Christmas Cider Punch

All photos by Danielle Macdonald.

The office Christmas party has been announced and you have just received more invites from neighbors and friends for lunchtime tipples and nibbles. How in the North Pole are you going to manage all this party hopping, without over indulging on the free booze, not to mention traveling to each event, in a dignified manner? An alternative to all these delicious beverages is imperative. Something seasonal, but one that will not have shame-inducing results. Avoiding cocktails that contain a sizable amount of high proof drinks like whiskey or tequila and sticking with either wine-based cocktails or reaching for low ABV fortified wines and spirits such as sherry, vermouth, amari and aperitivi is key. These are your best bet for staying low with the ho ho ho, and still feeling convivial, served with a simple spritz and fruity garnish.

Here are a few festively responsible cocktails to make if you’re hosting such a gathering.

Christmas Cider Punch

The holidays are a tad hectic, so to make life simple, prepare this cider punch before your guests arrive. Easy, quick, delicious and will leave your home smelling festive for hours.

  • 3 bottles of your favorite brand hard cider (for example, NYIBC silver medal winner Angry Orchard Old Fashioned)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups white cranberry juice
  • 3 Fuji or Gala apples
  • 1 orange
  • 8 cinnamon sticks (keep 4 for garnish)
  • handful fresh cranberries

Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker for at least three-four hours. Strain all solid fruit and place liquid back in slow cooker (switch cooker to warm).

Mrs. Claus’ Spritz

Serve in a thick glass mug and decorate with a slice of orange and a cinnamon stick. The hard cider will give a slight kick, but a high percentage of the alcohol will have burnt off during the cooking process.

Mrs. Claus’ Spritz

A simple, refreshing drink which is easy to sip on with half the ABV of a full glass of wine. Plus the garnish adds added a wintry aroma, Just add 2 tablespoons elderflower syrup (can be purchased at most specialty food stores) to half a glass of dry white wine. Top the glass off with Soda or sparking mineral water. Stir gently. Garnish with lime, cranberries and a sprig of rosemary.


Non-alcoholic ginger ale keeps this drink from being too heady.

Pour syrup and brandy into the glass. Then add the beer, then top off the glass with ginger ale.

Bad Santa

This delicious cocktail comes courtesy of Cocktail Kingdom and was originally served at their Miracle holiday pop-up bars around the world. The mug used in the photo is from the Miracle ceramic and glass collection.

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Bad Santa

  • 1 bottle tawny port
  • 2 bottles red wine (fruit-forward, such as grenache, zinfandel or merlot)
  • 8 oz. orange liqueur, such as 2017 NY International Spirits Competition gold medal winner Bauchant)
  • 2 oranges (peels and juice)
  • peel of one lemon
  • 10 green cardamom pods (crushed & opened)
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 4 long peppers
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cup/236 g. light brown sugar
  • several dehydrated orange wheels (for garnish, optional)

Crack or smash the dried spices but do not grind. Toast dry spices in a large, dry pot over medium-high heat until aromatic. Cool pot before adding wine, orange, lemon, sugar and bay leaves. Reheat pot and bring to a slow simmer. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes (do not boil). Turn off heat and leave mix to cool and let spices rest for an hour. Strain off spices and add port and orange liqueur. Bottle and store until needed.

Reheat to serve in a crockpot on medium heat.

Serve in Santa Head mug with dehydrated orange wheel garnish if using.