A Guide to Pairing Holiday Movies and Cocktails

Maybe it’s the cold weather. Maybe it’s the widespread good cheer, or possibly the dark. But whatever the justification, no other season is as widely associated with great movies as the holidays, a fave subject for directors from Frank Capra to Greta Gerwig. There’s nothing quite like curling up with a relaxing holiday movie after an intense shopping session or a few hours wrapping gifts. And for an easy way to take things up a notch, pair that classic holiday movie with a great drink.

Just as with food and wine pairings, combining specific movies with selected beverages offers a chance to discover overlooked similarities and harmonious connections between two of your favorite things. To get into the holiday spirit, try one or more of the following six movie and cocktail pairings. Think of these as a starting point to try with other holiday films — at this point there are literally hundreds — for a perfect match with one of your go-to bottles or favorite recipes.

Movie: A Christmas Carol (1951)

This beloved retelling of the Charles Dickens novella perfectly captures the spirit of Victorian London. While the 1984 color film starring George C. Scott might feel slightly less dated, most critics consider the 1951 black-and-white release the best cinematic version of the story ever made.

Drink: Rusty Nail
The rich spice and heather-honey notes from the whisky liqueur highlight similar flavors already present in Johnnie Walker Red Label Scotch — an ideal pairing in its own right — while also creating an ideal Old World, “Christmas spice” mood echoing the one from the film.


  • 1 ounce Johnnie Walker Red Label
  • 1/2 ounce whisky liqueur
  • Cocktail cherry or orange peel, for garnish


  1. Combine Johnnie Walker Red Label and whisky liqueur in an ice-filled mixing glass.
  2. Stir well.
  3. Strain into an Old Fashioned or other serving glass filled with ice.
  4. Garnish and enjoy.


Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Widely considered one of the greatest films ever made, Frank Capra’s holiday classic starts out austere — even somewhat bleak! — before blossoming into its rich climax, full of joyous holiday vibes. As a cultural touchstone, this movie’s lines and scenes are regularly quoted and repeated.

Drink: Johnnie Walker Black Label, Neat
Allow the whisky a few minutes after your first sniff (or consider adding a drop of water to help the flavors open up). Then observe the rich aromas and flavors of oak, toffee, pecan pie, fruit, and light peat smoke. Like Capra’s masterpiece, it’s considered a classic for a reason.


  • 1 1/2 ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label


  1. Pour into an Old Fashioned or other serving glass with or without ice, as desired.
  2. Enjoy.


Movie: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

The real Kris Kringle takes a temporary job as a department store Santa, bringing authentic holiday spirit to kids, parents, and even a few jaded New York lawyers. The film is beautifully shot in black and white amid the stunning setting of midcentury Manhattan.

Drink: Manhattan
Lightly bittersweet, but then mostly just sweet, the drink and the film share a similar richness, as well as big “New York City” energy. Crown Royal Fine Deluxe’s rye notes offer a light peppery bite to keeps things from getting too syrupy.


  • 1 ounce Crown Royal Deluxe
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 3 dashes aromatic bitters
  • Cocktail cherry, for garnish


  1. Combine Crown Royal Deluxe, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Stir well.
  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish, and enjoy.


Movie: It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)

Make it a New York double feature with this slightly overlooked holiday classic. Despite its history, this movie is filled with such contemporary themes such as the constant reconstruction of Manhattan — an always-iconic and magical place to experience the holiday season. 

Drink: Crown Royal Red Snapper 

Classic yet contemporary, lighthearted but filled with soul, this easy-to-make cocktail echoes the fun but deep approach of the film, with the slightly acidic fruit juice offering a pleasant counterpoint to the sweet liqueur.


  • 1 1/4 ounces Crown Royal Deluxe
  • 1/4 ounce amaretto liqueur 
  • 6 ounces cranberry juice
  • Orange peel, for garnish. 


  1. Combine all ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice and stir.
  2. Garnish with an orange peel and enjoy.


Movie: White Christmas (1954)

The songs of Irving Berlin paired with performances by screen legends Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney made this charming musical the highest-grossing film of its era. Romantic, comedic, and full of the goodwill of the season, it’s relatively fast paced by the standards of its time.

Drink: White Russian
Fairly unknown and generally unloved in America before World War II, vodka became the go-to drink of the 1950s. This cocktail has a gently sweet, dessert-like nature, much like the sweetness of the film, to say nothing of the shared color scheme.


  • 1 ounce Ketel One Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce coffee liqueur
  • 2 bar spoons milk
  • 2 bar spoons double cream
  • Nutmeg, for garnish


  1. Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Shake well and strain into an ice-filled serving glass.
  3. Garnish with grated nutmeg and enjoy.


Movie: Scrooged (1988)

Four years after “Ghostbusters,” Bill Murray returned to the screen alongside the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future in this hilarious rewrite of the classic Dickens tale. Keep an eye out for the many celebrity cameos, from Olympian Mary Lou Retton to jazz legend Miles Davis.

Drink: Dirty Martini
This movie echoes the unsweetened starkness of a charismatic cocktail. More to the point: This Dirty Martini is exactly what Murray’s character would drink.


  • 1 1/2 ounces Ketel One Vodka
  • 1 ounce olive brine
  • 1 whole blue cheese-stuffed olive


  1. Combine ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into a Martini glass, garnish with olive, and enjoy.


Movie: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Clark, Rusty, and the rest of the Griswold clan are home for the holidays in the third installment of the zany “Vacation” series, written and directed by the great John Hughes. Though Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo have the starring roles, Randy Quaid manages to steal almost every scene.

Drink: Tequila Collins
Light, ethereal flavors from rich agave nectar and copious bubbles combine with the lighthearted, high-spirited humor of classic ‘80s physical comedy.


  • 1 1/2 ounce Don Julio Blanco Tequila
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce agave nectar
  • 3 ounces club soda
  • Lemon twist, for garnish


  1. Pour Don Julio Blanco, lemon juice, and agave nectar into a Collins or highball glass filled with ice.
  2. Top with club soda or seltzer and stir gently.
  3. Garnish with a twist.

This article is sponsored by Diageo.