Winter Holiday Tiki

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Updated 2022-10-13
Illustration by Victoria Abrami

Context

This page started with a question: What does Winter look like? Lots of overlap between island spices and winter spices (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, anise). How do you make a tiki drink that feels seasonally appropriate in a cold climate?

I asked this question to some friends and I emailed some well-known tiki bartenders. I heard a lot of “tiki is a mindset” and “tiki is a year-round thing for me.”

There didn’t seem to be a repository for holiday tiki , so I decided to put one together from what I found.

Historical context

From Al Culliton of Al’s Cocktail Club:

While I’m not a tiki expert by any means, my broader knowledge of history enables me to reframe your question. It’s my working theory that so-called “winter spices” became associated with winter because of Christmastide traditions of the late medieval and early modern periods. During this major feasting season, Christians in western Europe and England used precious foods imported from tropical and desert climes—spices, and dried —in the delicacies of the season as a way of honoring the season’s significance and sanctity. So, the differentiation between “winter spices” and “tropical spices” is moot in a way—they are one in the same. People from colder places have always prized those things that cannot grow (or don’t grow easily) in cold climates. In a way, tropical strains within the history of the American Cocktail, as well as “tiki” more specifically, is a repeat of the cementing of spices from the tropics in western winter holiday traditions.

To winterize tiki drinks, I might look to spice-forward and Alpine amari like Amaro Abano, Amaro di Angostura, Sfumato, or Braulio. I’d also consider incorporating fortified wines, especially port (ruby) and sherry (oloroso or amontillado). Definitely consider going off-book for your base spirits, too—Cognac or añejo tequila are two that jump to mind! I love making syrups with dried fruit and spices, so that could be another good way to amp up the wintriness of your tiki drinks.

Sippin’ Santa

The 2021 Sippin’ Santa menu.

All of these drinks of are credited to Beachbum Berry. Recipes below are ones I either found somewhere online (linked), or notes on how I’m trying to recreate them.

⭐ Kris Kringle Colada

  • 1 oz Coruba Dark Jamaican Rum
  • 1/2 oz Cynar
  • 1/4 oz Allspice Dram
  • 1 oz Lime Juice
  • 1 oz Pineapple juice
  • 2 1/4 oz Coco Lopez
  • 6 oz Crushed Ice

Blend

Recipe Source

Sippin’ Santa

  • 1 1/2 oz. El Dorado 8-Year Demerara Rum
  • 1/2 oz. Amaro Averna
  • 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. fresh orange juice
  • 3/4 oz. Gingerbread Mix*

Shake with cubed ice. Strain into festive tiki mug. Add cubed ice to fill.

Gingerbread Mix

  • 6 parts Nutmeg Syrup**
  • 1 part Ginger People Ginger Juice
  • Combine Nutmeg Syrup and Ginger Juice. Bottle and store in fridge. Lasts up to 2 weeks. Shake bottle before using.

Nutmeg Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar (a.k.a. evaporated cane juice)
  • 1/2 oz. (level tablespoon) ground nutmeg.
  • Bring to a boil while stirring until sugar dissolves, then remove from heat and let cool. Strain through double-layer cheesecloth. Store in fridge. Shake bottle before using.

Recipe source

White Russian Christmas

  • 1 1⁄2 OZ. VODKA
  • 3⁄4 OZ. DARK-ROAST COLD BREW
  • 3⁄4 OZ. CANNED SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK
  • 1⁄4 OZ. ANCHO REYES
  • 1⁄4 OZ. CINNAMON SYRUP

Shake all of the ingredients together in a shaker with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass. Garnish.

Cinnamon Syrup

3 cinnamon sticks
1 cup organic cane sugar
8 oz. water

Crush the cinnamon sticks with a mortar & pestle. Place the crushed sticks into a saucepan with the water and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, then cover and simmer on low heat for 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and keep covered for at least 2 hours before straining. Bottle, date, and refrigerate. Lasts 1 month, refrigerated.

Recipe source

The Regifter

Listed ingredients:

  • Martinique Rhum Agricole
  • Carmelized Pineapple-Garam-Masala syrup
  • Cherry Liqueur
  • Lemon

Similar to Ankle Breaker, but with pineapple masala syrup

Azul Navidad

Listed ingredients:

  • Tequila
  • Mezcal
  • Lime
  • Cream of Coconut
  • Blue Curacao
  • Hazelnut liqueur
  • Pineapple rum

Kind of like a Blue Hawaiian, but instead of pineapple juice, it uses pineapple rum for the flavor. Hazelnut is probably Frangelico, and there to give some holiday flavor.

