The best way to get into the spirit of the holiday is to get these holiday spirits into you.
Whether you're hosting a party or just making an after-dinner drink, cocktails are a great way to get in the mood. We've asked top local bartenders to share their favorite seasonal recipes.
The Hottest Toddy
From Jared Hirsch, of Oakland's Sidebar, comes this heat-spiked version of the classic toddy.
"Caged Heat Syrup is a simple way to add depth, warmth, and aromatics to the classic hot toddy. Scale the recipe up to fill a 4-quart pot and make it available all 12 days [of Christmas]" —Jared Hirsch
2 ounces bourbon (Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, or another 40 proof, quality bourbon)
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Caged Heat Syrup (contains tamarind, cardamom, ghost pepper)
1. Preheat your favorite ceramic mug by filling it with boiling water.
2. Toss the water.
3. Add the liquid ingredients to the now heated mug.
4. Pour as much additional boiling water as your mug of choice will allow, about 4 ounces.
5. Stir until the syrup and honey dissolve.
6. Garnish with a clove-studded lemon wheel, cardamom pods, and a single dried chili.
// Sidebar, 542 Grand Ave. (Oakland), sidebar-oaktown.com
Nico bar manager Simone Mims suggests whipping the cream ahead of time for this hot, frothy delight.
(Courtesy of Nico)
"This rich winter warmer is topped with a vanilla whipped cream that you can prepare ahead of time and keep refrigerated. —Simone Mims
1½ oz H by Hine Cognac
½ oz Clément Select Barrel Agricole Rhum
2 oz heavy cream
1 oz whole milk
4 tbsp shaved 70% cocoa
2 tbsp shaved 40% cocoa
vanilla whipped cream (made ahead of time)
grated nutmeg for garnish
Preparation for the whipped cream
- Add about a tablespoon of vanilla extract to 2 cups of heavy whipping cream.
- Add 1 tablespoon of cane sugar and whisk until the consistency is to your desired stiffness. You can also use an immersion blender: just use the lowest setting so you don't over-whip the cream.
- Preheat your favorite mug by filling it with boiling water until the mug is hot to the touch. Simone prefers glass because it shows off the layers of the drink.
- Add the spirits to a tempered mug.
- Place a saucepan on the stove. Add the cream and milk and turn heat to low. Once the milk is warm, stir in the chocolate. Continue to stir so the milk doesn't burn.
- Once the milk is hot, carefully pour it into the mug that contains the spirit mixture.
- Add the whipped cream and finish with grated nutmeg.
// Nico, 710 Montgomery St. (Jackson Square), nicosf.com
Spiced Sherry Cobbler
(Courtesy of Perbacco)
"This citrusy recipe can easily be multiplied to accommodate larger groups." —Lisa Sanchez
Ingredients for Cranberry Chai Syrup
16 oz blood orange soda (aranciata)
1 bag/12 oz cranberries
6 chai tea bags (Sanchez uses Twinnings)
6 oz cane sugar
16 oz Oloroso Sherry
16 oz d'Sange blood orange vermouth
8 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice dram
8 oz Cranberry Chai Syrup
Two oranges (preferably blood oranges)
8 oz cranberries (from Chai Syrup)
Preparation for the Cranberry Chai Syrup
- In a large pot bring ingredients to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer on low heat for about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Let cool, then remove tea bags and strain the syrup from the cranberries.
- Set aside the cranberries from the syrup.
- Incorporate all ingredients in a large pitcher or punch bowl.
- Add 5 cups of ice and stir.
- Garnish with star anise, cinnamon stick, pomegranate seeds and sprig of mint to each glass.
// Perbacco, 230 California St. (FiDi), perbaccosf.com
By Fatima Hite-Igras of SF's Palm House, this pink party drink is a festive crowd pleaser.
"This spirit-forward cocktail uses a cranberry apple jam that you can prepare ahead of time, which makes it simpler for guests to mix their own drinks." —Fatima Hite-Igras
1 Fuji apple
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apple juice
2 tsp Five Spice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1½ ounces bourbon
½ ounce Lo-Fi Geniain Amaro
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz Cranberry Apple jam
Preparation for the jam
- Peel apple and cut into cubes.
- Add all ingredients to pot.
- Stir and bring to a boil for 1 minute.
- Simmer for about 20 mins.
- Remove from heat and let cool.
- Add all ingredients to shaker and shake.
- Strain and pour over large ice cube.
- Garnish with fresh cranberries.
// Palm House, 2032 Union St. (Cow Hollow), palmhousesf.com
At 1881, Karina Kotovaya riffs on a Dickensian Christmas.
(Courtesy of The 1881 Restaurant)
"This rich and bitter cocktail is an embodiment of winter. Buckwheat honey paired with Cynar gives the rum base a full body and richness while egg white complements it with fluffy and airy texture.
The name Dickens Novel is a tribute not only to one of the greatest writers of Victorian Era, but also to The Great Dickens Christmas Fair that San Franciscans enjoy every year during the holiday season." —Karina Kotovaya
1.5 oz spiced rum
1/2 oz buckwheat honey syrup (50/50 honey/water)
1/2 oz Cynar
1/4 oz Benedictine
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 oz egg white
- Mix all of the ingredients in the shaker.
- Shake and strain into martini glass.
- Garnish egg foam with dry thyme, dehydrated blood orange slices and unsweetened cocoa powder.
// The 1881 Restaurant, 1409 Sutter St. (Pac Heights), mansiononsutter.com/hotel/the1881
The Beautiful and Damned
At Quince, Michael Kudra's The Beautiful and Damned is both naughty and nice.
