7 Holiday Pitcher Cocktails Sure to Impress (& Warm Up) Your Guests
What’s a pitcher cocktail?
There are cocktails you have to mix/shake one or two at a time – which are fine for smaller gatherings, but become burdensome when serving larger groups. Pitcher cocktails are the answer, because you can mix them up to a day in advance and let your guests serve themselves.
Host Tip: When offering pitcher cocktails, make one that’s on the sweet side (vodka, rum), one that’s spirit-forward (gin, bourbon, whiskey, brandy), and include a mocktail – which will cover almost everyone’s preferences.
Hot buttered rum with a fruity twist from Michelle Ferrand, Cup of Zest
“I wanted something simple to whip up while spending time with the family. A little research and I came across hot buttered rum, which was nothing I’d ever tasted. Butter, booze, and sugar, yes please! But I also wanted to make the drink a little more interesting. My step-mom suggested using up some of the mandarins and the pomegranate juice she had in the fridge. Both were perfect additions to the spiced hot buttered rum!” – Michelle Ferrand, Cup of Zest
For cold winter nights, there’s nothing quite so cozy as hot buttered rum. Cup of Zest blogger Michelle Ferrand suggests making a big batch in advance and serving hot in an insulated pitcher/thermos, “so you don’t need to take up precious room on the stove top.”
- 8 oz dark rum
- 4 Tb unsalted high quality butter (Kerry Gold is Michelle’s favorite)
- 1 ½ cups water
- ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8th tsp ground clove
- 1/8th tsp kosher salt
- Pomegranate juice and pomegranate arils (seeds)
- Zest and juice from mandarin oranges
- Evenly distribute the rum and butter between four 8-ounce mugs.
- Place the water, sugar and spices in a small pot and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
- Evenly distribute that boiling, sweet and spiced water between the mugs and stir well to melt the butter.
- Drink it piping hot
For the optional pomegranate and mandarin extras
If you want to add in either (or a combo of both) of these awesome additions, make sure the juice is super hot. You want to make sure you keep your drink piping hot while drinking it, and cold juice will drastically reduce its temp. The butter will solidify (ew!) if the drink gets cold!
- Add in 2 tablespoons of pomegranate juice in each cup along with some arils for garnish.
- Add in the zest and juice of one mandarin orange in each cup.
Spiked Peppermint Bark Chocolate from HelloFresh
“The hustle-bustle of the holiday season is upon us, and that means festive celebrations are merrily in store. There are a few must-haves at a holiday party, starting with irresistible cocktails!” – Claudia Sidoti, Head Chef, Hello Fresh
Peppermint bark is one of my all-time favorite wintertime sweets, and I love the idea of making into a drink with bourbon! The best part is: You can easily make this into a ‘mocktail’ by just making a version without booze – always important to make sure everyone at the party feels included.
- 12 oz bourbon
- 6 oz peppermint schnapps
- 12 packets of your favorite hot chocolate
- 12 oz chocolate chips (melted)
- Whipped cream & crushed peppermint candies to serve
- Dip the rims of your serving cups in the melted chocolate
- Mix hot chocolate according to package directions
- Add peppermint schnapps and bourbon
- Pour into cups and top with whipped cream sprinkled with crushed peppermint!
The Lion’s Tail from Lauren Van Mullem, TruerWordsbyLauren.com
“We host a cocktail party once a month during the summer, so when it’s the holidays, we’re often asked to ‘bring a little something boozy’ to our friends’ parties. This is one of our holiday go-to’s. The Lion’s Tail is Christmas in a coupe.” – Lauren Van Mullem
The cinnamon, nutmeg and clove flavor profile of this classic cocktail makes it holiday-ready. Allspice dram is the secret ingredient that makes the magic happen, and it can be hard to find, so you may want to order it online in advance.
Note: The original Lion’s Tail isn’t a pitcher cocktail, so to get the proportions right (just as if you were shaking each one with ice), Lauren says it’s okay to put a few ice cubes in your serving pitcher to dilute it just a bit, if needed. Don’t forget to keep that pitcher cold using a champagne bucket with ice.
Each poured cocktail should be just over 3oz., best served in a coupe glass. This recipe makes 12 servings.
- 3 cups Bourbon
- 6oz Allspice Dram
- 6oz lime juice
- 3oz simple syrup (or to taste)
- 12 dashes Angostura bitters
- Combine in a large pitcher and stir (adding a few ice cubes if it’s too strong). Get your coupes ready for guests to self-serve. No garnish required.
