The holiday season is here and there’s no better way to keep your holiday merry and bright than with a festive cocktail (okay, maybe a few festive cocktails)! So, we turned to the expert and asked our Food and Beverage Manager at the Courtyard by Marriott Sandestin at Grand Boulevard, RJ Hunt, for his recommendations for the best holiday cocktails to sip on this season. RJ makes his way to us by way of NYC where he became one of the top-selling bartenders in 2014 in Manhattan before becoming the Lead Mixologist and Bartender for the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel & Golf Club in St. Petersburg. It was there that RJ received The Marriott R Star award for most valuable employee and was a three-time Nominee for “Best of the Bay” in the categories of Best Mixologist and Best Cocktails for his post-prohibition style recipes. Just one sip of RJ’s boozey concoctions will have you dancing the Jingle Bell Rock well into the New Year!
To learn more about RJ and the rest of the Howard Hospitality team, click here.
In need of a little more holiday cheer? Shake, stir, and muddle a few more of our favorite holiday cocktails this season!
Rudolph's Tipsy Spritzer
Rudolph’s Tipsy Spritzer is an easy and quick spritzer that’s perfect for a holiday party and will leave your red nose aglow! Needing a punch for the kids’ table? Just leave out the vodka and add more orange juice or lemon-lime soda.
5 cups Orange Juice
2 cups Chilled Lemon-Lime Soda
1-1/2 cups Vodka
1/2 cup Maraschino Cherry Juice
1/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
Stir all of the ingredients together and serve over ice. Garnish with lemon slices and fresh rosemary sprigs if desired.
The Holiday Cosmopolitan puts a seasonal twist on a classic cocktail.
3 tbsp. Vodka
1 tbsp. Orange Liqueur (Triple Sec)
1 tbsp. Cranberry Reduction
1-1/2 tsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
Stir together the vodka, orange liqueur, cranberry reduction, and fresh lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Cover and shake vigorously until completely chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a lemon rind twist if desired.
Margaritas are not just for summer or Taco Tuesday anymore. The Cranberry Margarita is beautiful and festive and will have you singing “Feliz Navidad” all night!
1 tbsp. Cranberry Juice
1-1/2 cups Fresh Cranberries
3/4 cup tequila
3/4 cup Cranberry Juice
3/4 cup Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 cup Orange Liqueur (Triple Sec)
1/3 cup Sugar
1-1/4 cups Chilled Club Soda
1/4 cup Fresh Orange Juice
Dip rims of six 8 oz. glasses in one tablespoon of cranberry juice and then in sugar to coat. Fill the glasses with ice. Blend the cranberries, tequila, 3/4 cup of cranberry juice, lime juice, orange liqueur, and 1/3 cup of sugar in a blender for thirty seconds. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large pitcher. Stir in chilled club soda and orange juice. Pour into prepared glasses and garnish with whole cranberries and lime peel strips if desired.
Holiday Milk Punch
This year, put out cookies and this Holiday Milk Punch that will have Santa feeling jolly all night!
2 cups Milk
2 cups Half-and-Half
1 cup Brandy or Bourbon
1/2 cup Sifted Powdered Sugar
1-1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Whisk together the milk, half-and-half, brandy (or bourbon), powdered sugar, and vanilla extract in a pitcher. Serve over crushed ice and top with freshly grated nutmeg.
Merry Berry Christmas, Sugar (Non-Alcoholic)
Don’t leave the kids out of the Christmas cheer! The Merry Berry Christmas, Sugar is a festive mint and berry “mocktail.” For the 21 and over crowd, try adding your favorite vodka or rum to the mix.
5 fresh Raspberries
4 fresh Blueberries
2 fresh Blackberries
1-1/2 tbsp. Light Agave Nectar
5 Fresh Mint Leaves
2 tbsp. Fresh Lime Juice
1 cup Crushed Ice
6 tbsp. Water
2 tbsp. Ginger Ale
Muddle the fruit, light agave nectar, mint leaves, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Stir in the crushed ice and water. Cover and shake until thoroughly chilled. Pour mixture into a 16-oz. glass and top with ginger ale. Garnish with halved fresh raspberries and blackberries if desired.
Gingerbread is a holiday staple, but give the cookies to the kids and sip on this perfect holiday cocktail. Carry the flavor even further by dipping the martini glasses in ginger liqueur and crushed gingersnaps.
2 tbsp. Ginger Liqueur
2 tbsp. Vanilla-Citrus Liqueur
1-1/2 tbsp. Coffee Flavored Rum
1 tbsp. Honey
2 tsp. Whipping Cream
1 cup Ice Cubes
Dip martini glass rims in ginger liqueur and crushed gingersnaps and store glasses in the freezer for up to two days. Stir together two tablespoons of ginger liqueur, vanilla-citrus liqueur, coffee-flavored rum, honey, and whipping cream in a cocktail shaker. Add ice cubes and shake until completely chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a partially split vanilla bean brushed with liqueur and rolled in sugar.
Candy Cane Martini
Candy canes are a true symbol of the holidays, but this martini will give you a whole new outlook on this classic holiday candy.
1 shot Vanilla Rum
1 shot White Chocolate Liqueur (Godiva)
1 shot Peppermint Schnapps
Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a martini glass and garnish with a candy cane.
