Monday, December 12, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cocktails and Fun

Ladies and Gentlemen… drum roll please…. It’s… officially… CHRISTMASTIME!!!

When I saw this blog, I was instantly inspired. Since I’m not a huge fan of flavored vodkas, I wanted to create a list of drinks that were somewhat diverse and more in my wheel house. To further enhance the Christmas spirit, I thought I would share some of my most favorite Holiday traditions with you. My family and I have been doing some of these for years, some have been adopted from others and some are very recent add-ons to the Christmas traditions list. Below, I’ve provided a much more detailed explanation of the cocktails as well as information about the activities. If you want the breakdown for each cocktail, then click here or click on the headline for each day.  Side note: Most of the recipes have been amended from ones I found on the internet but some have stayed the same. All of the links for the original recipes can be found on the recipe sheet or in the detailed descriptions below.  I will definitely post pictures as we go along!!

Cheers! Prost! Salute! Cin Cin! MERRRRRRRRRRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, December 13: Two Turtle Doves and A Random Kind Act - This is a great way to begin the Holiday Season and truly get you in a giving mood. I think it's difficult to come up with some small act that will make someone's day a little brighter but this site has some awesome ideas. Some of the “acts” are a lot more expensive than others (and some might be highly inappropriate if you didn't have your kids acting on your behalf) but I think it would be really cool to do something like this for someone. My goal is to come up with something small that will simply make someone smile. I’ve got a couple ideas but I think it’s going to be a spur of the moment kind of thing. Then, when you get home at the end of the day, you can give yourself a pat on the back by whipping up this easy peasy cocktail.  Make sure you chill the glasses and all of the ingredients (other than the syrup) beforehand.  Drizzle the glass with caramel syrup, mix both cocktail ingredients in a shaker then pour into glass. I couldn't justify paying $30 for the large bottle of the Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, so I purchased two of the mini bottles from Binny's.  (For original recipe, click here.)

Wednesday, December 14: Hot Toddy and Craft a Christmas Decoration - With the stresses of the season, the change in the weather and my poor eating habits (a girl must try a sample from every batch of cookies that she makes, right?!), I usually come down with some sort of cold a week or two before Christmas. To soothe any impending sore throats or stuffy noses, I like to make myself an at home cold remedy consisting of hot water, honey and bourbon... aka a Hot Toddy.  If you want to add a little holiday spice, then add a cinnamon stick or put some cloves into the lemon wedge.  It'll be a nice way to warm up a chilly winter evening.  As I sit on my couch, sipping my Toddy, I will partake in a little Christmas crafting.  This year,I decided to make some fun gift tags that will go on all of my Christmas presents.  (For original recipe, click here.)

Thursday, December 15: Oh Starry Night and Tree Decorating – Start with 1 sugar cube and top it off with Cook's finest bottle of bubbly (preferably chilled). If you are feeling festive, adorn glass with a slice of star fruit or some raspberries.  I feel like decorating your tree is the perfect excuse to enjoy a glass of champagne.  Although, honestly, I feel like any activity can fall under the category "champagne toast worthy," as long as you just cheers a lot.  However, we will be toasting to our first Christmas tree in our new home (yay!)... feel free to toast along with us or make up a celebration of your own!

Friday, December 16: Eggnog Martini and “Holiday’s on Ice” - This is where Martha gets delusional. As much as I would LOVE to replicate her recipe for an Eggnog Martini (which I am sure is delicious), I am not coming home after working 12 hours and, while making dinner, preparing something that requires me to make an "ice bath" or wants me to "whisk continuously for 10-12 minutes". I really don't have the patients. Sorry. So, for my Eggnog Martini, I purchased a bottle of Oberweis Eggnog and just added Brandy. Done and Done. I chilled all the ingredients (ha, all 2 of them Martha... corn starch... really?) and the martini glasses beforehand. Since a classy drink deserve a classy activity, it's time to gather up the yuletide for story time. If you don't own a copy already, then you really must head out and purchase Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris (or you can borrow one of mine, since I own two).  Every Christmas, we pick a story and take turns reading it, aloud, around our TV Fireplace (don't really have a fireplace so the Christmas by the Fireplace DVD really comes in handy). Why read the "Night Before Christmas" and "The Polar Express" when you can read "Six to Eight Black Men," "SantaLand Diaries" and "Dinah, the Christmas Whore?" If reading isn't your thing, then you can always tune into This American Life and listen to an archived podcast, where David Sedaris reads several excerpts from the book.  (For original recipe, click here.)

