I come from a family that loves a good cocktail. For us, cocktail hour is a near-sacred time and we have specific cocktails to mark every special occasion, from Christmas morning to Tuesday night. These cocktail recipes have never let me down. Some of them have been passed down through generations of my family, others are newer introductions to my cocktail repertoire, but all of them are delicious and worth trying if you’re into that sort of thing.
A favorite of Stanley Tucci, the Negroni is a flavorful drink that’s recently become popular amongst the mixology crowd. Negronis can be a little tricky. I’ve had really good Negronis and really not-so-good ones. This recipe was taught to my father by an Italian bartender in London and it’s quickly become a family favorite. It’s a surefire way to have one of the good ones. To make this cocktail:
- Add 1 shot of gin to a glass
- Pour in 1 shot of Campari
- Top it off with 1 shot of red vermouth (preferably Antica Formula)
Add ice cubes while stirring and garnish with an orange peel at the end. The result is a perfect Negroni.
Uncle Eric’s Vesper
Now doesn’t that just look like what your whole life has been missing? This is my Uncle Eric’s Vesper, based off of the famous James Bond cocktail but with a bit of a twist. The cocktail is made with:
- 3 parts London Dry Gin (Bombay Sapphire if you have it), because the London Dry Gin has a stronger Juniper flavor.
- 1 part vodka (we use Ketel One because we are Ketel One people)
- 1 part White Lilet
- ½ part fresh lemon juice
- zest for garnish, as pictured
To make this decadent drink all you have to do is put all of the ingredients into a shaker with ice, and shake it for quite some time until the mixture is really really cold. Then strain into a martini glass, garnish with zest, and enjoy.
What better drink to celebrate the sun finally coming out than a nice cold margarita? Here’s how to make my mom’s classic margarita:
- Juice of 3 lemons and 3 limes.
- 2 ounces Simple syrup (chilled).
- 2-4 ounces good-quality tequila.
- 2 ounces Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
This recipe can be served blended or just on the rocks. Rim glass with lemon juice and add salt, if desired. It makes two large margaritas.
Lynne’s Kahlua Coffee
My aunt Lynne doesn’t really drink, so when my parents would be up in Tahoe having cocktails, my dad would make her a Kahlua coffee for a more low key beverage option. It’s warm, it’s not super boozy, and it tastes great. What more could you want in a drink? All you need for this one is:
- 1 ounce of Kahlua
Add the Kahlua to the mug and fill it with coffee. Add milk or cream if you like. I highly recommend topping with whipped cream. Short, sweet, and simple.
The Christmas Morning Gin Fizz
This cocktail recipe has been in my family for as long as I’ve been around, and likely much, much longer. We have these drinks exactly once a year, every year, on Christmas morning. And one special extra time this year as “research” for this article. To make a Gin Fizz, also known as a Ramos Fizz:
- Fill a blender halfway with ice
- Pour in enough half & half to just barely cover the ice
- Put one whole egg into the blender
- Add 2 tablespoons of sugar
- Pour in 2-3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
- Add 6-8 shots of gin, depending on how badly Christmas Eve went
- The blender will be pretty much full at this point, so make sure you put on the lid
- Blend on the highest setting until the mixture gets nice and frothy
- pour into glasses
- put a couple of dashes of angostura bitters in each glass
- grate fresh nutmeg on top
If your glasses are the same size as ours, this makes about 5 or 6 servings. Gin Fizzes have a super unique flavor. The finished product is light, lemony, frothy, and it tastes like Christmas morning. I can almost hear the wrapping paper crinkling and the bickering in the kitchen just thinking about it.
My stepfather spent years trying to get me to try a mudslide, and I always said no because it sounded too sugary for me. He passed away recently, and in a moment of missing him, I decided to go down to the bar we always went to and I ordered a mudslide in his honor (To-go of course because social distancing is a thing). This drink is both utterly decadent and very comforting. To make it you’ll need:
- 1-ounce vodka
- 1-ounce coffee liqueur (I use Kahlua)
- 1 ounce Baileys Irish Cream
- 1 1/2 ounces heavy cream (you can also use milk for a lighter option, and I actually prefer it that way)
Shake all of the ingredients until very cold. Serve on the rocks.
Lizzie’s Caramelized Ginger Martini
My mom invented this drink totally on accident when she was trying to make crystallized ginger and accidentally overdid it a little bit and would up with caramelized ginger. She didn’t know what to do with it, so when in doubt add vodka. She ended up with a very yummy and luxurious tasting new martini that’s a total crowd-pleaser. To make it:
- Cook fresh ginger, sugar, and water in a saucepan until caramelized
- Put one small piece of the ginger (to taste) into the shaker with vodka and ice.
- Shake. Put in the freezer for about 10 minutes or overnight to make it super cold.
- Shake one more time
- Strain into a glass and serve with lemon or orange peel garnish
With any luck, these fantastic family cocktail recipes will help you kick off the weekend right, even though all the bars are closed.