Holiday Cocktails and Chocolates

>> Friday, December 13, 2013

Spiked Egg Nog, Cinnamon Toast Hot Toddy, Cranberry-Pomegranate Cosmos, and Carrot Cake Cocktail - 'tis the season to be merry! These cocktails are fun for a party, or sipping while you're wrapping presents, assembling kids' toys, or playing a holiday game. Warms you all over.

Talea's Spiked Egg Nog

One of our family Christmas traditions is to set out a smorgasbord of meats, cheeses, olives, dips, pate, fruits, and a pitcher of egg nog while we slowly decorate the Christmas tree. Trimming the tree takes quite a while, because so many of the ornaments have a memory or some special significance that we talk about before placing them one-by-one on the tree. Our Christmas tree is really a family record.

In the end, Jessie puts the star on top of the tree and lights it. Jenn sets up the manger scene with all the animals and kings in different positions each year, and then the cats crouch under the tree, knocking over baby Jesus and pretending they live in a forest.

Egg nog is essential to the tradition, but it's never been spiked until the girls were old enough to indulge. My friend Talea's hard eggnog is superb, but she likes it strong - drink it slowly and savor every bit.

Talea's Spiked Egg Nog


64 oz. egg nog
1 cup Frangelico liqueur
1 cup dark rum
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
1/2 cup Malibu rum
1 tbsp freshly grated nutmeg
3 tbsp orange zest
2 tsp cinnamon

Stir together all ingredients, and keep chilled between servings.

Serves a crowd!

The Walnut Room's Cinnamon Toast Hot Cocktail

Generations of Chicagoans have traveled to the Walnut Room in Chicago's downtown Marshall Field's shopping emporium for Christmas gifts and a very special meal. Even though Macy's took over the Marshall Field's property some years ago, if you go down to State Street and Randolph today you'll still find the luxurious service, Frango mints, and the stunning two-story Christmas tree in the walnut-paneled dining room.

Macy's Walnut Room Restaurant

I'm a relative newcomer to the Walnut Room; my first trip there I was interested in the handsome and elusive Joseph Duea who eventually asked me to marry him a few blocks away at the Art Institute. That year, the first Harry Potter book had blasted away all sales records, Marshall Fields' was still Marshall Fields', and the Walnut Room tree was decorated with hundreds of snowy owls from the novel.

This year I went for lunch with a few of my friends, and the menu has retained some classics while updating for today's tastes. The restaurant still serves a dish called "Mrs. Hering's 1890 chicken pot pie". It also offers "Field's special salad" which is similar to a club sandwich in a bowl, and is all that my friend Robin really remembers from holiday trips downtown with her Grandma.

Macy's (Marshall Field's), downtown Chicago

I'm guessing a more recent touch is the "fairy princesses" who travel the dining room offering you sparkling magic dust to help you when you close your eyes and make a wish. Their satin tip bags, with dollars dangling suggestively from the openings, were the only tacky touch of the entire experience, and I assure you my tack-o-meter has been finely honed over time.

Still, we all made our quiet wishes. My friends and I spent the rest of the day distracted by the glitter on our noses and eyelids, rather joyful from warming up with a signature cocktail they called "Cinnamon Toast".


48 ounces apple cider
2 cups Amaretto
1 cup whipped cream
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp sugar
4 cinnamon sticks, to garnish

Heat the cider until near boiling, then stir in the amaretto.

Stir together the cinnamon and sugar on a plate. Wet the rim of a large mug, then swirl the rim in the cinnamon mixture. Pour the cider mixture into the mug, stir in the whipped cream, then garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Makes 4 cocktails.

Cranberry-Pomegranate Cosmopolitans

Cranberry-Pomegranate Cosmopolitan

Last Christmas I held a candy-making party at my home, and served these delectable cosmos while we made chocolate truffles, chocolate-covered pretzel rods, and salted caramel dreamboats.

Dreamy Chocolate Truffles

These cocktails go down easy - very easy. Joe made a second pitcher and left it cooling on the balcony before going to another holiday party. Around eleven, our platters of homemade candies were full and both pitchers were empty. Our bellies hurt from laughing together. What a jolly, funny, loving group of friends I have!

Chocolate Candy Party

Cranberry-Pomegranate Cosmo recipe

Carrot Cake Cocktail

Carrot Cake Cocktail

At the very end of 1999, I had been working feverishly as a business systems analyst at a corporation that was redesigning its financial systems, in part to solve those Year 2000 problems. New Years Eve came, and I was part of the calm group of people who knew how little we had to worry about a global computer shutdown and a resulting apocalypse, because I knew how much rework had been done.

Remember when that was the crisis of the year?

Y2K Tabloid predicting armageddon

My parents came to celebrate New Year's Eve with us, straight after a visit with my grandma in Minnesota. They brought a recipe from Grandma Tarr for a 'carrot cake cocktail'.

All day long, my mom tantalized me by saying how delicious it was and how I was going to love it, but every time I suggested she make it, she insisted that she would only make us one and it would be at midnight, and then she was going straight to bed.

This is the exact opposite of the way I'd plan a cocktail party for New Year's Eve, but if you know my mom, you know that she's always the boss.

Midnight arrived, we sipped this lusciously rich drink, then bundled up the girls, and my friend Michael and I took them outside to light off fireworks and sparklers in the snow. Mom went right to sleep, since midnight is about four hours past her bedtime.

This drink is really a liquid dessert, and it's just the sort of thing you might want in your hand if you think the world is going to end in a few minutes.


1/2 cup Irish cream
1/2 cup cinnamon schnapps
1/2 cup butterscotch schnapps
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Shake together the liqueurs, then pour into 4 small glasses. Garnish with ground cinnamon before serving.

Makes 4 3-oz cocktails.


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