Get Sh*t Done: Three Easy Winter Cocktail Recipes For Weddings

For when it's too damn cold outside

Easy Winter Cocktails | A Practical Wedding

One of the best things about winter is the dark nights inside drinking good cocktails with good people—because when you’re too cheap (or broke) to turn up the heat, whiskey is a good substitute. The other good thing is winter weddings. Most of the wedding professionals I know will agree that winter weddings make up some of our favorites, partially because the “off-season” means we’re usually less stressed when the day rolls around, and partially because they’re much less common than spring/summer/fall weddings, so we get to see different decor, fashion, and food than we do the majority of the time. And then of course because the people who throw them tend to be pretty consistently rad (who knows why, but I suspect it has something to do with having an affinity for the unusual).

Since this is the first Easy Cocktails since the APW relaunch, I thought I’d take a second to reintroduce the series. Because, after all, why do you need a professional wedding planner to tell you how to make cocktails? (Thanks for the question, anonymous commenter from the last post!) The answer is actually fairly simple—as with anything related to big events, I look at cocktails through a logistical lens. So, while I personally love a good complicated drink that involves some bartending skillz to execute, I can also tell you that if you’re going to serve shaken, muddled, or carefully built cocktails to a hundred people, you’d best have an experienced bartending staff of more than one person, or hope your guests are prepared for really long lines at the bar. And so, I bring you: Easy Cocktails with Elizabeth from Lowe House and a rotating cast of friends who aren’t professional bartenders, but have strong feelings about cocktails.

The rules for the drinks:

  • Only readily available ingredients (i.e., no small batch spirits from that one awesome local place, or really obscure regional fruits, if such a thing still exists in America).
  • A maximum of two quick steps to serve—pre-batching the day before is allowed.
  • No shaking. See above.

For these winter cocktail recipes, I looped in my friends Charlie Habegger (who’s a specialty coffee professional; he was very amused/frustrated by the rules) to help build the drinks and Melissa Ryan of Marble Rye Photography to photograph us making them and to do some QC tasting. So with that, let’s get started. Because I’m pretty excited about these drinks.

Lion's Tail | A Practical WeddingLion's Tail | A Practical WeddingLion's Tail | A Practical Wedding

The Lion’s Tail is a bourbon lover’s cocktail, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be my jam for the next few months. (I gave the recipe to a bartender the other night while out with friends. Everyone, including the bartender, agreed it was excellent.) Allspice dram is somewhat of a specialty ingredient that you may not already have on your bar, but you can actually pick it up pretty easily if you have a well-stocked liquor store nearby (I got mine at BevMo). Plus it tastes like Christmas, in the most non-gross way possible. Lion’s Tails are traditionally shaken and then served up, but it turns out they’re also great on the rocks, and the best thing about this cocktail is that it batches out beautifully—you can mix the entire thing into a punch bowl or drink dispenser the night before and then serve it on the rocks when needed. Drink carefully, because these suckers are strong.

  • Mix together: one part allspice dram, one part lime juice, one part simple syrup, six parts bourbon.
  • Serve over ice, with two dashes of bitters and a lime wheel.

Rosemary Prosecco | A Practical WeddingRosemary Prosecco | A Practical WeddingRosemary Prosecco | A Practical Wedding

Rosemary ProseccO is so simple it’s barely a cocktail, this is an easy way to make a glass of sparkling wine more interesting, and you can make the syrup several days ahead of time. It will also pass muster at venues that don’t allow hard alcohol, which is a fairly common restriction in California.

  • To make the rosemary simple syrup: simmer equal parts water and sugar, add one sprig rosemary per cup of sugar, simmer for about five minutes, let cool. Taste—if the rosemary isn’t strong enough, add more and re-simmer. If it’s too strong, dilute with more sugar and water.
  • Per champagne flute (or, you know, jam jar): half an ounce of rosemary simple syrup, fill with prosecco (about four ounces) and add a dash of bitters.

Mezcal Mexican Hot Chocolate | A Practical WeddingMezcal Mexican Hot Chocolate | A Practical WeddingMezcal Mexican Hot Chocolate | A Practical Wedding

Boozy Mexican Hot Chocolate. When I told Charlie and Melissa that we were doing a hot chocolate cocktail with mezcal, both of them were… skeptical that this would work. The morning we shot these, however, there were four people hanging out who’ve all had careers in the high-end food and beverage industries who all resoundingly said that it was oddly delicious and they would definitely drink it.

