‘Tis the season for hot cocktails, for boozy hot chocolate and eggnog, for high-calorie, dessert-like drinks that we’d otherwise never touch. And it’s the best season of the year.
Here, we round up the holiday cocktails that you’ll find a-plenty at local bars and restaurants this month. Yes, it’s a lot of eggnog. But hey, it’s the one time a year to drink the heavy, sweet, perfect beverage without any need for an excuse. Don’t be a Scrooge.
The Four Seasons, 98 San Jacinto Blvd.
The creative Lobby Bar at this downtown hotel has a classic mulled wine on the menu, but bartender Sarah Rahl also created original potions to pair with the Four Seasons’ elaborate gingerbread village in the lobby: the Grinchmas (Rittenhouse Rye, Tempus Fugit Creme de Cacao, creme de menthe and Aztec chocolate bitters and a full Grinch-like garnish of mint leaves) and the Dreaming of a White Cosmo.
The Grinchmas — a boozier version of a Stinger — is essentially a “Thin Mint in a glass,” Rahl says, while the cosmo has a festive twist and features white cranberry juice instead of red, with frozen cranberries and a sprig of rosemary for an easy-to-Instagram garnish.
The Spanish-focused dining spot is hoping the weather stays cold this month so it can keep customers warm with two hot cocktails. It’ll keep making the best gin-and-tonics in town, of course, but they’ll be around all year. In the meantime, try these two steaming potions.
- Hot Buttered Brandy: Torres '10 Brandy, cream cheese ice cream, unsalted butter, brown sugar, confectioners sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise
- Ancho Toddy: Torres '10 Brandy, Ancho Reyes Liqueur, turbinado syrup, lemon, cinnamon, rosemary
Juliet Italian Kitchen, 1500 Barton Springs Rd.
A handful of seasonal sippers are going on the menu starting Dec. 8. Sip these while listening to a special holiday edition of the restaurant’s popular KUTX Live Jazz Music Series on Dec. 13, though there will be jazz shows throughout the rest of the month as well. Here’s what’s on offer booze-wise:
- Juliet's Egg Nog: rum, bourbon, Pierre Ferrand 1840, allspice dram, heavy cream, demerara syrup, egg, shaved nutmeg
- Espresso Martini: vodka, Bailey's Irish Cream, espresso liqueur, espresso
- Hot Toddy: bourbon, lemon juice, honey syrup, black tea
- Irish Coffee: Irish whiskey, coffee
- Hot Buttered Rum: dark rum, demerara sugar, butter, cinnamon stick
- Lebkuchen: Angel's Envy bourbon, lemon, ginger snap liqueur, honey
Eureka!, 200 E. Sixth St.
The classic Old Fashioned has gotten a holiday twist at this Sixth Street eatery. Eureka! is bringing back the Gingerbread Man Old Fashioned with Old Overholt Rye Whiskey, housemade gingerbread syrup, BroVo Spirits Douglas Fir liqueur, and chocolate and herbal bitters. It smells like a Christmas tree, which is reason enough to order it. But it’s also a well-balanced whiskey drink, an essential thing this time of year.
Punch Bowl Social, 11310 Domain Dr.
If you’re at this massive adult wonderland during a holiday party this year, consider ordering the Mistletoe Punch to share with friends or coworkers. The punch marries the wintry flavors of pear and cranberry together in a balanced blend of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, McClary Bros Michigan Cranberry Shrub, housemade seasonal pear syrup and Teakoe Kodiak Mountain Mint tea.
Holy Roller, 509 Rio Grande St.
The all-day brunch restaurant and bar from top local chef Callie Speer has changed up its cocktail menu to incorporate wintry drinks dreamed up by the beverage director Jen Keyser. The Holiday in Oaxaca can be served hot or cold, and the Mommy’s Little Monster and Can I Get an Amen?! are both hot cocktails.
- Holiday in Oaxaca: Kimo Sabe Mezcal, Chairman's Reserve Spiced Rum, Liber & Co. Fiery Ginger Syrup, Chameleon Cold Brew and cream
- Mommy’s Little Monster: Nine Banded Whiskey, apple cider and cinnamon
- Can I Get an Amen?!: Greenhouse Gin, Earl Grey tea, lemon and honey
- Frozen Irish Coffee: Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, Patron XO Cafe, Chameleon Cold Brew and cream
Prohibition Creamery, 1407 E. Seventh St.
The combination ice cream shop and cocktail bar in East Austin has new frozen treats and boozy drinks just in time for the holidays — including eggnog ice cream that will likely feel wonderful when the weather warms up.
One of the wintry cocktails features activated charcoal, the black powder that turns liquid dark and opaque. Its mysterious appearance makes it ideal to use for Halloween drinks, as Prohibition did this year, but the boozy ice cream shop is not limiting the versatile powder to once a year.
