How to Master Holiday Cocktails

Cocktails, Drinks, Entertaining, Holidays
on December 16, 2013
Eric Prum & Josh Williams

Not a creature was stirring? Not even a mouse? Not where we come from. As far as we’re concerned, the holiday season is a time for celebration, never complete without a set of go-to seasonal cocktails for sipping and serving.

In search of holiday inspiration, we caught up with Eric Prum and Josh Williams, authors of new book Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails and creators of the Mason Shaker. Chock full of original recipes and stunning photography, Shake features an ever-present emphasis on the idea that cocktails should be three things—fun, simple and social.


In this Q&A, Eric and Josh shared with us their favorite cold-weather ingredients, plus boozy holiday hosting advice and tips for formulating original drink recipes from your home bar.

 Remember the recipes by pinning the cocktails in one pin.

Relish: What would you say are the quintessential ingredients and garnishes for the holiday season?

Eric & Josh: Around this time of year, we find ourselves mixing cocktails with ingredients that epitomize the holiday season and are well-suited for the arrival of cold weather. Fresh apple cider, ginger, citrus and warm island spices all find their way into our favorite holiday cocktails. Fresh cranberries and dark amber maple syrup are our two secret go-to ingredients during the holidays that are always crowd pleasers.

Relish: Do you have any essential “don’ts” when it comes to mixing, serving or ordering cocktails?

E & J: Don’t be afraid to try something new! Whether you’re mixing drinks at home or ordering cocktails at a bar, we are big supporters of trying new flavors. Best case scenario: you find a new favorite cocktail. Worst case scenario: your friends have an extra drink to share.

Relish: What tips would you offer up to novice home mixologists for formulating new cocktail recipes of their own?

E & J: The best way to begin creating new recipes on your own is to start from a base recipe you have mastered and start tweaking one or two ingredients at a time to put your own twist on the concoction. For instance, first learn how to make a basic bourbon old fashioned, which is simply bourbon, sugar and aromatic bitters with an orange peel garnish.

Spiced Rum Old Fashioned

Spiced Rum Old Fashioned

Then, to begin crafting your own recipe, you can start switching out the individual elements, such as changing the bourbon to aged rum and the garnish to a wedge of roasted pineapple. The possibilities are endless, but as long as you start with a solid base, your recipe will be a success.

Relish: Think holiday hosting—do you have a good rule of thumb for choosing which cocktails and how many options to serve?

E & J: We like to serve two options for cocktail parties around the holidays, or any time of year for that matter. We usually choose one darker, richer, higher alcohol cocktail and one lighter, more refreshing recipe so we can offer an option to suit anyone’s palate and mood.

Relish: For each of you: If you could choose only one go-to cocktail to serve, order and sip throughout the entire season, what would it be?

Josh: I love the Rosemary-Maple Bourbon Sour, which is a rich, herbaceous take on a whiskey sour.

Rosemary Maple Bourbon

Rosemary Maple Bourbon

Eric: Mine would be our L Train cocktail, which combines flavors of dried lavender and St. Germain.

For more holiday party and gift-giving inspiration, check out our picks for Top Gifts for the Mixology-Minded, and see below for three of Josh and Eric’s favorite winter cocktail recipes, perfect for the holiday season.