to the rim with ice. Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass. Add a float of cranberry juice on top and garnish with fresh cranberry and rosemary spring.


Joe Pickering at Little Bar, Palm Desert.

Note: Little Bar uses a homemade ginger beer-rosemary syrup for this recipe, which can be recreated by infusing rosemary into the ginger beer syrup.

Gingerbread Man Old Fashioned

Erika Rocha, Birba, Palm Springs

“I first learned to bartend at an Irish pub, so I love making whiskey-based cocktails. This Gingerbread Man Old Fashioned is perfect for the holidays because it’s a traditional cocktail, but with holiday spirit. Each sip tastes like Christmas morning.”


2 ounce rye whiskey or rye of preference
½ ounce broVo Spirits Douglas Fir Liqueur
1 dash chocolate bitters
1 dash Sun Liquor herbal bitters
½ ounce gingerbread syrup (See recipe or use a store-bought variety.)
Candied ginger for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass. Stir for 15 seconds. Strain into rocks glass over one large ice cube. Garnish with candied ginger on a bamboo stick.

Gingerbread Syrup:
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
½ cup minced ginger (peeled)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves

Combine sugar and water in saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves. Add ginger and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and add nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes and then let cool at room temperature for two hours. Strain. Push down on ginger particles for full extraction. Place in bottle and refrigerate. Can keep up to 30 days.

Note: Bottled gingerbread syrup can also be substituted, and is available on Amazon and some specialty stores.


Erika Rocha at Birba, Palm Springs.


Gingerbread Man Old Fashioned at Birba.

Dazzlin’ Dallas Manhattan

Jean Michel Alperin at Red Dog Saloon, Pioneertown

“Brown liquor in the winter is a winner. You’ve got the spicy, chocolatey flavors and the nuttiness from the vermouth. It screams holidays. The drink is named after Dazzling Dallas, a Pioneertown resident since 1947. She played the piano and danced on the bar at the Red Dog and a few other spots all the way out to the Twentynine Palms military base.”


2 ounce Old Forester Rye Whiskey,
100 proof
1 ounce Carpano Antica Formula
sweet vermouth
2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl mole bitters
1–2 Luxardo or Amarena Fabbri
cherries for garnish

Build the cocktail by adding the rye, vermouth, and bitters into a double old fashioned glass, followed by a single large rock of ice. Stir five times. Garnish with one or two cherries.


Jean Michel Alperin at Red Dog Saloon, Pioneertown.