  • Make spicy hot chocolate from mix (I found this one at Whole Foods) using water instead of milk, and twice the called for powder for the amount of liquid.
  • Per cup of hot chocolate, add three ounces mezcal and seven dashes chocolate bitters.
  • Serve with a cinnamon stick garnish. Or marshmallows if that’s more your jam.
  • Keep hot in either a cambro (your caterer can rent you one easily) or in a pretty lidded pot on a propane powered camp stove for bonus prettiness points.

This is clearly calling out to be served in large thermoses and passed around a campfire. Just sayin’.

Have a favorite favorite winter cocktail? Share it in the comments! I’m currently looking for something else prosecco-based to serve at a party next week, so don’t hold back.

Photos by Melissa of Marble Rye Photography

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  • Jessica

    This is my favorite blog. You guys are great and I’m going to make all my friends try these this weekend. To the liquor store!

  • I want all of these, especially the bourbon one. My partner and I have been looking for simplistic but delicious cocktails to make in large batches for our holiday part next weekend, particularly ones that require minimal thought on our guests’ part to pour for themselves. Sending this along right now!

  • Laura C

    Why water instead of milk on the hot chocolate? I’ve had a fantastic boozy Mexican hot chocolate, so I’m sold on the general concept, just wondering about the specific.

    • Anon

      My guess would be that it has to do with the alcohol and milk not being a good mix (some alcohols tend to curdle milk), or the fact that milk left over a propane heater tends to scald more easily than water.

      • Laura C

        It must be the batching and holding at temperature. I’ve def had it with milk, but that could have been prepared one at a time.

      • Elizabeth @ Lowe House

        yep! That’s exactly it – really, I’m just kind of turned off by the concept of milk and booze (YMMV)

        • Laura C

          Oh, wow. I love a lot of milk and booze. Milk punch, egg nog, boozy hot chocolate, etc.

          • Laura

            White Russion! Well, that’s cream I guess, but still.

          • Laura C

            When you get into cream, there’s sooo much. Ramos gin fizz is just about one of my favorite drinks.

          • Laura

            I haven’t tried Ramos though it is on The List. Of honorable mention are Grasshopper and Brandy Alexander. And a drink I had a couple of years ago at a holiday party in which the host mixed equal parts coffee liqueur and cream with club soda. It had a name, but I don’t recall.

  • Karen

    Help! My partner’s company is having a gala on February 1st and I’m already panicked. Apparently people get so sloshed they rent a room at the hotel the event is held at. I grew up in a pretty teetolar household. I’ve only been tipsy twice in my life. Every once in a great while I have some wine. Other than that I have no interest in alcohol. And I really don’t think drunk people are funny.
    So when I saw this post I thought, okay, maybe I’ll try out a few of these recipes. But then the recipes don’t have exact measurements and don’t explain some of the things used (what is that thing they were using to “measure” in?). Where does a beginner go to get used to, much less comfortable with, being around alcohol?

    • Laura C

      The measurements are given in ounces. If you don’t have a liquid measure that gives ounces to that precision, two tablespoons = one ounce. But if you are not a drinker, you shouldn’t feel pressure to become one! Get a glass of wine at the beginning of the evening and sip it if you like — that way you’ll probably get less pressure, if you don’t feel like just being blunt in response to pressure. And hopefully, unless maybe your partner feels it’s important for his/her career, s/he will be understanding and not ask you to stick around with a bunch of super drunk people if you’re uncomfortable.

    • Ali

      If you don’t want to drink at all, you can always get a seltzer with lime – it looks just like a gin&tonic or a vodka soda. No one will know the difference and you will avoid calling attention to the fact that you’re not drinking (if you’d rather avoid those conversations)! When socializing, I always feel more comfortable holding a glass of something so I don’t have both of my hands free to fidget.

      You can do it!

      • Laura C

        Good point on seltzer. Or ginger ale looks totally like some kinda boozy drink, too.

