Christmas celebrations take many forms. Whether you’re swapping secret Santa gifts or singing carols — feasting on a holiday roast or ordering takeout — there’s a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of drinks to make. There are a few classic beverages traditionally sipped on and around Christmas, like eggnog and Coquito, but it’s also a holiday that invites a little more innovation than, say, Thanksgiving, when apple cider and bourbon seem to reign supreme.
To help gather inspiration for your next seasonal sip, we asked bartenders from around the world what they’re drinking this holiday season. Here’s what they recommended.
The Best Christmas Cocktails, According to Bartenders
- Irish coffee
- Spiced hot buttered rum
- Chartreuse hot chocolate
- Hot apple cider
- Cold brew coffee bourbon
- Fish House Punch
- Verte Chaud
- Hot cocoa with tequila
- Fortified wines and amari
- Lion’s Tale
“Eggnog, hands down. I love how nostalgic this is for me. As a kid, it was the first time I felt like a grown-up when everyone else was drinking boozy eggnog, and I got to have virgin eggnog with the grown-ups. I’m lactose intolerant now so it makes me feel awful, but I make an exception once a year and do it anyway.” —Brandon Thrash, general manager, Middle Child Clubhouse, Philadelphia
“Traditional eggnog is my favorite Christmas drink, by far. Normally I’m not one for filling drinks, but on Christmas day? The more something encourages me to lay around on the couch, the better!” —Megan Jay, head of beverage, Urban Cowboy Public House, Nashville
“Although bartenders drinking Negronis is a bit cliche, the classic cocktail is easily my go-to for Christmas. They’re as red as Santa’s suit, as piney as your Christmas tree, and strong enough to make you delay your goals of cleaning up the wrapping paper until the next day. Sometimes, I’ll even garnish with a fir sprig from the Christmas tree if I’m feeling extra merry.” —Danny Childs, head bartender, The Farm and Fisherman Tavern; author, “Slow Drinks,” Cherry Hill, N.J.
“I enjoy all of the usual elements of Christmas drinking like the eggnog and Irish Coffees — anything that keeps me warm. But I really love a nice nightcap before the night’s through, particularly a nice nip of Calvados or Armagnac as a bit of a treat.” —Liana Oster, bar director, NoMad, London
“Spiced Hot Buttered Rum, of course! Mexican spiced rum, buttered rum batter, cinnamon syrup, and hot water.” —Tito Pin-Perez, creative director, Rayo Cocktail Bar, Mexico City
“My cocktail of choice for Christmas and the holiday season is always Coquito! It’s one of my favorites to drink with friends and family, but also a staple on our menu at Leyenda during the Christmas season for our annual ‘Sleyenda.’ We serve it with Espolòn Reposado, oloroso sherry, coconut, Braulio, and cinnamon, and always served in a fun mug.” —Ivy Mix, co-founder, Speed Rack; co-owner, Leyenda and FIASCO! Wine and Spirits, Brooklyn
“My cocktail of choice for Christmas is Coquito, which is Puerto Rican eggnog with condensed milk, coconut milk, Coco Lopez, cinnamon, nutmeg, and topped with some dark rum.” —Mathew Scherl, beverage director, Lagos Restaurant & Lounge, New York City
“I have always and will always be a Chartreuse hot chocolate for Christmas kind of person. It’s the perfect mix of chocolate and minty notes and really puts me in the spirit every year!” —Phil Collins, beverage director, TableOne Hospitality, Los Angeles and San Francisco
“Hot apple cider is usually on the menu for Christmas. My entire family rents a large cabin in Big Bear for a few days, a place where we can enjoy the snow with the little kiddos. It’s so easy to get refills and stay warm when you have a Crock-Pot of hot cider going.” —Coleen Morton, director of bars, Hotel Per La, Los Angeles
“Now that I’m a father, Christmas Eve usually ends at 4 a.m. building random toys or finishing up wrapping presents, and Christmas Day begins at 6 a.m., so I drink a lot of coffee on Christmas morning. I start with a shot of espresso and follow with a pot of hot coffee. For my friends, I gift them cold brew coffee bourbon. It will wake you up and keep you in the spirit until you realize you forgot AA batteries again this year.” —Gabe Sanchez, general manager, Midnight Rambler at The Joule, Dallas
“I love eggnog but fell in love with the Puerto Rican version of Coquito. It’s rum-based, and the egg is substituted with coconut, still providing a creamy smooth finish. You can remove the rum and serve it for the kiddos and it won’t disappoint.” —Evan Cablayan, beverage director, Mercy Me at Yours Truly, Washington, D.C.
“My favorite Christmastime cocktail is a Verte Chaud: decadent, thick hot chocolate with green Chartreuse and a wet cream with shaved dark chocolate over the top. It’s everything. It’s a very simple cocktail that must be made with care, quality chocolate, and the wet cream must not be overwhipped! The rich and bittersweet chocolate with the herbaceous French liqueur is a match made in heaven.” —Ulysses Toimil, bar manager, Uccello Lounge, San Francisco
“Christmas is the time for warm drinks like mulled wine, buttered rum, or spiked cocoa. One of my all-time favorites will always be hot cocoa with tequila. The way that agave and Mexican cocoa play together is magical. Adding a little Mexican cinnamon makes for an incredible amalgamation of Mexican champorado and traditional cocoa, with a buzz. I will never miss the opportunity to make it every year.” —Scott Taylor, beverage director, Harris’ Restaurant, San Francisco
“On Christmas, I like to drink fortified wines and amari. I like reverse-style Martinis or Manhattans, so it’s low on the ABV side and packing even more of a flavor punch. You can have a few more without the risk of getting hammered.” —Michael Silva, head bartender, The Dean Hotel by Ash, Providence, R.I.
“My favorite classic cocktail around the holidays is the Lion’s Tail. Whiskey pairs perfectly with the cold months, and the allspice dram reminds me of Christmas mornings with eggnog — virgin or otherwise. The drink is also light and crisp enough to have a few with dinner and a few more after!” —Vikki Elliot, bar manager, Yellow Door Taqueria, Boston