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When people come together at celebrations and gatherings this time of year, festive drinks can bring smiles, start conversations, and keep them going. Did you know that if you want to be more creative, a drink may actually help? 

We’ve done the research and, believe us, we’ve been thorough in our studies! If you want to dive into some scholarly reading, reference a recent CBS News article, "In a piece of research called ‘Lost in the Sauce,’ researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and UC Santa Barbara describe plying their volunteers with vodka and cranberry juice. What they found was that these volunteers saw more solutions to word puzzles—and they saw them faster. The less fortunate, sober, volunteers, subjected to a placebo, were more focused but not as creative.”

So, let’s raise a glass (mind you, in moderation) to connecting creative power and happy hour. To give you some ideas, at least for the drink recipes, from wassail to whiskey, find out what some of our favorite liberating libations are.

 

THE 12 DRINKS OF CHRISTMAS*

Joseph’s Heavenly Hot Cocoa
It’s comfort food with an edge. Take your favorite hot chocolate and kick it up a notch! Start with a base of hot cocoa and add Irish cream whiskey—or for the bold, just bourbon.

Cocoa recipe:
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup baking cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 cups 2% milk
2/3 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
In a large saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa and salt. Stir in milk and water. Cook and stir over medium heat until heated through. Remove from heat; stir in extracts. Yield: 10 servings (2-1/2 quarts).

The “Heavenly” Part
To hot chocolate, add Kahlua, Bailey’s and peppermint schnapps. Or, try these: Grand Marnier, coconut rum, amaretto, Frangelico, Irish whiskey, butterscotch schnapps, white cream de menthe, and the possibilities continue. Dollop with whipped cream and nutmeg, too, if you like.

Brandon’s Glogging Good Mulled Wine
It’s “Glogg” in Sweden, but we call Mulled Wine a delicious tradition here. Boil red wine with cheesecloth-wrapped fruit and spices, including dried orange zest, cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, cloves, blanched almonds and raisins. Don’t forget the sugar cubes and brandy!

12 oz. vodka
1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine
1.5 tbsp. mulling spices
1 tsp. fresh orange zest
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. blanched almonds
4 tbsp. raisins

Wrap mulling spices in cheesecloth. In a large saucepan, combine the wine, vodka, cheesecloth with mulling spices, orange zest and sugar. Allow to very lightly simmer over medium heat for at least 30 minutes (do not boil). Discard mulling spices. Drop a few raisins and almonds at the bottom of each mug and top with the hot liquid.

Merry Manhattans by Design
Holidays beg for something simple as 1, 2, 3. Here you go. Design decision: Brandied cherry is a must for garnish.

2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. sweet vermouth
2 dashes bitters

Place liquids in cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Stir or shake according to preference until completely chilled. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with brandied cherry. All set.

Anne’s Homemade Happiness Kahlua
Whether your holiday festivus demands White Russians or Mudslides, start with a base of this candy ’cohol.

1 cup of honey
1/2 cup instant coffee (nongeneric is better)
1/5 grain alcohol (recommend Everclear)
2 cups dark brown sugar
6 tbsp. real bourbon vanilla
8 cups water
Heat water, sugar and honey until melted (do not boil).
Add coffee crystals and simmer for 30 minutes.
Cool to 110 degrees and add vanilla.
Let set for at least 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add alcohol and stir well.

If you’re feeling risky, try mixing it up with different varieties of flavored coffees, like French vanilla or hazelnut.

The Grinch Who Stole Content
Things are not always as they seem. Take The Grinch, for example. Sip bold green, melon-flavored Midori mixed with lemon juice and simple syrup. Drop a cherry in to symbolize the Grinch’s changed heart.

2 oz. Midori melon liqueur
1/2 oz. lemon juice
orange or melon slice for garnish

Pour ingredients into cocktail shaker along with cracked ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish and consume!

Alexander and the Peppermint-Twisted Techies
Hands down, when chocolate and peppermint collide, something’s going right. This chocolate concoction with a touch of blissful peppermint bliss will enchant your winter palate.

1 shot vanilla vodka
1 shot white crème de cacao
1 shot milk or cream
1 Hershey’s kiss
1 small candy cane
few drops peppermint schnapps 

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, mix vodka, creme de cacao and chocolate liqueur. Strain into a cocktail glass. Drop Hershey’s kiss into the glass, and hang candy cane off the rim with the stem in the glass (to add flavoring.) Alternatively, rim glass with crushed candy canes, using peppermint schnapps or creme de cacao to adhere candy to the glass.

