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The Ultimate Holiday Party Cocktail

Photo: Krzysztof Kozerski/freeimages.com

Much like a unicorn or the tooth fairy, the perfect holiday cocktail doesn’t exist. 

Let’s be honest:  holiday gatherings include a much wider range of guests than the average cocktail party. The group will probably include folks that regularly drink cocktails, some that usually drink wine, exclusive beer drinkers and some that almost never drink. Can you see why the “perfect holiday cocktail” is a myth? This group could never agree on one drink.

I suggest you draw up a very small drink menu — and that’s not as intimidating as it sounds. For instance, you could offer beer from a local brewery (think mild lager, not a hoppy IPA), a pitcher of fruity sangria, maybe an affordable red wine from your local wine shop (or Trader Joe’s?) and then a whiskey based cocktail like a Brown Derby . (Recipes & recommendations are listed below.)

Let’s face it — you are not going to make a beer drinker happy with anything other than beer, so get something local and tasty but way on the lighter side. Some of the pumpkin ales and IPA’s out there are more than twice the alcohol of regular beer and can catch folks by surprise. Sangria is a great option for folks that don’t normally drink or who are in the mood for something soft & refreshing. A couple bottles of red wine are an easy thing to have on hand and can get you out of trouble and, finally, a classic pre-Prohibition cocktail will firmly establish you as the coolest party host ever! It can work for folks that generally drink harder spirits but is tasty enough to win over some people who would normally not look twice at a bourbon drink.

It’s not a unicorn or a winning lottery ticket, but it is a recipe for a really great party! 




Combine all the ingredients except the ginger ale the night before and chill.  Add ginger ale & serve. 2 btl       Moscato

2 ea        oranges, 1 squeezed & 1 cut into small wedges

1 ea        apple, peeled and cubed

1 ea        nectarine, peeled and cubed

1 liter     ginger ale



The trick to this drink is equal parts bourbon to juice, with the honey syrup to smooth it out. Mix ½ at a time to make things less messy.  If you’re an “over-the-top” person, add a dash of Grapefruit bitters – either at your local gourmet shop or online.

1 btl       Old Foresters

25 oz      Fresh Grapefruit Juice

12 oz      Honey Syrup (equal parts warm water & honey, stirred until combined)


BEER Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager, Legend Lager, South Street Virginia Lager

WINE Parker Station Pinot Noir, Ravenswood Zinfandel, Storypoint Cabernet Sauvignon

Adam Steely is the General Manager and Owner of Blue Talon Bistro in Williamsburg, Virginia. He has been actively involved with award-winning wine programs since the early 1980's. He opened his own wine retail shop at age 22, and spent ten years directing wine programs for luxury resorts before moving into restaurant management/ownership and consulting. Adam has served as a judge for the statewide Virginia Wine Competition put on by the State Fair since its inception.