"The Beautiful and Damned plays off of bittersweet herbal notes that are perfect for opening your palate. It's light and refreshing, which makes it the perfect cocktail to start off any holiday party. For added flair, use gold leaf as garnish." —Michael Kudra, Quince Restaurant
1 oz Roku Gin
3/4 oz Aperol
1/2 oz St. Germain
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
A splash of Champagne (to finish)
Gold leaf (optional)
1. Combine spirits and lemon juice in a shaker.
2. Shake and strain into a coupe glass.
4. Top with Champagne.
3. Garnish with gold leaf.
// Quince, 470 Pacific Ave. (Jackson Square), quincerestaurant.com
Because The Night
Nicky Beyries' Patti Smith–inspired number plays with fortified wines.
(Leonard Martin Hughet)
"This drink, named for Patti Smith's song, is one of my personal favorites. It is an approachable riff on a classic concoction that incorporates something not often seen in the cocktail world: aromatized/fortified wines other than vermouths.
Sherry has had an incredible renaissance in the last decade. Passum, Passito, Banyul, Madeira, Vin Santo, Sauternes, Barolo Chinato—their depth of flavor is incredible in a cocktail and I would love to see them used more often." —Nicky Beyries
1 oz H&H Mio Doce Madeira
2 oz Four Roses Bourbon
1 splash of pear bitters (optional)
- Combine all ingredients and stir.
- Serve in a coupe glass.
- Garnish with orange peel.
// Laszlo and Foreign Cinema, 2526 and 2534 Mission St. (Mission), laszlobar.com, foreigncinema.com
Pear Ginger Cannabis Sparkler
Have yourself a green Christmas with this canna-happy drink recipe from Humboldt Apothecary.
Our friends at Humboldt Apothecary suggested this heady cocktail as a different way to help make the season bright.
Ingredients for the Pear Ginger Syrup
1 cup pear juice
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup turbinado sugar
¾ cups honey
2-inch piece of ginger, grated
Fresh grated nutmeg to taste
2 tbsp Pear Ginger Syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1 dropper-ful of cannabis tincture
Make the Pear Ginger Syrup
- Combine pear juice with turbinado sugar and ginger.
- Simmer on low for ten minutes.
- Strain the syrup.
- Add honey, lemon juice, and fresh grated nutmeg. Stir well.
- Let cool and refrigerate in a covered jar.
Make the Cocktail
- Fill an eight ounce glass with ice and soda.
- Stir in two tablespoons of the pear syrup and your favorite tincture.
- Fill with soda water, and stir.
- Garnish with cinnamon stick.
// Humboldt Apothecary, humboldt-apothecary.com
Christmas Morning Coffee
Tank18 bartender Chase Henriksen is spiking the cold brew!
"Enjoy this eggnog-esque cold-brew cocktail either morning or night." —Chase Henriksen
2 oz Oloroso Sherry
½ oz Griffo cold-brew liqueur
¼ oz brandy
1 whole egg
Coffee grounds (for garnish)
- Add all ingredients to shaker and shake vigorously without ice.
- Add ice and shake again.
- Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with coffee grounds.
// Tank18, 1345 Howard St. (SoMa), tank18.com
Bourbon, chocolate and fresh mint at a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant? Thank you, Ajay Walia!
(Courtesy of Rasa)
"Mint brings freshness to a rich smooth bourbon, complemented by bitter chocolate that makes it the perfect closer for a holiday evening." —Ajay Walia
1 1/2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz red dry vermouth
¼ oz orgeat syrup
1/2 oz amaro carciofo
1/4 oz coffee liqueur
3 dashes bitters
- Muddle fresh mint with orgeat syrup.
- Combine all ingredients. Stir with ice and fine strain over a big ice cube.
- Top with 3 dashes chocolate bitters and fresh mint.
// Rasa, 209 Park Rd. (Burlingame), rasaindian.com
Tilden on Ice
Brian Felley's poblano-and-aquavit concoction was inspired by cold, New Mexico mornings.
(Courtesy of Tilden Hotel)
"This cocktail was inspired by cold winter mornings in my New Mexican hometown. The poblano chile is reminiscent of the crisp, cold air that carries the smell of green chiles being roasted, and the juniper and herbs that litter the high desert are represented in this cocktail through gin and chartreuse." —Brian Felley
¾ oz aquavit
1 oz London dry gin
¼ oz Green Chartreuse
¼ oz ancho verde
¾ oz fino sherry
2 dash lime bitters
- Stir ingredients over ice
- Strain into a rocks glass over a large cube
- Garnish with a 1 inch sprig of rosemary.
// The Douglas Room at the Tilden Hotel, 345 Taylor St. (Tenderloin) tildenhotel.com/dine/barlounge
A Coal for Krampus
An icy, amaro-infused take on mulled wine at Horsefeather? Yes, please!
(Courtesy of Horsefeather Bar)
"A Coal for Krampus builds on traditional wintertime flavors, like housemade mulled wine spiced with flavors like clove, anise, cardamom, and lemon and orange peels." —Dzu Nguyen
Ingredients for Mulled Wine Cordial
1 bottle red wine
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise pod
1/8 tsp clove
Peel of 1 whole orange, lemon, and grapefruit
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 ½ oz Santa Teresa 1796 rum
3/4 oz Mulled Wine Cordial
1/2 oz Lo Fi Gentian Amaro
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 oz Fort Point Manzanita (locally brewed German rauchbier)
Preparation for Mulled Wine Cordial
- Bring wine to a simmer, stir in spices and sugar.
- Remove from heat, add citrus peels and allow to steep.
- Remove peels and allow cordial to cool overnight.
- Add spirits, lemon juice, and cordial to a shaker.
- Shake, strain over ice,
- Top with beer.
- Add rosemary and grapefruit slice garnish.
// Horsefeather, 528 Divisadero St. (Lower Haight), horsefeatherbar.com