classic winter cocktails

Just because the cooler winter months are rolling in doesn’t mean you have to give up a good cocktail with friends. While you can easily hunker down inside the local boardwalk bar and arcade for some fun and a quick drink, there’s nothing more satisfying than crafting the perfect winter drink right at home. 

Winter is the perfect time to enjoy a drink with some friends around a warm fire. Over the years, people have associated winter holidays with traditional beverages such as spiced cider and hot chocolate. However, many mixologists (bartenders) have turned these standard drinks into unique boozy holiday cocktails that are sure to provide you with a good time! 

In North America, late December to late March is when Winter is at its prime. During these three months, Americans celebrate several significant holidays. Over time, holidays have evolved to include their own sets of classic winter cocktails, tried and true drinks that have stood the test of time and are loved by many. 


The Jewish festival of lights, Hanukkah, is often overshadowed by the Christian Christmas holiday. This eight-night celebration, however, comes with its own distinctive classic cocktails.  

Manischewitz Sangria 

This “super secret” family recipe comes from a Smithsonian associate web editor. The sweetness of the kosher grape wine creates a perfect Sangria- the perfect drink to celebrate the holiday season.

Mix three parts of Manischewitz Concord Grape wine with half a shot of brandy. Add two parts pineapple juice, one part lime juice, one part lemon juice, and one part seltzer water.

Pour over cut apples, grapes, limes, lemons, and oranges. 

Before serving, add a dash of seltzer. You can present this drink over ice or at room temperature. 

Moscow Mule 

Another famous kosher Hanukkah cocktail is the Moscow Mule. Before mixing this cocktail, fill a copper mug with ice to chill it.

This choice is an easy vodka drink with the unique ingredient of ginger beer. All it takes is vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice. 

Mix well and pour into the chilled copper mug with fresh ice. Garnish with lime slices. 


Close your eyes and imagine the smells and tastes associated with Christmas. What comes to mind? Familiar sensations may include (but are not limited to) chocolate, peppermint, and gingerbread. 

Here are classic winter cocktails to enjoy at Christmas time:

Candy Cane Chocolate Martini

This festive cocktail complements the Christmas feast. It’s easy to make and brings all the Christmas flavors together, creating the perfect blend. Variations of this holiday cocktail have been gracing Christmas tables for generations.

In a glass shaker, combine 3.5 oz (100 ml) Chocolate Liqueur, 3.5 0z (100 ml) Creme de Cacao, 1 oz (30 ml) Vanilla Vodka, ½ oz Creme de Menthe, and ice. Shake or stir until mixed.

Next, prepare the glass. Dip the rim of a stem glass into chocolate syrup and then add crushed candy cane pieces.

Drizzle Chocolate as a finishing touch.

Hot Buttered Rum 

While this warm cocktail is popular during the Christmas holidays, it’s perfect for any occasion. Sweet, spicy, and warm- the perfect end to a cold winter’s night.

Mix 1 tbsp light brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and ½ tsp nutmeg to make two servings. |Gently pour in 100 ml (3 1/2 oz) dark rum and 2 tbsp melted unsalted butter. Stir and pour into two glasses. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

New Year’s Eve

Celebrating the end of a year and the start of a new one historically involves a party. There is one specific alcoholic beverage associated with midnight; however, there are other winter cocktails options to try. 

Champagne is the traditional drink of choice on New Year’s Eve. Whether you drink it before a kiss or are simply taking part in the festivities going on around you, it’s the perfect drink to ring in the new year.

New Year’s Sparkler 

This quick and easy cocktail is a perennial favorite. Fruity, with a New Year’s kick, it’s the perfect cocktail to gather around with friends singing Auld Lang Syne.

Add 1 oz berry-flavored vodka with 1.5 oz of cranberry or pomegranate juice to a chilled flute glass. Finish with Champagne and garnish with skewered raspberries. 


Sometimes, New Year’s Day is often met with the effects of the night before. Whether you’re celebrating by braving the winter chill and heading out to brunch at the wharf in D.C or enjoying a lovely warm New Year’s morning in Hawaii, good food (and a few drinks) are always a great way to start your day after a long night out.

A traditional breakfast cocktail for the day after is a mimosa. A combination of 50/50 orange juice and Champagne in a Champagne flute is a great way to ease into new beginnings. 

Valentines Day

Nothing says Happy Valentine’s Day like chocolate candies in a heart-shaped box and roses. Expensive jewelry might be an option, but if you’re looking for something a little extra, try these classic holiday cocktails to celebrate love: 

Chocolate Martini 

Fall in love with this twist on the classic martini. It is a chocaholic’s dream come true.

Prepare a stemmed martini glass by squirting chocolate syrup inside the lip and allowing it to drip down. Then, moisten the lip and coat it with grated chocolate. Keep chilled until the cocktail is ready.

Combine 1 oz vodka, 1 oz chocolate liquor, 1 oz creme de cacao, and 1 oz heavy cream or half and half in a shaker glass with ice. Shake vigorously for 15 to 30 seconds. Strain into the chilled martini glass and enjoy.

Pink Lady 

A Pink Lady is a classic gin-based cocktail. Its pink color comes from grenadine, making it the perfect Valentine’s winter cocktail. 

Shake 1.5 oz of gin, 4 generous dashes of grenadine, and 1 egg white with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with two skewered cherries “kissing” each other. 

St. Patrick’s Day

Rounding out the winter months in March is St. Patrick’s day. Everyone’s out and about, hitting up local pubs, and bars, and taking part in Irish festivities. Green beer abounds, and so do green-colored classic cocktails.


Prepare the garnish by dipping the stem of a mint sprig in melted chocolate. Place on a plate in the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to harden.

Shake equal parts of Creme de Menthe, white Creme de Cacao, and Bailey’s Irish Cream with ice. Strain into a chilled stemmed cocktail glass and add in the chocolate-dipped mint. 

This classic cocktail is perfect after a hearty corned beef and cabbage dinner.

Irish Margarita 

This adaptation of the classic Margarita with a splash of cream de Menthe is a St. Patricks Day favorite.

Prepare the stemmed cocktail glass rim with sugar and chill. Shake 1 oz Cointreau, 1 oz lime juice, 2 oz Tequila, and a dash of green Creme de Menthe. 

Strain into the chilled glass or serve over ice.

The Bottom Line

Winter is a time when most mammals hibernate or at least slow down. Free time inside means more time to be creative and learn a new skill. It’s the perfect season to revisit time-tested classic cocktails to keep warm.

Many alcoholic drinks are well suited for the cooler winter months regardless of a holiday celebration. Use a holiday as an excuse, but consider these classic winter cocktails to try all winter long.

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