    • Jessica

      I second Ali’s comment. This isn’t helpful for when you’re out, but I’m a lightweight and when I’m trying to pace myself at home or at house parties, I’ll cut my wine with selter and lime, kinda like a spritzer or very light sangria…it helps me be able to keep drinking without actually, you know, drinking too much alcohol. I also buy that wine they sell at grocery stores because it’s so low in alcohol proof. When you’re out, and you’re looking to get more comfortable drinking alcohol, stick with beer! It has less alcohol, goes slower because you can sip it forever, and it has some calories which I think helps. I also have a friend that loves hard cider, it’s super sweet and also something you can slowly sip on.

      • Karen

        I really appreciate these pointers, especially about the seltzer. I hadn’t heard of that. Thank you for these responses.

      • revooca

        I also think hard cider is delicious! Another wine-cutting tip: my friends and I used to cut red wine with Coca Cola. No one will know the difference because they’re both dark. But not everyone loves the flavor combo. Also, take it easy, because the sugar and red wine will give you a serious headache if you overdo it.

        If you have trouble with the hoppy taste of beer, consider starting with either something really light in color or really dark in color. You’ll probably prefer one over the other. Most initially prefer lighter beers & wheat beers, but I actually prefer dark beers like porters and stouts because they tend to taste a bit coffee-y.

        You’ll probably want to avoid anything in the middle color range, or anything with the description “hoppy”, “ale”, or “lager” until you’ve acclimated to the taste of beer.

        Oh, and one more thing: nobody will know how often you’re actually swallowing what’s in your cup when you put it to your mouth and wet your lips. If you’re changing crowds a lot, you can nurse the same drink for hours and nobody will be the wiser.

    • MisterEHolmes

      I’m in a very similar boat. If you have friends who are drinkers, start by asking for a sip as you try to learn the flavors and names you like (if you’re close to the friend). For mixed cocktails, you can eventually find one you like that’s pretty standard and you can order pretty much everywhere (I like one called a “sunrise.” It’s a sweet orange-flavored one). If you don’t have anyone, look for mini bottles or variety packs of wine or beer, which let you sample at home on your own, and aren’t as big of an investment.

      • Karen

        Great idea! This way it won’t be so foreign when this event rolls around. I’ve worked in public service most of my career, I have never been to a work related event with alcohol. This will be a new experience for me.

        • MisterEHolmes

          In some industries, you literally can’t get things done without a drink in hand. For non-drinkers, that’s frustrating and intimidating! I feel better now that I know of one go-to beer I’ll drink and a few mixed drinks I’m happy to have!

          • Ali

            Especially if you didn’t grow up in a house where people drank (I’m right there too), it’s completely overwhelming looking at a bar filled with bottles and not knowing what anything’s called or what things taste like. MisterEHolmes is right, friends can be very helpful and not pushy at teaching you some of the basics! As are mini bottles and stores that let you mix-and-match six-packs of beer.

    • emilyg25

      I agree that there’s no reason you need to get used to alcohol if you don’t like it. But if you really want to, maybe find a nice cocktail lounge or restaurant with a bar area near you and just go and hang out. People at nicer establishments tend to keep it together better than those at sports bars or whatever. My growth as a drinker went like this: sweet cocktails like a sunrise or sex on the beach > wine > hard cider > lambic > beer > gin, tequila, and bourbon cocktails. I dip my toe in scotch now and then (not literally), but pretty much stick to bourbon.

      These recipes use vague measurements so you can scale them up for a crowd, but if you want to make one serving, keep the alcohol to 2 oz. (or less). That little silver thing in the photos is called a jigger. It measures 1.5 oz., a typical serving of hard liquor.

    • Caroline

      If you don’t want to drink, it’s just fine not to drink. ( and yes, te tips for soda water or ginger ale if you want to look like you are drinking.