Matt’s Honking Happy Eggnog
Over time, the origin of eggnog has been the subject of serious debate. We give the nod to England, since we can go along with “noggin” deriving from a Middle English term used to describe a small, wooden, carved mug used for serving alcohol. Eggnog calls for cream, cloves, eggs, vanilla, and don’t forget the nutmeg. A little rum lightens things right up.

3 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
generous pinch of ground clove
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup rum (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Over low heat combine milk, vanilla extract and clove in medium saucepan. Bring to a slow boil. Once milk mixture starts to boil, remove from heat.

Combine egg yolks and sugar in mixer. Whisk together until pale and fluffy. With mixer on low, pour hot milk mixture into egg yolks; whisk until well mixed. Pour mixture back into the saucepan and heat on med/med-low for about 5 minutes, continually stirring, until thickened and creamy. Do not let it boil, or the nog will curdle.

Stir in the rum, heavy cream and nutmeg and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

We Wish You Wassail
With wassail, it’s a matter of what came first: the drink or the gesture. “Wassail” means “to greet someone,” so when a group comes “wassailing,” hand them a fragrant concoction of cider, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. You may, of course, opt to add your favorite alcoholic beverage.

1 gallon apple cider
2 cups orange juice
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 orange sliced

Mix juices, sugar and seasonings together. Slowly bring to a boil in large saucepan. Boil 1 minute. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve hot. If serving from a punch bowl, float sliced oranges in wassail.

Michael & Kelly’s Cranberry Crackle (nonalcoholic)
There’s something about fruit that thrives in boggy places that’s so irresistible. With cranberries, you’re getting an antioxidant benefit in your punch, as well as a cup of deliciousness. Feel free to use any variety of cranberry juice. It’s all good.

1 bottle cranberry juice
2 (2 liter) bottles ginger ale
1/2 quart sherbet (your choice of raspberry, pineapple, orange or lime)

Mix cranberry juice and ginger ale in punch bowl. Add 1/2 the sherbet to punch bowl center and allow it to melt slightly. Enjoy!

Paula’s Fizzy Pom Punch (nonalcoholic)
Party goers love the fresh taste of pomegranate juice, and the juice is loaded with antioxidants. Perfect for providing hip taste options to those who prefer not to drink alcohol or for midday office parties where employees need to return to work. Serve with a fan-shaped orange cross-section.

1 bottle pomegranate juice (16 oz.)
1 cup nonalcoholic triple sec
2 bottles (750 ml. each) nonalcoholic champagne, sparkling cider or sparkling water
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Mix pomegranate juice, lemon juice and nonalcoholic triple sec in punch bowl. Add nonalcoholic champagne, sparkling cider or sparkling water. That’s it!

Josh’s Jolly Jello Shots
A work of art, these jolly holiday trees take jello shots from lime to sublime. We’re inspired!

1 (3 oz.) box lime jello
1/2 package plain Knox gelatin (one teaspoon)
1/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup vodka (use a flavored one, if preferred)*
miniature Christmas trees-shaped silicone mold
star confetti (little candy stars, found in supermarket baking section)
assembly gelatin (1/2 cup water and 1/2 envelope gelatin)
coconut

*to make trees stronger, you can use one cup of vodka and no cold water

Lightly spray molds with cooking spray. Blot with clean paper towel, leaving just enough residue to help loosen trees later. Set mold on a cookie sheet.
Pour 1 cup of water into small saucepan. Sprinkle with 1/2 envelope of plain gelatin, and allow to soak for a minute or two. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved (about 5 minutes). Add lime gelatin and stir until dissolved. Stir in 1/4 cup cold water, and then the vodka.

Pour in molds and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

For garnishing trees: For garnish, we used coconut (for snow) and the little candy stars.

An hour or two before serving, prepare the assembly gelatin by pouring the water in a saucepan and sprinkling with the 1/2 envelope of gelatin. Allow to soak for a minute or two. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until dissolved. Allow gelatin to cool to room temperature. Using a fork or tweezers, dip stars in assembly gelatin and onto tops of trees. Sprinkle with coconut and return the trees to the refrigerator for about an hour before serving.

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*If you noticed that there’s only 11 drinks, it’s time to even things out. Pour yourself a happy glass. There, now it’s twelve. :-)