Saturday, December 17: Glogg and Christkindlemarket - This will be an easy one to make since the lovely German folks at the Christkindlemarket make it for you!! We attend this outdoor fest every year and it is always a good time. I first went to a Christkindlemarket when I was in Germany and I have to say, the Chicago version is pretty dead-on accurate. The Gluwein is served in ADORABLE souvenir mugs (to some people's dismay, my collection is in the double digits already... and yes, I will keep collecting more!) and the food is amazing. It is great people watching and if you’re lucky (aka: get there early), you can get a table in one of the heated sections.

Sunday, December 18: Rosemary Bloody Mary and Present Wrapping - How do you make a Bloody Mary holiday appropriate? Replace the celery stalk with a sprig of Rosemary of course (I feel so sophisticated when I say the words sprig and Rosemary). Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix is great and so is Major Peter's Bloody Mary Mix . The additions are totally your call... maybe a little Worcestershire Sauce, some crushed black pepper, a dab of Tabasco perhaps. I used the Rosemary as my tooth pick and threw some olives on there, along with some cubed Parmesan cheese and a small pickle... it’s whatever you want, go nuts. I know it is pretty optimistic of me to assume I will have all of my presents by now but the idea of spending a Sunday afternoon drinking Bloody Mary’s and wrapping presents sounds awesome (I’m kind of a nerd that way). I created a Christmas wrapping station in our upstairs bedroom and it makes it really easy to get everything done in one sitting. Time for me to wrap, bow, tie and tag.

I forgot to make the mallo stirrers :(
but it was still VERY tasty
Monday, December 19: Adult Hot Chocolate and Christmas Lights - When I was younger, my family went camping a lot for vacation. In the morning, we'd be running around while my parents made breakfast and when we would go take a sip of their orange juice, we were told we couldn't have that kind because it was "Adult Orange Juice." For some reason, at the time, it made total sense that Minute Maid would make an OJ specifically for kids and one for adults... Because adults like pulp and kids don't, right? Sorry I got a little sidetracked... So, for this Holiday recipe I'm adding alcohol to a drink that is normally kid friendly. Wait, what?! That's what my parents were doing? In the morning? While camping? That does make a little more sense. Although, I am jazzing up this boring ol' cocoa concoction with a chocolate and peppermint coated marshmallow/stirring stick (click here for further instructions). (Side note:  I discovered a chocolate mint liqueur at Binny's called Crave and decided to try that with the hot cocoa instead of the Godiva.  Ummm, it is AMAZING... I would highly recommend picking up a bottle, or two... or three.)  In keeping with family traditions, when my brother and I were little, my parents would make a huge Thermos of hot chocolate, dress us up in our pajamas and take us over to the Lincolnwood/Sauganash (Touhy and Pratt area)area to check out the Christmas lights. I always remember being in awe of the houses that had mechanical elves, real (formerly alive) deer pulling a sleigh, and a Christmas Tree that goes through the roof (anyone who is from my neck of the woods, knows exactly what I'm talking about). We've also driven down to Lincoln Park Zoo for Zoo Lights (ummm... it's FREE) and this year, we are going to walk around Park Ridge to check out some of the wealthier folks. So grab your own Thermos of hot cocoa (alcohol optional... although, I deem it perfectly fine if it's only "just a touch" (as said like an Italian Grandpa) and you're walking around your neighborhood... you're gonna need something to take the chill out of the air... right?) and check out some Christmas lights tonight, where ever you choose.

