COLORADO SPIRITS: Holiday Drinks Are Good For What Wassails Ya


Holiday season is no time for the same old six-pack when there’s a world of boozy presents to unwrap

With Colorado-brewed beer so popular and so easy to find, a refrigerator stocked well with Colorado-made brews around the holiday hardly surprises anyone these days. In fact, seeing a six-pack of New Belgium’s Frambrozen next to a sixer of Breckenridge’s Christmas Ale is about as common as spotting a fruit cake at a holiday party.

If you want to wow the guests with your Colorado-made booze choices, you probably need to snag something harder than beer. And no better way to do that than to mix some of the Mile High State’s best spirits with some well-known holiday classics.

Holiday Rum Punch with Montanya Platino Light Rum

1 bottle Montanya Platino Light Rum
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 gallon of cider
1/2 gallon of orange juice
2 teaspoons ground cloves
Garnish with cherries and orange slices

This one is a particularly boozy holiday classic, and one that gives you the chance to break out that big punch bowl that’s been collecting dust since New Year’s. To make it extra special, mix about a half bottle of Montanya Platino Light Rum with the rest over ice to start. You can always add a bit more rum to your glass while Nana isn’t looking, too. If you have ever been to Crested Butte, the tiny mountain town tucked into the far reaches of Gunnison County doesn’t exactly scream “Rum Country.” But as small, local distillers have proven time and again in recent years, location means a whole lot less than know-how and a commitment to your craft. Montanya’s lighter offering is ideal for this iced punch, but if you want to try the punch hot, you can always reach for its darker compadre, Montanya Oro Dark Rum. And if you want to dial up the booze a few notches, use Colorado’s own Glider Cider in place of a non-alcoholic option.

Egg Nog with Stranahan’s Small Batch Colorado Whiskey

Royal Crest Dairy Egg Nog
Ground nutmeg or cinnamon, to taste

If you go to a holiday party this year, chances are you’re gonna see some egg nog. And if that party is in Colorado, chances are a bottle or two of Stranahan’s will be there, too. The Denver-based distillery has become a staple on the state’s spirits scene, and is often the go-to liquor for anyone looking to keep it local. If you are so inclined, you can do the heavy lifting of separating egg whites from egg yokes and whipping that into a batter mixed with milk. But that seems like overkill for what will likely be the busiest time of the season. Instead, swing by the grocery store and grab a bottle of Royal Crest egg nog, another ubiquitous presence in Colorado this time of year. Mix that with some Stranahan’s to taste and top it off with a few dashes of nutmeg or cinnamon, whichever you prefer. That’s three ingredients right there, which pretty much counts as making this holiday classic from scratch.

Tom and Jerry with Squeal Spiced Black Rum

6 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 bottle Squeal Spiced Black Rum
Nutmeg, to taste

This is the warm holiday cocktail that will let you show off those culinary skills, and the bottle of thick, Colorado-made rum will show off your “keepin’-it-local” bona fides. To start, you need to separate the egg yolks from the whites and beat each in separate bowls. Then, combine the two with the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon and layer it together in a fluffy white mixture. Toss a few dollops in a coffee mug and fill it about three-fourths full with boiling hot water. Then top it off with the rum and a little nutmeg. The batter isn’t for everyone, so go easy on that for first-timers. As for the booze, Denver-made Squeal Spiced Black Rum is a thick black rum heavy on vanilla and oak flavors. That heaviness — plus the fact that it comes in at 90 proof — makes it the perfect mix for a heavy holiday classic like the Tom and Jerry.

Hot Toddy with Leopold Bros. Maryland-Style Rye Whiskey

2 sugar cubes
1 lemon
Leopold Bros. Maryland-Style Rye Whiskey

For some, the Hot Toddy isn’t a holiday specialty but a year-round, go-to cocktail. The sweet, sour and steamy beverage is known to help more than a few folks catch some shut eye, whether it’s December or July. But, as with many warm cocktails, the holiday season and snow-covered grounds seems to make an already-delightful drink even better. To start, drop two sugar cubes in a coffee mug and squeeze every drop you can from that lemon on top. Then fill it about three-fourths full with boiling hot water and top off with some Leopold Bros. Maryland-Style Rye Whiskey. This Colorado-born spirit comes in at 86 proof and has a lightness you don’t typically find in a rye whiskey. It’s a seasonal release, so you might have to do some digging to find a bottle or two, but when you sit by the tree with that steaming Hot Toddy, it will have been well worth the search. 

Hot Cider and Brandy with Pearsnickety cider and CapRock Pear Brandy

2 22-ounce bottles of Pearsnickety Perry cider
1 bottle CapRock Pear Brandy

1 lemon

The recent spike in cider offerings has been a godsend for people who don’t beer and are looking for something a little less boozy. But if you are looking for a lower alcohol content on your holiday offering, this one probably isn’t for you. The mixture of two of Colorado’s best pear-based beverages — Pearsnickety from Denver-based Colorado Cider Company and brandy from the Western Slope’s Jackrabbit Farm near Palisade — is a bit of a different twist on the old hot apple cider classic. If you don’t like pears, reach for one of Colorado Cider’s other offerings, but this one is worth a try even if you are leery of pears. To make it, mix the cider and as much brandy as you’d like in a large saucepan and bring to just below boiling. It’s tough, but you don’t want to let this concoction boil because you might lose some of the alcohol content. Then pour the liquid into a coffee mug and garnish with a lemon wheel.