Maple Cardamom Eggnog from runamokmaple.com
No holiday cocktail post is complete without an Eggnog recipe, and this one from Runamokmaple is several steps above the average (and a flight of stairs above what you’ll find at the grocery store.
“This is the real-deal eggnog made from scratch, with the updated addition of Cardamom Infused Maple Syrup instead of plain old sugar. The maple syrup adds a caramel note and the cardamom compliments the bourbon beautifully. Remember Heat Miser and Freeze Miser from ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’? There is no doubt in my mind that this would be their holiday drink, so make a batch and invite some friends over to watch together.” – Laura Sorkin, Co-founder of Runamok Maple
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 Tbsp Runamok Maple’s Cardamom Infused Maple Syrup (RunamokMaple.com)
- 2 cups milk
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 oz brandy
- 1 cup whipping cream
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Put egg yolks in a bowl with maple syrup and whisk.
- Heat half the milk on the stove to just a simmer.
- Add heated milk slowly to egg mixture.
- Return to stove and bring to just 160 degrees, making sure not to boil.
- Remove and cool.
- Add remaining milk, bourbon and brandy and chill.
- When ready to serve, whip the cream and gently fold in.
- Pour into cups and serve with freshly grated nutmeg on top.
The French Mistletoe – from Chef Craig Bell, owner of Reclaimed Bar & Restaurant in Chicago
This take on a French 75 (made with gin, Champagne, lemon juice and simple syrup) isn’t strictly a pitcher drink, but you can easily multiply the proportions for the number of guests you have. Just remember to wait until the last minute to top the drinks off with sparkling wine so the bubbles don’t flatten!
“When thinking about a holiday cocktail for your home party, look for subtle flavors that balance acidity with touch of sweetness, since your guests will also be having small bites with their cocktails. Steer clear of the cinnamon and nutmeg because while they are great, they can be a little overpowering when pairing with food. I recently paired the French Mistletoe with herb and stone ground mustard encrusted Lamb Chops. The richness of the chops was cut by the mustard glaze and the herbs carried over to the French Mistletoe and its cherry finish rounded things off.” – Chef Craig Bell, Reclaimed Bar & Restaurant
1 serving (multiply for a pitcher and add sparkling wine to each tumbler)
- 1.5 oz tequila or gin
- .5 oz Amarena cherry syrup
- .25 oz lime juice
- .25 oz grenadine
- If making single servings, put above ingredients in a shaker with ice.
- Shake and strain into a 10oz tumbler glass with ice.
- Top off with Champagne or Prosecco.
- Garnish with lime.
Apple Cider Sangria by Jennifer Shreckengost of Wanderlust and Wellness
“For holiday entertaining, I always like to have a pitcher cocktail. They can be made ahead of time and then pulled out right as your guests arrive.” – Jennifer Shreckengost
There’s nothing like Sangria for effortless hosting. It’s beautiful, the garnishes are automatic, and everyone loves it. This Sangria uses a bottle of Pinot Grigio, or any bottle of semi-sweet white wine – and the flavor only improves the longer you let it sit.
- 1 bottle semi-sweet white wine (Pinot Grigio is ideal)
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 cup club soda or sparkling water
- 1/4th cup pure maple syrup
- ½ red apple, sliced
- ½ red pear, sliced
- ½ green pear, sliced
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld.
- Let guests serve themselves (don’t forget the ladle!)
Wassail from Montanya Distillers
No cocktail party is complete without a really good mocktail – not just fruit juice or soda! Wassail, a hot mulled cider, has a long history dating back to Medieval times. It’s delicious on its own, but you can also give guests the option of making it boozy by adding rum!
My favorite part about this cocktail is that once you make the Wassail mix, you can store it up to 4 weeks in the fridge. It’s the perfect pitcher cocktail to wow guests, when you are or are NOT expecting them!
- 6oz Wassail Mix (recipe to follow*)
- 2.5 oz Montanya Oro rum (optional)
- 2 drops Rum Citrus bitters per 6.5oz serving (optional)
- Stir together and serve in an Irish Coffee glass or mug with an orange twist.
*Wassail Mix Ingredients
- Mull the following ingredients in a pot
- ½ gallon organic apple cider
- 32 oz Cranberry juice
- 1 orange, stuffed with 5 cloves
- 2 tsp cloves
- 2 tsp allspice
- 7 whole cinnamon sticks
- In a pot, bring all ingredients to a low boil, stirring occasionally.
- Simmer for a bit.
- Strain and transfer liquid to a glass jar for storage.
- Store up to 30 days in the refrigerator!