      If learning about alcohol and cocktails is something you genuinely want to do, you can. I started by asking a truste liquor store (our homebrew club had a deal with them so I knew they were good) for a rec on a good but reasonable bottle of bourbon to try. (PS, I find 30-45 bucks is a great sweet spot for hard alcohol. There is some really amazing stuff in that range, but if you don’t drink a lot and a bottle lasts a few years, it doesn’t feel overpriced. Then I tried making one cocktail that sounded good and required no extra ingredients: a whiskey sour. I had a bottle of whiskey, inherited from a friend who moved away and didn’t want to move her booze, a lemon, and sugar and water to make simple syrup. It turned out good. I make a point of trying new things. If a friend has a bourbon or gin or drink I haven’t tried, I ask to try a sip. If someone is making cocktails, I’ll try a sip of someone’s before I ask for one myself. And I read about whiskey and cocktails.
      I’ve decided that I like whiskey, and especially single malt scotch. Is it half because it’s an old boys club drink and I was always the girl who wanted to bust up/bust into the boys club? Definitely. It’s also tasty to me. So I read about it to learn more. I read blogs about cocktails.

      But if you don’t want to drink? Stick to your guns. Order a seltzer, or just own it proudly that you don’t drink, no reason needed.

  • Whose nails are those and what fun things are happening there?!

    • Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      Ha, those would be mine! Affectionately referred to as the “blinged-out-as-fuck” holiday manicure. (done by the amazing manicurists at Nail Service in LA.)

      • Shotgun Shirley

        In Little Tokyo?

        • Elizabeth @ Lowe House

          yes! I <3 them

          • Shotgun Shirley

            I want all of these cocktails and also the manicure. ;-)
            Any tips on watering these down or just totally virgin-izing them for the um, shall-we-say, temporarily alcohol challenged?

          • Shotgun Shirley

            By which I mean, I will drink like a half glass of wine, now and then, and eff off any naysayers, in Europe they’ll drink a glass when preggers and not even worry about it. So pooh.

          • I would make a full batch of the mexican hot chocolate, but leave the mezcal on the side for you & yours to DIY. That way you can have a teensy bit of mezcal (adding the smokey flavor), and your buds can have a proper pour of mezcal. Maybe have a jigger (the measuring thingamajig) avail so people can measure!

      • Anne

        Aw, I was SO hoping you had them done in the Bay Area because they are freaking awesome, and I’ll be visiting my parents in San Francisco next week and definitely need a kickass manicure.

        • Elizabeth @ Lowe House

          My go to at home is Bisou on College Ave in Oakland! They’re *amazing* but you’ll need an appointment and… the Bay Area nail scene is still more expensive than LA’s.

  • Kayjayoh

    Prosecco and rosemary syrup sounds like a real winner.

  • emilyg25

    I love these cocktail ideas. We used your summer sangria for our wedding in August and I think I’ll make the Lion’s Tail for our Christmas party!

  • april

    I highly recommend Alton Brown’s hot toddy recipe:
    My husband and I halve the recipe and do it on the stove top when it’s just us and a couple of friends, but the slow cooker method is great for larger groups!

    • kcaudad

      people around where i live make hot-toddy’s when they are sick. single serving is usually in a mug: 1/2 to 1 shot of wiskey or bourbon, lemon wedge squeezed in glass (or more to taste), teaspoon of honey (or more to taste), fill mug with water and pop in the microwave. works great to help you sleep and make your throut feel better!

  • kcaudad

    My sister made something similar to the rosemary proscecco for a family Christmas gathering. She did not use the bitter; just the rosemary simple syrup and some champaigne. She served it in tall, thin mixed drink glasses with a sprig of rosemary in each. It was very tasty and looked like Christmas in a glass!! You could probably use any sparkling white wine or champaigne that you like for this.

  • Jen

    These look great! I especially want to try the hot chocolate one!

  • Mallory

    Made the Lion’s Tail at our woodsy cabin this weekend. It was perfect!

  • Rose

    I had to laugh at the Bon Maman jam jar, because that’s what I grew up drinking out of. It looked so normal in the picture, I scrolled right by it, then realized what I’d seen and had to go back up. They make great glasses. And the drink looks really nice too, I may have to try that.

  • We did a rosemary gin rickey at ours (the aforementioned rosemary syrup, gin, lime juice and club soda) and it was Taaaaaasty business! This is because rosemary is the best herb; get out of here with your thyme and oregano.

  • amy

    Sorry to be spelling police, but would you mind taking that extra C out of prosecco (in the lovely image with the ingredients)? Appreciated, thanks, and sorry

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