- Spiced Chocolate Old Fashioned: Rye whiskey, chocolate bitters, habanero shrub, lemon oil, cocoa powder
- Casino Nights: Gin, Luxardo Maraschino, lemon, honey, activated charcoal, orange bitters
- Hot Toddy: Bourbon, honey, lemon, Earl Grey tea
- Diablo Hot Chocolate: Valrhona chocolate, Patron Incendio Tequila, homemade whipped cream
Fixe Southern House, 500 W. Fifth St.
Any southern-focused restaurant worth its salt has a proper punch program, and Fixe is no different. The winter punch this time is the Eggnogg Cocktail, made with Basil Hayden’s Bourbon, Mill King Heavy Cream, Frangelico, simple syrup and cinnamon.
Fixe also has a steaming apple-centric potion, the Hotty Toddy. The restaurant ferments Honey Crisp apples to make a cider heated to order in the kitchen. From there, “the cider is run through a tea steeper with herbs, cinnamon sticks, etc., for added flavor and pours directly into your cup of bourbon. If that isn’t enough, there’s a spoon full of Fixe’s pie filling to stir the drink up with,” according to Fixe.
Houndstooth Coffee, 401 Congress Ave. and 4200 N. Lamar Blvd.
Don’t want booze in your holiday beverage? The local coffee shop with two Austin locations has a solution: two festive coffee drinks, one colored red, the other green. The Rhum Nut Cappuccino and the Cinnamon Spice Cappuccino have each been crafted with syrups made in-house. The rhum nut is a blend of rhum extract and hazelnut; the cinnamo spice is a mix of cinnamon extract and anise.
The W Austin, 200 Lavaca St.
It’s not the first time that the hotel’s Living Room Lounge has experimented with using pecan in seasonal cocktails. A couple of years ago, the W’s head bartender Dustin Courtright created pecan bitters for one of its booze-forward fall drinks, and now he has made a Texas twist on orgeat, normally an almond syrup, for the Freedom Fighter with Ben Milam Rye Whiskey, distilled in nearby Blanco.
“It is a Texas adaptation of orgeat, which is a syrup made with almonds and orange flower water as an accent. I use pecans and cayenne because Texas and also substitute brown sugar for white,” he says.
He named the cocktail after Ben Milam, a hero who fought in the Texas Revolution against Mexico and became the ancestor of the whiskey distillery’s founder, Marsha Milam.
Ranch 616, 616 Nueces St.
What’s a holiday cocktail without fun garnishes like peppermint and candy cane? This downtown bar is satisfying our sweet tooth with two seasonal beverages: the Holidaze, with (512) Tequila, RumChata, 1921 Tequila Crema and Chameleon Cold-Brew and a topper of whipped cream and a peppermint, and the St. Patio with Deep Eddy Vodka, ginger syrup puree and Aperol with a crushed candy cane garnish.
Whisler’s, 1816 E. Sixth St.
The East Austin cocktail bar is celebrating the season with its annual Toys for Tots Foundation menu. A portion of the proceeds from each of the below cocktails will go toward the charity all month long.
- Oaxacan Hot Chocolate: mezcal, Mexican hot chocolate and cayenne, topped with whipped cream and dusted with cocoa
- Whisler's Egg Nog: a 100-year-old family recipe of eggnog with rum and traditional spices
- Smooth Criminal: whiskey, vermut, sfumato, apple bitters and mulled spice
St. Genevieve, 11500 Rock Rose Ave.
Live in North Austin? The upscale wine bar in the Domain Northside’s entertainment district has a double treat for holiday revelers — the Snickering Pumpkin Adult Milk and Cookies. You’ll be served a plate of snickerdoodle cookies alongside a boozy glass of milk with Patron XO Cafe, Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur, Stoli Vanilla and pumpkin and cinnamon spice infused with heavy whip cream.
Omni Austin Hotel Downtown, 700 San Jacinto Blvd.
This hotel and its sister resort, Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa at 8212 Barton Club Dr., has taken inspiration for its 11 cocktails (and one sparkling wine) from “The Twelve Days of Christmas” song. These include the Partridge in a Pear Tree, a hot mulled pinot noir with spiced pear purée, a variety of warm spices and citrus, and a swizzle stick topper for a touch of sweetness.
Other sweet drinks on this 12 Drinks of Christmas menu? Four Calling Birds, an eggnog recipe made with Omni’s figgy pudding purée, spiced rum and Kahlúa, and adorned with a vibrant feather; and Eight Maids A-Milking, made with vodka, Irish cream and housemade cereal milk. It’s served in a milk bottle and garnished with eggnog whipped cream. And you’ll probably want to Instagram it and all the others.
And don’t forget the festive elixirs at the pop-up Christmas bar, Miracle on 5th Street, that has been completely decked out in holiday decor and is worth a visit this month (though expect a wait no matter the day of the week).