12 Days of Holiday Drinks

Just in time for winter, a toast to the season for every taste.
by Catherine Currin | illustration by Jillian Ohl

Whether you’re in the mood for a cocktail, mocktail or classic hot chocolate, we’ve got you covered: we asked 12 local bartenders, brewers and baristas for their favorite beverages to commemorate the chilly months. Read on and grab (or make!) a cup of cheer.


Head to 42 & Lawrence near Moore Square to try their signature eggnog latte. It’s made with Larry’s Coffee special espresso blend roasted right here in Raleigh, eggnog from Julian, N.C.’s Homeland Creamery and sweet gingerbread syrup, and topped with nutmeg and a peppermint candy cane.


Jake Wolf, owner of Capital Club 16, says he heads to the State Farmers Market to stock up on cider from Perry Lowe Orchards in Moravian Falls to mix this comforting, spiked treat. To make it at home:

1 gallon of cider
1 orange slice
1 lemon slice
4 cinnamon sticks or a dusting of ground cinnamon
10 whole cloves
Bourbon whiskey (he uses Old Forester)

Add all ingredients except whiskey to a medium pot and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and let sit and mull for 10 minutes. Strain off and add to a coffee or insulated mug, spike with an ounce or more of whiskey. Garnish with one more slice of orange (stud the peel with a few whole cloves, if you’d like) to garnish the rim.


Longleaf Hotel bar manager Matt Fern is mixing up this twist on the Old Fashioned to stay warm on chilly nights on the patio. In this recipe, Fern uses half the sugar he’d normally put in the cocktail, since the rum adds its own sweetness.

Orange segment
1/4 teaspoon Sugar in the Raw
Scant soda water
3 – 4 dashes Angostura bitters
3 – 4 dashes Regan’s bitters
2 ounces El Dorado 12 Year Rum

Muddle sugar, the fruit portion of the orange (not the rind or peel), bitters and water to dissolve. Add rum and stir to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Add ice and stir until cold.


St. Roch’s general manager Esther Wallace has concocted a tequila mixture dancing with sugar plums, just in time for the holidays. To make it at home:

1 1/2 ounce reposado tequila
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/4 ounce agave
1/4 ounce fresh orange juice
1 Asian plum

Muddle plum and add tequila, lime, agave and orange juice. Shake and strain into rimmed glass with one ice cube.


Durham Distillery’s new bar Corpse Reviver offers a wintery twist on a sour, but to make it at home you’ll have to take a hike—bar manager Aaron Swindell suggests you pluck your own pine needles to make their signature tincture. “To be more environmentally friendly, we recommend foraging the needles of a blue spruce or loblolly pine tree, which give much of the same flavor as the long leaf pine, but grow faster,” says Swindell. To make:

1 1/2 ounce Conniption American Dry Gin
3/4 ounce Pine Tincture (recipe below)
3/4 ounce Cinnamon Simple Syrup (recipe below)
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Cinnamon stick and pine needles

Shake ingredients with ice, strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and pine needles.

Pine Tincture

1/4 ounce fresh pine needles, chopped
8 ounces neutral spirit (like Everclear)

Soak the pine needles in the alcohol for one to two hours. Once the flavor of the pine saturates into the spirit, strain out the pine needles and store the liquid in an airtight container.

Cinnamon Simple Syrup

4 cinnamon sticks
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Break the cinnamon sticks into smaller pieces; place in a small saucepot with the water. Bring to boil, then turn the heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Strain out cinnamon sticks. Bring water back to a boil, add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Let cool before adding to your cocktail.


Videri Chocolate Factory will be serving up three varieties of drinkable gourmet chocolate all season long (including a vegan option), but its Single Origin Sipping Chocolate is extra decadent: made with Videri 75% Dominican Republic Chocolate, water and cane sugar, it offers a deep, rich chocolate flavor highlighted by fruit notes. For a special treat, Videri co-founder Sam Ratto suggests topping it with whipped cream or candy cane pieces.


Zack Thomas of Lawrence Food Co. makes a refreshing non-alcoholic orangeade using maple water, which he says is a hidden gem of mixology. “A farmer will tap a small spigot into the side of the tree, allowing the sap to drip out. The resulting liquid is what’s called maple water, and this is what’s boiled down to the syrup that we all recognize. But it tastes great on its own, or to brew tea or coffee.”

3 ounces orange juice
3 ounces maple water
3/4 ounce chili-flavored simple syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice

Mix all ingredients and serve in a double Old Fashioned glass with ice cubes. Garnish with cranberries.


Raleigh Brewing CEO Kristie Nystedt says their Holiday Bash winter warmer spiced ale is perfect sipping for the colder months with its notes of pumpkin pie, mulled cider and hazelnuts. Drink it on draught at the brewery or find it in cans at spots like Lowe’s Foods and Total Wine.


“Back in September, we helped our friends at Botanist & Barrel sort over a ton of North Carolina-grown Cab Franc grapes,” says Trophy Brewing co-owner Chris Powers. Most of the crop will turn into a new beer-cider-wine hybrid that’ll come out next year, but in the meantime, they’ve bottled up a Piquette, a low-alcohol wine made from the leftover grape skins. Find it at State of Beer and Trophy locations.


Chris Brennan, bar manager at Plates Kitchen on Glenwood South, created a peanut-infused rum for this decadent dessert cocktail. To make:

1 1/2 ounces Peanut-Infused Rum (recipe below)
5 to 6 ounces hot apple cider
Hand-whipped cream
Grated peanuts (for garnish)

Mix Peanut-infused Rum with cider. Top with whipped cream and peanut.

Peanut-Infused Rum

1 cup peanuts
1 bottle white rum

Pour peanuts into rum. Let sit overnight, then strain.


Cheetie Kumar and her team at Garland offer a chilled twist on warm and cozy spices. Not in the mood for booze? Skip the bourbon and just drink their Mulled Cider.

1 1/2 ounces chilled Mulled Cider (recipe below)
3/4 ounce Bulleit bourbon
3/4 ounce Cesar Florido Oloroso Sherry
1/3 ounce black cardamom syrup
Apple slice
Garam masala (optional)

Mix all ingredients with plenty of ice. Strain and serve over new ice. Garnish with an apple slice and sprinkle of garam masala.

Garland’s Mulled Cider
Makes 6 to 7 cups

1/2 gallon unfiltered apple cider (preferably local)
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into coins
2 sticks cinnamon
2 pods black cardamom, cracked
6 pods green cardamom, cracked
6 cloves
6 – 8 whole black peppercorns
1 – 2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)

Place all ingredients in a stainless stock pot and simmer over very low heat for two to three hours. Fresh cider varies in sweetness depending on the apples used, says Kumar, so if the result needs a little more sugar, stir in a tablespoon or two of brown sugar until dissolved. Strain before serving; can be served warm, chilled or reheated.


Local brewery and distillery Lonerider launched Southern Nog in November, made with its signature Bourbon Whiskey. Lonerider’s chief drinking officer, Sumit Vohra, suggests serving the nog chilled with a garnish of nutmeg, cinnamon and mint. Find the boozy bev at local ABC stores and at the brand’s newest bar, The Hideout in Five Points.