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Five festive cocktails worthy of sipping by the fire

Addie Broyles
Austin 360
This mulled gin cocktail includes cinnamon and star anise.

Christmas parties this holiday season won't be festive affairs that pack party-goers shoulder to shoulder, but if you're looking for something out of the ordinary to sip on while you gaze at the fire and contemplate the meaning of life (again), I have some suggestions, including two takes on the traditional margarita. 

Three of these recipes make one serving, but the punch is meant to serve at least six. You could either cut the recipe in half to make a smaller batch or reserve the leftovers in the fridge to serve over ice or with some sparkling water another night. 

More:For your personal Christmas party: a barrel of booze from Austin restaurants

Apple Cider Margaritas 

Apple cider gives these margaritas a taste of fall or winter.

For rimming the glass:

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 teaspoons granulated sugar

Lime wedge

For the margaritas:

1 part gold tequila

4 parts apple cider

1/2 part triple sec (orange liqueur)

Splash of lime juice

Lime wedge, apple slice and star anise for garnish (optional)

Stir together cinnamon and sugar on a small plate. Rub lime wedge around rim of glass and dip in cinnamon and sugar mixture to coat rim.

Pour tequila, apple cider, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker with ice. Cover, shake well and pour into glasses.

Garnish with lime slice, apple slice and star anise, if desired.

— Adapted from a recipe by The Blond Cook

Royal Fig Catering makes this cranberry margarita.

Merry Merry Margarita

A festive take on a traditional Austin favorite, we’ve added cranberry juice to a tried-and-true recipe to create the Merry Merry Margarita.

3 ounces cranberry juice

1 ounce lime juice

1 ounce triple sec or orange liqueur

2 ounces tequila

Orange slice, cranberries, rosemary sprig for garnish

Rim a cocktail glass with sugar. Add all ingredients to a shaker, and shake well. Strain into a glass with ice or straight up in a martini glass or coupe. Garnish and serve. Serves 1.

— Royal Fig Catering

Hot Gin Punch

This hot punch, inspired by Bob Cratchit’s concoction in Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol" and flavored with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, tastes like Christmas in a glass.

2 cups gin

2 cups sweet Madeira wine

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar (or more if you prefer)

Peel and juice of 1 lemon (or more if you prefer)

Peel and juice of 1 orange

1 pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced

3 whole cloves

3 cinnamon sticks

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Put all the ingredients in a medium-size pan over a low heat. Bring to a simmer and cook gently (without boiling) for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the balance of flavors with more brown sugar or more lemon juice as you prefer. Pour the mixture into a jug, punch bowl or teapot and serve. Serves 6.

— Craft Gin Club

This spin on a Manhattan cocktail is from the Austin-based Twin Liquors.

Irish Italian Manhattan

Twin Liquors is selling booze packages this winter that include the spirits needed to make a number of cocktails, including a mudslide, a hot toddy and an Aperol spritz. If you like whiskey cocktails, try this spin on a Manhattan. 

2 ounces Jameson Irish Whiskey

1 ounce Le Sorelle Sweet Vermouth

2-3 dashes angostura Bbitters

Stir (don’t shake) with ice until well chilled; strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with Luxardo cherry or orange peel.

— Twin Liquors

This eggnog from Z'Tejas is inspired by chef Diego Bolanos' grandmother's recipe.

Mi Abuelita Eggnog

This eggnog recipe from Diego Bolanos, executive chef of Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill, is inspired by the eggnog that his grandmother makes around the holidays. Save the whites to use for meringues or omelets, and be sure to temper the eggs slowly so they don't scramble with the addition of the warm milk. 

2 cups milk

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 dozen large egg yolks (reserve the whites for another use)

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups rum

Whipped cream for serving

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla and slowly bring mixture to a low boil.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until yolks are pale in color. Slowly add hot milk mixture to egg yolks in batches to temper the eggs and whisk until combined.

Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat until slightly thick and coats the back of a spoon but does not boil. If using a candy thermometer, mixture should reach 160 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream and add rum.

Refrigerate until chilled. When ready, serve chilled or over ice and garnish with whipped cream and cinnamon.

— Diego Bolanos, executive chef of Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill