International Christmas Cocktails
These international cocktails will get you in the spirit of the season.
Photos by Charles Schiller
Whether you sip some spiked Mexican hot chocolate or shoot an ice-cold Swedish aquavit, these international cocktails will get you in the spirit of the season. The best part? You don’t have to travel the globe to taste these wintertime drinks.
Coriander and Crown Dill Aquavit
“Traditional aquavits are always flavored with cumin and/or dill,” says Håkan Swahn, the owner of Aquavit in New York City. “They are mostly enjoyed around the holidays when Swedes sit down for a holiday smörgåsbord and toast each other with ice-cold aquavits throughout the meal.” Because of its intense nature, a shot of infused aquavit usually requires a beer chaser, Swahn says.
1 1-liter bottle Grey Goose vodka
¼ cup coriander seeds, toasted
1 bunch crown dill (harvested after blossoming)
Infuse vodka with coriander for 11 days in a large, covered glass container. Add dill and infuse for an additional 3 days. Strain out the coriander seeds and dill and refrigerate. Kept cold, this will keep for up to 6 months. Serve chilled in a cordial or shot glass. Makes 1 liter.
Mayan Hot Chocolate
“Xocolatl, or chocolate, was originally created by the Mayan people of southern Mexico, long before the Spanish conquest,” says Denise Roa, executive chef of Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. Today, variations of this creamy, richly spiced hot chocolate drink are served around Christmas with or without a shot of Bourbon, and a cookie on the side for dipping (we think Santa would approve).
1 cup cooked butternut squash pulp
3½ cups milk, divided
3 ounces Ibarra Mexican chocolate
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces Jim Beam Bourbon, if desired
4 cookies, for dipping
In a blender, purée the squash with 1¾ cups of the milk until smooth. In a large saucepan, mix the remaining milk with chocolate and spices. With a whisk, stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted, then add the puréed squash, being careful not to boil the mixture. Strain through a coarse sieve to remove any squash fibers.
Reheat mixture gently in a heavy saucepan. Serve in little demitasse cups (adding one ounce of Bourbon per cup, if desired), with a crisp cookie for dipping. Serves 4.
This Peruvian cocktail—the recipe is from the JW Marriott Lima Hotel—is one of the most common drinks served around the holidays. The main ingredients are staples of Peruvian mixology: pisco and algarrobina, a syrup made from the fruit of the black carob tree found in northern Peru (find it at gourmet shops or online).
1½ ounces Capel Pisco
1 ounce algarrobina
½ ounce Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur
1 ounce whole milk
1 ounce condensed milk
1 fresh egg yolk
½ tablespoon brown sugar
Cinnamon, for garnish
Combine pisco, algarrobina, chocolate liqueur, milk, egg yolk, sugar and 1½ cups crushed ice in a blender. Blend well. Pour into cocktail glass and dust with cinnamon. Serves 1.
“Glühwein is a tradition in Swiss-German households during the holidays, and it’s a much-anticipated treat in the holiday markets throughout Germany and Switzerland,” says Tobias Burkhalter, executive sous chef of St. Regis Aspen Resort. He brought this recipe to the U.S. from Switzerland, where glühwein is sometimes consumed mit schuss (with a shot), meaning that rum or another spirit has been added.
1 cup orange juice
1½ cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole allspice berries
1 star anise pod
10 cloves, whole
8 juniper berries
1½ bottles Cabernet Sauvignon
Orange twists, for garnish
Combine 2 cups water, orange juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, allspice and star anise in a pot over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce to a mild simmer.
Cut the oranges in half and squeeze juice into simmering liquid. Stud the orange halves with the cloves and gently place into the pot. Add juniper berries. Cut lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the simmering liquid, and place the lemon halves into the pot.
Reduce mixture to half of its original volume, add the Cabernet Sauvignon and heat until just below simmering. Ladle into glass mugs. Garnish with orange twist. Serves 8.
While sorel—made from hibiscus blossoms—is often served without alcohol in the Caribbean (particularly in Jamaica, where dried hibiscus is steeped in water and combined with ginger to make a festive, tart and spicy beverage), this Christmas punch from the makers of Sorel Liqueur gets a boozy kick from both its product and a splash of Bourbon.
2 ounces Four Roses Bourbon
½ ounce Sorel Liqueur
½ ounce Cocchi Americano
1 teaspoon brandied-cherry juice
1 dash Dr. Heather Duncan’s Christmas Bitters
Brandied cherries, for garnish
Stir Bourbon, Sorel Liqueur, Cocchi, cherry juice and bitters with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with brandied cherries. Serves 1.
“Coquito is to a Puerto Rican Christmas like dry wood to a winter fireplace—it fuels all Christmas gatherings,” says Roberto Serrallés, a master distiller whose family business, Destilería Serrallés, has been based in Ponce, Puerto Rico, since 1865. “Every family has their own special coquito recipe, which is usually passed down from generation to generation,” he says.
2 cups Caliche rum
1 can coconut cream (15 or 16 ounces, depending on brand)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ tablespoon ground nutmeg
Combine rum, cream, milk, vanilla and spices in a blender and blend at high speed. Transfer to a lidded, nonreactive container and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. Serve cold in small glasses or cups. Serves 8.