Yule Log Grog

  • 1 ½ ounces London dry gin
  • 1 ounce ginger liqueur
  • ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ¾ ounce cranberry syrup (see notes)
  • ¼ ounce velvet falernum
  • 4 ounces boiling hot water
  • Lime peel, for garnish
  • Cranberry, for garnish
  1. Combine all ingredients except the water in a festive mug.
  2. Add hot water and stir to combine.
  3. Garnish with a skewered lime peel and cranberry.

Cranberry Syrup

Combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup 100% pure cranberry juice with no added sugar in a 2-quart pan. Heat over medium high heat until the sugar just dissolves. Allow to cool, then bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Recipe source

Christmas Eve of Destruction

  • 1 ounce overproof rum, such as Plantation OFTD
  • 1 ounce Benedictine
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce nutmeg syrup (syrup follows)
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  1. Combine ingredients in a glass 2⁄3 filled with crushed ice.
  2. Swizzle with swizzle stick in glass.
  3. Add more crushed ice to fill.
  4. Garnish with lime wheel, studded with 3 to 5 cloves, half-sunk in drink.
  5. Dust with grated nutmeg.

Nutmeg Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine water, sugar, and ground nutmeg.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  3. Let cool, then strain into a clean glass jar for storage.

Recipe source

Mistletoe-to-toe

Listed ingredients:

  • Bourbon
  • Walnut Liqueur
    • Nocino?
  • Jamaican rum
  • Puerto Rican rum
  • Lime juice
  • Orange juice
  • Maple syrup

Close to a Volcano Bowl. Swap grapefruit juice with orange juice, dial down the rum a bit and replace some with bourbon and nocino.

Rudolph Shoots the Curl

Listed ingredients:

  • Herbal mint liqueur
    • Branca Menta
  • Amaro
    • Averna
  • Dark chocolate liqueur

Classic holiday tiki

Nui Nui

  • 2 oz rum
  • 1 oz orange
  • 3/4 oz cinnamon syrup
  • 3/4 oz lime
  • 1/4 oz vanilla syrup
  • 1/4 allspice
  • Dash bitters

Shake and strain over crushed ice, garnish like on a cooking competition show

Try blood orange juice!

Coffee Grog

  • 1 SUGAR CUBE
  • 1 TSP. DON’S COFFEE GROG BATTER
  • PINCH OF GROUND NUTMEG
  • PINCH OF GROUND CLOVE
  • PINCH OF GROUND CINNAMON
  • 3 STRIPS ORANGE PEEL
  • 1 STRIP GRAPEFRUIT PEEL
  • 6 OZ. FRESHLY BREWED HOT COFFEE (KONA IS TRADITIONAL)
  • ½ OZ. AGED JAMAICAN RUM
  • ½ OZ. 151-PROOF DEMERARA RUM

Place the sugar, batter, spices and citrus peels in a preheated, heat-proof glass, then add the coffee, stirring until the batter dissolves. Place the rums in a fireproof ladle, carefully ignite with a match, and pour the flaming rum into the glass (pyrophobes may want to skip this step and just stir in the unlit rum). Garnish.

Don’s coffee grog batter

Combine 1 oz. of softened sweet unsalted butter and 1 ounce of honey with a teaspoon of your favorite vanilla syrup, ½ a teaspoon of allspice dram and 1 teaspoon of your favorite cinnamon syrup. Makes 18 servings.

Recipe source

Modern holiday tiki

I Saw Mommy

  • 1½ OZ. VODKA
  • ¾ OZ. FRESH GRAPEFRUIT JUICE
  • ¼ OZ. BRANCA MENTA
  • ¼ OZ. CHOCOLATE SYRUP (SIPPIN’ SANTA’S USES HERSHEY’S)
  • ½ OZ. SIMPLE SYRUP (1:1)

Shake the ingredients with ice to chill, then strain into a flute filled with crushed ice. Garnish.

Recipe source

Blue Christmas

Ingredients:

  • 1½ oz vodka
  • ¾ oz blue Curaçao
  • ¾ oz apricot brandy
  • ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ oz Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut 

Method:

  • Shake with cubed ice. Strain into glass. Add cubed ice to fill. 

Kana Kaloka Swizzle

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Plantation OFTD rum
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz Swizzle Syrup (See Syrup Recipes Below)

Method:

  • Swizzle (with Cocktail Kingdom swizzle stick) in mug filled with crushed ice.
  • Add more ice to fill.

Garnish:

  1. Cinnamon stick & lime wheel “taco” (place cinnamon stick in lime wheel, then fold wheel around stick and skewer with BBB Cocktail Pick).
  2. Surfboard stir stick.

