Fill your cup with holiday cocktails

Whether plain, sprinkled with nutmeg, or spiked with rum, eggnog is a traditional holiday treat. — Susan Safford

Eat, drink, and be merry. Could that be the official mantra of December? Parties, events, and out-of-town guests are filling up the calendar this month and while beer and wine will do just fine, these cocktails, which go beyond mulled cider and eggnog, are sure to add some spirit to your holiday party.

Dubious Manhattan with Drunken Plumped Cherries

This is a great four-ingredient cocktail. With the cherry-spear garnish in a martini glass, it’s elegant and will make you look like a master mixologist. It’s on the drier side, not sugary-sweet and would be perfect to serve before the feast. Unless you are a pretty serious drink-mixer, you probably don’t have Dubonnet Rouge lying around the house but if you decided to purchase it, there are plenty of things to do with it, especially this season, like the Dubonnet Highball, a simple mix of Dubonnet, ginger ale, and a lemon spiral. The Drunken Plumped Cherries are easy to prepare and will make a lovely garnish to any number of drinks. Recipes were adapted from

For the Dubious Manhattan, shake vigorously in a shaker filled with ice, then strain into a Martini glass:

2 oz. Bourbon
1/2 oz. Dubonnet Rouge [a French wine-based aperitif]
1/2 oz. sweet red vermouth
dash of bitters.

Drunken Plumped Cherries

Place in a small bowl:

1/2 cup dried sweet cherries
1/2 cup Dubonnet Rouge
1/4 cup sugar

top with:

1/4 cup hot water
stir well

Cover, let sit for at least 12 hours before using.

Hot Buttered Rum

This is a classic cold-weather cocktail. It requires a little bit of initial prep work to make the buttered rum batter, but that can be frozen or stored in the fridge for up to a month. Use your favorite dark rum like Mt. Gay, Flor de Cana (my pick!), Captain Morgan’s, Bacardi Gold, etc. Keep a batch of the batter handy to whip up a quick cocktail for unexpected guests.

Buttered rum batter:

1 lb. light brown sugar
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl beat all ingredients until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the cocktail:

Rinse a coffee mug with boiling water to warm it up, add:

1 1/2 oz. dark rum
2 tbsp. buttered rum batter

Top with boiling water, stir well to combine, serve with a cinnamon stick garnish.

Bailey’s Peppermint Cream

This drink is relatively low-alcohol. It would make a nice midday warm-up, after sledding, if we ever get snow. And Bailey’s is a nice thing to have on hand around the holidays, to spice up a coffee, top off a martini, or just go ahead and bake a Bailey’s Bundt Cake.

For the Bailey’s Peppermint Cream pour into a coffee mug:

1 1/2 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
4 oz. hot chocolate

Top with:

Fresh whipped cream
Crushed candy cane

What to try out and about

If holiday festivities have you out and about, bartenders are whipping up seasonal cocktails all over town. At The Wharf in Edgartown, bartenders Gooch and Michael Brown are working with a long list of holiday specialties like the Oatmeal Cookie Martini with Irish Cream, butter schnapps, cinnamon schnapps, and Jagermeister ($9). The Honey Hot Toddy with Wild Turkey American Honey whisky, hot water, and lemon ($8) sounds like a great warm-up, and accompaniment to the honey-brined 12 oz. pork chop with caramelized onions, apples, mashed potatoes, and broccoli ($22).

At Alchemy try the Brandy Alexander ($11), a classic winter cocktail supposedly created for the wedding of Princess Mary in London in 1922. Or was it named after the Russian Tsar, Alexander II? Either way, it’s a sweet cocktail made with brandy and crème de cacao. Alchemy’s version includes cream and freshly ground nutmeg, the essential ingredient that makes this drink exceptional, according to bartender Jay Kuss. On a lighter, but spicier note, try the Ginger Gimlet with Stoli, lime, and ginger syrup ($12).

Sharky’s Cranberry Mint Margarita ($12), while not exactly Christmas-y, sure looks the part with its dark red and green hues. Or try the Dirty Noggin: Egg Nog, Captain Morgan’s, and Bailey’s on the rocks. They also have a Coffee and Kahlua bar with Kahlua’s brand new flavors: Mocha, Peppermint Mocha, Hazelnut, French Vanilla, and Cinnamon Spice. Coffee drinks are topped with homemade whipped cream.

Right after New Year’s Eve and just in time for New Year’s Resolutions, Sharky’s will introduce their Resolution Drink, the “skinniest margarita in the world.” At 105 calories and no artificial sweeteners, it promises to be amazing, and a pioneer in calorie-conscious beverages.

The Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company has naughty and nice hot chocolates. Guess which has alcohol? And a secret-ingredient Mocha Mint Martini ($12), served with a crushed candy cane rim.

Park Corner Bistro is a seasonal favorite, a cozy and comfortable nook in Oak Bluffs to meet friends, have a cocktail, and a bite to eat. Their Espresso Martini ($12) is a favorite, made with freshly brewed espresso.