Tuesday, December 20: Santa Spritzer and New Christmas Tree Ornament - Since this cocktail didn't have an actual name, I decided to make one up. I know I bashed on Martha earlier for having to combine cocktail ingredients on a stove top but the creation of "simple syrup" is one those things that has you teeter the overly-ambitious line, not cross it. You can make the syrup well in advance and store it in your fridge until it is time to use. I opted out the purple grapes for green ones because let's be honest, green and red is much more festive (duh... Real Simple... duh). Every year, since my boyfriend and I have been buying our own Christmas tree together, I have been purchasing personalized ornaments to mark the year. For our first Christmas, I bought an adorable moose couple  and last year I bought two peas in a pod (ours only has two peas :) So cute right? When I first started this, Woodfield Mall had an entire store dedicated to Christmas trees and ornaments but for some reason, last year, they only had a kiosk. So, you’ll have to track it down because I’m not sure where they put it. While I'm there, I hit up the Yankee Candle Store to purchase some of their awesomely Christmas inspired candles.  Last year, I couldn't decide on which scent I wanted, too many choices  , so I bought about 20 of the votives in all different scents. It was great because I got to use a different one each night. Since these little bastards are so expensive, I found a coupon and it might be good to check out the sale items before you go. (For original cocktail recipe, click here.)

Wednesday, December 21: Cranberry Margaritas and “The Grinch” - Feliz Navidad!! Nothing says "Christmas Spirit" quite like tequila. At this time in the Holiday Season, you might be feeling a touch cranky (a little Grinch-like perhaps), that is why you'll definitely need to boost your batteries (and get a glimpse of what your future will look like if you don't) with some Cranberry Margaritas and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”  (For original cocktail recipe, click here.)

Thursday, December 22: Jerusalem Donkey and Cookie Baking - I originally heard about the "Moscow Mule" on the Oprah Show (it was on the episode when Oprah and Gale went camping, in case you were wondering) and it sounded absolutely delicious. When I was coming up with my cocktail list, this drink popped into my mind but I wanted to make it a little more festive. What to do? What to do? Obviously, the best I could muster up was a name change (Oh… I hope Oprah doesn't mind!)  When it comes to cookie baking, I'm sure everyone already has their Holiday go-to. However, here are some delicious alternatives if you feel like mixing it up this year.
Friday, December 23: Fra-Ra-Ra, Chinese Take-Out and "A Christmas Story" - No holiday celebration is complete without a viewing of "A Christmas Story."  That being said, I'm including Saki Bombs and Chinese Food to that list.  If you've never done a Saki Bomb before here is what you will need: One bottle of Saki, two bottles of beer (I usually go with Sapporo, yes, I know it is Japanese beer but it is really good... and I've never actually tried a Saki Bomb with Tsingtao so I couldn't recommend), a shot glass, a regular glass and a pair of chopsticks.  Place the large glass on a wooden table and fill 2" high with beer, place the chopstick on top and then place the shot glass filled with Saki on top of the chopsticks.  When you are ready to drink, bang the table and the shot glass will (should) fall into the beer, chug :)  Here is a video explanation if you would like to see it done...  I think the rest of this tradition goes without saying.  So turn the ol' leg lamp on and enjoy a classic movie with some delicious food and drink :)  

Saturday, December 24: RumChata and New PJ’s – Christmas Eve is usually pretty hectic, so I saved the easiest cocktail for last. My brother introduced me to RumChata over the summer and was blown away. It is DELICIOUS and although it looks a lot like Bailey’s, it actually tastes like the leftover milk from Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal… AMAZING. All you have to do is pour it over ice. If you want to go nuts, add a cinnamon stick. That is it!! Perfect for getting ready (who needs a shower beer when you have a shower RumChata?!), wrapping some last minute presents or just enjoying a couple minutes of peace and quiet.  When I was a kid, my parents would allow me to open one present on Christmas Eve.  It was always pajamas and they would always be worn that night so we had new P.J.'s for Christmas morning.  Who am I kidding, we did this last year and I'm almost 30.  It is still fun to open that one gift, even though we always knew what it was going to be... and who doesn't love new jammies?!  

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!!  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!  And most importantly, cheers!  

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