Swizzle Syrup

1-part Cinnamon Syrup (Yields 128 oz)

Ingredients:

  • 20 cinnamon sticks, crushed with mortar & pestle
  • 80 oz water
  • 2,260 grams organic cane sugar
  • (a.k.a. “evaporated cane juice”)

Method:

  • Crush cinnamon sticks with a mortar & pestle.
  • Place the crushed sticks into a dry pan and heat till aromatic. Add the water and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then cover and simmer on low heat for 2 minutes.
  • Remove saucepan from heat and, keeping it covered, let sit at least 2 hours before straining and bottling. Lasts one month refrigerated.

1-part Chai Syrup (Yields 128 oz)

Ingredients:

  • 20 bags Yogi Chai Rooibos Tea
  • 80 oz water
  • 2,260 grams organic cane sugar
  • (a.k.a. “evaporated cane juice”)

Method:

  • Simmer tea bags in 80 oz water on low heat for
  • 20 minutes.
  • Remove tea bags and bring resulting liquid
  • volume back to 80 oz.
  • Add sugar.
  • Heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.

1-part Nutmeg Syrup (Yields 118 oz)

Ingredients:

  • 80 oz water
  • 2,260 grams organic cane sugar (a.k.a. “evaporated cane juice”)
  • 140 grams ground nutmeg

Method:

  • Bring to a boil while stirring until sugar dissolves, then remove from heat and let cool.
  • Strain through double-layer cheesecloth. 
  • Store in fridge. 
  • Shake bottle before using.

Recipe source

On Christmas Island

  • 1 oz El Dorado 8 Year
  • .5 oz Smith & Cross Overproof Jamaican Rum
  • .5 oz Plantation O.F.T.D.
  • .5 oz ginger syrup
  • .5 oz Don’s Spices #2
  • .5 oz passionfruit syrup
  • .75 oz fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with one cup crushed ice. (You can just bust up a bunch of freezer ice with a rolling pin!) Give it a good shake for about 5 seconds, then pour the entire contents into your cutest glass — preferably a weird holiday coffee mug. Top with more crushed ice, and garnish with tropical things!

Recipe source

Nantucket Sleigh Ride

  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 1/4 oz white grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup (1:1)
  • 1/2 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
  • 3/4 oz Apricot brandy (such as Bols or Marie Brizard)
  • 1 oz Coruba dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 oz El Dorado 8-Year Demerara rum

Stir and serve with cubed ice.

Recipe source

Zombie Santa

  • 1 oz white rum (we used Plantation)
  • 1 oz dark rum (we used Plantation)
  • 1/2 oz 151 (we used Lemon Hart)
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz Coinetreau
  • 1/2 oz Velvet Falernut
  • 1 1/2 oz cranberry juice
  • 2 tsp grenadine
  • 1/4 oz Fernet Branca

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass, fill with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mini winter hat or mini santa hat and a spent lime half.

Recipe source

Rum Rum Reindeer

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 1 ounce gingerbread syrup
  • ½ ounce cream of coconut (preferably Coco Lopez brand)
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • 1 – 1 ½ ounces Plantation 5-Year Aged Rum (to taste)
  • ½ ounce Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum
  • ½ ounce apple jack
  • Blood orange slice & mint leaves, for garnish

Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until frosty. Garnish with a slice of blood orange and a bundle of mint.

Gingerbread Syrup

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  1. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine all ingredients listed. Bring to a boil, stirring to make sure the ingredients blend together.
  2. Reduce to medium low and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Once reduced and slightly syrupy, remove from heat and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Carefully strain the whole ingredients out of the syrup. Once cool enough to handle, store the gingerbread syrup in a swing top bottle or mason jar and keep in the fridge. Syrup will keep for at least a month.

Recipe source

Mele Kalikimaka

  • 1 1/2 oz spiced rum 
  • 1/2 oz Amaro Amorino
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 3/4 oz pink grapefruit juice
  • 3/4 oz cinnamon simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz ginger simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Hella Aromatic Bitters
  1. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill 3/4 with ice.
  2. Shake until chilled, then open pour into a rocks glass.
  3. Top with plenty of crushed ice, then garnish with cinnamon sticks, star anise, and an edible flower, if desired.

Recipe source

Grinch Grog

  • 1-1/2 oz Silver Tequila
  • 1-1/2oz Stone Pine Liqueuer
  • 1/2 oz Pear Liqueur
  • 1/4 oz Benedictine
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz Grinch Syrup

Grinch Syrup

  • 2260 grams organic cane sugar
  • 40 oz water
  • 5-1/4 oz Vanilla Syrup
  • 5-1/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup
  • 12 drops clove extract

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