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  • Meb McMahon

Five Festive Cocktails for Your Winter Wedding

In my last post, I explored how the holidays and the winter off-season can afford adventurous couples incredible wedding opportunities. With New Years Eve almost on us, I'd like to explore another facet of winter weather planning: cocktail hour. Winter cocktails mean warmer flavors, more elegant liquors, and homemade syrups. Below, I've listed five of my favorites. Try them yourself as you plan, and pick your favorite for your winter wedding cocktail hour. Cheers!

Holiday Sangria

A perfect, low effort drink that brings festive flavors to the classic sangria format. The rosemary syrup can be made in advance and will keep in the fridge for two weeks.

  • 2 bottles Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay

  • 3/4 cup sparkling apple cider

  • 1/4 cup fresh cranberries, lightly crushed with a knife

  • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries, whole

  • 1 granny smith apple, cored and thinly sliced

  • 1/4 rosemary syrup (recipe follows)

Make the rosemary syrup by simmering 1 cup of sugar in 1 cup of water until dissolved. Add 2 tablespoons of roughly chopped rosemary leaves and steep over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the syrup and chill.

In your favorite, most festive pitcher, combine the wine and rosemary syrup. Add the fruit and allow the sangria to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours. When the party starts, add the sparkling cider and serve over ice.


This variation of the classic Snowball cocktail is simple, elegant, and festive. Adventurous drinkers can add a raw egg white to give the drink a silky, luscious texture.

  • 2 oz brandy

  • 1/2 oz simple syrup

  • Egg white (optional)

  • 2 oz ginger ale (or more as needed)

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add brandy, simple syrup, and egg white, if using. Shake to combine. If using an egg white, be sure to shake vigorously for at least one minute to get the texture right. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and top with ginger ale to taste.

Figgy Sparkler

The Figgy Sparkler is a fruity, time-honored Christmas classic. Fresh figs, if available will provide more flavor than dried.

  • 1 fig (preferably fresh)

  • 2 orange slices

  • 6 fresh cranberries

  • 1 1/4 oz vodka

  • 4 oz prosecco

Muddle the fruit in a cocktail shaker with vodka. Add ice and shake to combine. Strain into a champagne flute and top with prosecco. Garnish with cranberries and a twist of orange.

Cognac French 75

The French 75 dates back to World War I, and remains one of the most popular gin cocktails in the world. Here, cognac replaces gin to give this holiday variation a warmer, more luxurious vibe.

  • 1 oz cognac

  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 oz simple syrup

  • Splash of prosecco

Shake the cognac, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice. Strain into a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a twist of lemon.


While the name might turn up some noses, this cocktail is a complex, elegant cure-all for the winter blues. Essentially a whiskey sour, the Penicillin uses cheap blended scotch as a base and a splash of the good stuff at the end to please even the biggest whiskey snobs.

  • 2 oz blended scotch

  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

  • 3/4 oz honey-ginger syrup (recipe follows)

  • 1/4 oz peaty single-malt scotch (Laphroaig or Lagavulin)

Peel a three-inch piece of ginger and thinly slice. Combine the ginger with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup honey. Boil five minutes, strain, and cool.

Shake the blended scotch, lemon juice, and honey-ginger syrup with ice. Strain into a rocks glass with ice. Pour the single-malt scotch gently over the back of a spoon to float it on top.

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