Festive Holiday Drink Recipes from Westchester County Bartenders

Shake it up this holiday season with festive drinks sure to get you in a merry mood.

At this time of year, the clinking of glasses—whether you’re toasting the end of the workday or a friend’s engagement; enjoying the revelry of a cocktail party, or the ringing in the New Year—is just as much a holiday tradition as gridlock alerts on 287. To make this year’s festivities a tad more spirited, we asked bartenders at some of our favorite Westchester restaurants for something beyond the usual eggnog that we could replicate at home (though please drive responsibly). We got an array of vibrant and easy-to-make concoctions, many of them twists on classic favorites. A little vodka, a splash of juice, and an adornment of sweet garnishes provide all the makings for spreading holiday cheer. (All recipes serve six to eight people.)

Photo by Pedro Munoz

Aside from going down easy, Cienega Restaurant’s (179 Main St, New Rochelle 914-632-4000; cienegarestaurant.com) Latin Warm Sangria adds a nice aroma to the room, making it smell like Christmas morning.
1½  liters of red wine, preferably tempranillo
3 tsp of sugar
7 broken cinnamon sticks
7 cloves
Large pinch of raisins
â…“ cup orange juice
2 oz pisco Peruvian brandy
walnut halves (for garnish)

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Put first six ingredients in a kettle and set at low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, until the mixture reduces. Serve warm in a coffee cup with brandy (or adjust to your preference). Place walnut halves on saucer as garnish.


Like apples? Then you’ll enjoy the Absolut Apple Tumbler created by Agron Rugova, bar manager at Dolphin Restaurant – Bar – Lounge (1 Van Der Donck St, Yonkers 914-751-8170; dolphinrbl.com).

12 red apple slices
1 oz honey
7-8 oz Absolut Orient Apple
7-8 oz Thatcher’s Organic Apple Spice
Ginger Liqueur
21-24 oz lemon-lime soda
cinnamon sticks (for garnish)

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Muddle red apple slices and honey together. Fill a pitcher with ice and muddled ingredients. Add Absolut Orient Apple and Thatcher’s Organic Apple Spice Ginger Liqueur. Stir, and then add lemon-lime soda. Stir again and pour into tumblers and garnish with additional apple slices and cinnamon sticks.


Photo by Michael Polito

No need to spend another holiday sipping Aunt Ida’s no-name punch (sorry, we can’t do anything about the pinched cheeks). Elements Food & Spirits (161 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains 914-358-4930; elementswhiteplains.com) has an alternative: a sophisticated Ruby Port Punch named for the port used in the recipe.

1 orange, chopped (to taste)
1½ parts Sandeman Ruby Porto
2 parts margarita mix
1 part orange juice
½ part grenadine
ice cubes

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Add the chopped orange to a large glass jug. Pour the other ingredients and top off with ice. Stir well. Serve in a long cocktail glass and garnish with an orange wedge.


For a variation on eggnog, try Eggless Nog from Harper’s Restaurant & Bar (92 Main St, Dobbs Ferry 914-693-2306; harpersonmain.com.)
8 oz dark rum (preferably Gosling’s Black Seal)
8 oz Calvados
4 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
3 oz simple syrup
several dashes of The Bitter Truth –
Creole Bitters
6 oz whole milk
fresh ground nutmeg

Fill a pitcher with ice and add all ingredients except nutmeg. Using a second pitcher, transfer the contents back and forth between the pitchers about a dozen times. Strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and sprinkle fresh ground nutmeg on top.


Photo by Michael Polito

Alison D’Elia, owner of Karma Lounge (175 Main St, Ossining 914-488-5999; karmalounge175.com) uses a recipe handed down by her aunts for her family get-togethers. She calls it Santa’s Helper.
½ bottle vodka
1½ cups cranberry vodka
¼ cup Grand Marnier (or any other
orange liqueur)
2 cups cherries
2 Tbsp grenadine
2 quarts cranberry juice
3 large candy canes, crushed
holiday ice molds
1 box mini candy canes
Mix the first seven ingredients in a punch bowl. Add molded ice. Decorate the rim of the punch bowl with holly. Pour into cups and garnish with a mini candy cane hanging from the rim.


Martinis are a specialty at 12 Grapes Music & Wine Bar (12 North Division St, Peekskill 914-737-6624; 12grapes.com) where bartender Andrea Prando is an enthusiastic mixologist. Here, her Candy Cane Martini.

9 oz vodka
2 oz peppermint schnapps
1½ oz white crème de cocoa
1 oz grenadine
6-12 mint leaves
lemon wedge
candy canes, crushed (or red sugar crystals), to decorate the rim
6 small candy canes (for garnish)
peppermint sprigs (for garnish)

Mix first five ingredients with ice. Strain into a pitcher and keep cold until ready to serve. Chill six martini glasses. Just before serving, wet the rim of each glass with a lemon wedge, and then dip into the crushed candy canes (or sugar crystals). Fill the glasses and garnish with one small candy cane and a sprig of peppermint.


Photo by Diana Costello/Co-Communications

For another spin on the holiday martini, Massa’ (2 Weaver St, Scarsdale 914-472-4600; massascarsdale.com) offers a Tinsel-Tini.

½ liter Ketel One Vodka
2 cinnamon sticks
5-8 whole star anise pods
2 medium red apples, thinly sliced
32 oz cranberry juice
24 fresh cranberries (frozen for one night)  

Mix first four ingredients and refrigerate 24 to 48 hours (the more time, the more robust the flavors). When ready to serve, mix 2.5 ounces of mixture with four ounces cranberry juice and pour into individual martini glasses. Garnish with three frozen cranberries.



Ron Levine of Neméa Greek Taverna (599 E Boston Post Rd, Mamaroneck 914-698-6600; nemeataverna.com) has a couple of seasonal drinks up his sleeve, including a Greek Candy Cane and a Gingerbread Martini. The easiest one to replicate at home, however, is his Holiday Apple Cider, served hot.
½ gallon apple cider
2 fresh cinnamon sticks (more for optional garnish)
1 vanilla stick
ground nutmeg to taste
wild-cherry nectar (found at most health food stores; can substitute peach or mango nectar found at Morton Williams in Hartsdale)
2 oz caramel schnapps
8 oz light rum
8 oz dark rum
whipped cream (optional garnish)
hot butterscotch (optional garnish)

Simmer the apple cider with fresh cinnamon sticks, vanilla stick, ground nutmeg, and a splash of wild cherry nectar for 15 minutes. Pour liquid through a strainer into individual 8-oz cups. Add a splash of caramel schnapps and 1 oz each of light and dark rum. Top with whipped cream, cinnamon sticks, and hot butterscotch.


Cold nights sitting by the fireplace are meant for X2O Xaviars on the Hudson’s (71 Water Grant St, Yonkers 914-965-1111, xaviars.com) Warm Scotch Orchard Punch created by Wine Director Billy Rattner.

32 oz ginger ale
6 oz single-malt Scotch
3 oz pear liqueur
3 oz sour apple liqueur
6 oz pineapple juice
3 oz agave nectar
4 apples, cored, peeled, cut into thin wedges
4 pears, cored, peeled, cut into thin wedges

Combine all ingredients in a pot. Warm over low flame for 30 minutes, stirring to combine well. Leaving mixture over very low heat, ladle 6 oz into each cup. For garnish, add a spoonful of stewed apples and pears to each cup.

Jeanne Muchnick (jeannemuchnick.com) admits she’ll often save her dessert calories for another glass of bubbly.

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