It’s not the holidays without eggnog, but guzzle Grandma’s Eggnog and you may be run over by a reindeer, too!
6 Eggs, Separated
3/4 cup Sugar
1 qt. Whole Milk
1 pt. Heavy Cream
8 oz. Bourbon (Four Roses)
4 oz. Spiced Rum (Captain Morgan or Sailor Jerry)
Freshly Grated Nutmeg
In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and half a cup of sugar until they turn light in color. Stir in the milk, heavy cream, bourbon, and rum. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining quarter cup of sugar until they form soft peaks. Fold about a third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture. Serve in punch or teacups topped with freshly grated nutmeg, folding in more of the egg whites as desired.
Naughty or Nice Wine Punch
Santa has been making his list and checking it twice, but with this wine-lovers punch, you will surely end up on the naughty list. Make a big bowl of this concoction for the perfect holiday party punch.
3 oz. Pinot Noir
3 oz. Chardonnay
2 oz. Cognac
2 oz. Maraschino Liqueur
4 oz. Ginger Ale
Mix the wines, cognac, and maraschino liqueur in a punch glass and garnish with a blood orange slice.
White Christmas Mojito
Have you been dreaming of a white Christmas? Well, make that dream a reality with this creamy coconut white Christmas mojito!
Juice of 1 Lime
3 Mint Leaves
1 tbsp. Sugar
2 tbsp. White Rum
1 tbsp. Coconut Rum
1/4 cup Canned Coconut Milk
Sparkling Water for Topping
Pomegranate Arils for Serving
In a glass, muddle the lime juice, sugar, and mint leaves until the leaves have broken down. Fill the glass halfway with ice. In a blender, combine the white rum, coconut rum, and coconut milk and pulse until smooth. Pour over the ice and stir to combine. Top with sparkling water, mint, and pomegranate.
Warm up this holiday season with this Winter Sangria filled with apples, pomegranate, cranberries, clementines, and a hint of rosemary.
1 Bottle of Sweet Red Wine
1 Bottle Sparkling Cran-Apple Cider
2 Clementines, Sliced Thin, Peel On
2 Granny Smith Apples, Cored & Diced
1/2 cup Pomegranate Arils
1 cup Cranberries Sliced in Half
Rosemary to Garnish
Mix wine, cider, and fruit in a large pitcher. Serve over ice and garnish with rosemary. For an extra kick, add brandy or vodka to the pitcher or soak the fruit in brandy or vodka overnight.
Mules of all sorts have become quite popular, and this Holiday Mule might just become your favorite of mules with the sweet-tart cranberry juice, spicy ginger beer, and fragrant rosemary.
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
1/2 oz. Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
1-1/2 oz. Gin or Vodka
2 oz. Chilled Ginger Beer
1 Rosemary Sprig
Combine simple syrup, cranberry juice, and gin or vodka. Pour over ice and top with ginger beer. Serve garnished with rosemary, orange slice, and sugared cranberries.
Winter Bourbon Smash
Okay, so maybe you don’t want to get completely smashed at the holiday party, but this Winter Bourbon Smash is fresh and citrusy, not too sweet, and perfect for New Year’s Eve and other cold-weather special occasions.
2 tbsp. Preserves or Jam of Choice (Try Raspberry!)
2 tbsp. Bourbon
1 tbsp. Triple Sec
2-3 tbsp. Orange Juice
Splash of Club Soda
Add 1/2 cup ice, preserves, bourbon, triple sec, and orange juice to a shaker and shake vigorously for about 15 seconds. Pour into serving glass with a few ice cubes and top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with orange slices.
Has the holiday shopping left you stressed and frazzled? Sip on this Merry Manhattan and you’ll be feeling merry and bright from the bourbon and festive spiced ginger-cinnamon-cardamom syrup.
2 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. Dry Vermouth
2 drops Angostura Bitters
1/2 oz. Spiced Simple Syrup
Spiced Simple Syrup:
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Water
2-inch piece Ginger, Peeled & Sliced
2 Cinnamon Sticks
2 Star Anise
4 Cardamom Pods, Lightly Crushed
To make the simple syrup, combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Allows spices to steep for at least an hour. Strain into a glass jar, cover, and store leftover syrup in the fridge.
Combine all cocktail ingredients in a shaker with a handful of ice. Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker is frosty. Pour into short (Old Fashioned) glasses.
Spiced Mexican Hot Chocolate
Cozy up to a fire or someone special and keep warm this winter with this Spiced Mexican Hot Chocolate. This recipe is perfect for kids and for those who prefer to remember what happened the night before. Or, if you want to add that extra kick, add a splash (or two) of bourbon.
4 cups Whole Milk
2 cups Half-and-Half
1/2 cup Dulce de Leche
2 Cinnamon Sticks
10 oz. 70% Dark Chocolate
2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Bourbon (optional)
Whisk together milk, half-and-half, dulce de leche, and cinnamon sticks in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for ten minutes. Return mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Gradually whisk in finely chopped 70% dark chocolate, whisking until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in pure vanilla extract, kosher salt, and bourbon (if desired). Discard cinnamon sticks. Serve warm. Top with whipped cream and ground cinnamon if desired.