A Round of Applause for the Joy-Givers: Holiday cocktails and mocktails


HOORAY FOR THE JOY-GIVERS! We always need more smiles, music and laughter. This fun series salutes those seriously unsolemn people, places and things that bring joy to the world. Starting during the pandemic, an oft joy-challenged time, readers are introduced to present-day joy-givers and reminded of cherished joy-givers of the past. Each salute will have online links to add more opportunities for happiness in the comfort of your socially-distanced home. Many installments of the series will include a salutary food or drink recipe to add another element of pleasure.

The “SHIELD THE JOYOUS” shields, which will be given to those honored or to their family, are inspired from a passage in “The Book of Common Prayer” (1662). Prayers are lifted to “tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying…and shield the joyous.” Joy-givers are precious. Let us preserve them, protect them, treasure them, smile with them, laugh with them, tap our toes with them and give them A ROUND OF APPLAUSE.


Here are seven, joy to your world, Christmassy cocktails (some with no-alcohol mocktail versions) for you to savor a new taste each day for an entire week this holiday:


“Sack” is the Olde English word for dry sherry, a key ingredient in this cocktail. SANTA’S SACK also salutes Wendy Sack, our gifted and joy-giving editor at The Cullman Tribune, with her favorite winter chaser (besides Brad Pitt) cranberry juice. Epicurious.com calls this holiday classic a “Cranberry Cobbler” but we call it delish…SANTA’S SACK.

Ingredients:  ¾ cup sugar, 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, 1 lemon (cut in wedges), ½ orange sliced into thin rounds, 1 ½ cups dry gin (Amy Winehouse’s Tanqueray, anyone?), ½ cup and a wee bit more Sack (dry Sherry) and 6 sprigs of evergreen garnish

Preparation: Bring sugar and ¾ cups water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan; stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Pour off all but 1 cup simple syrup; refrigerate the remaining syrup for another yuletide pleasure. Heat syrup in pan almost to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Add cranberries and simmer until they just begin to burst (Alabama readers: this means “bust open.”), 2-3 minutes. Let cool in syrup.

Place 2 tbsp. drained cranberries and 6 tbsp. cranberry syrup in a large pitcher. Add lemon wedges and orange slices. Using a muddler (which sounds like a Batman villain) or wooden spoon, mash the fruit. Stir in gin and Sack (dry Sherry). Steep for 5 minutes. Strain into a medium pitcher. Fill 3 glasses with crushed ice. Pour half of mixture into a cocktail (or mocktail) shaker. Fill with ice; shake like a bowl full of jelly for 10 seconds. Strain into the iced glasses, then mound with more ice. Garnish each glass with an evergreen sprig and 3 cranberries. Repeat to make 3 more cocktails.

To make a SANTA’S SACK Mocktail: Skip the gin and sherry and add ¼ cup tonic or spicy ginger ale like Alabama’s Buffalo Rock.



Smirnoff Vodka created the popular, bray-worthy Moscow Mule in the 1940s and we give it bit of Bethlehem panache and Christmas crimson color with a jigger of pomegranate juice.

Ingredients: 1.5 oz. Smirnoff Vodka, 4 oz. ginger beer (Buffalo Rock) 3 lime wedges

Preparation: Combine chilled vodka, chilled ginger beer and a jigger of pomegranate juice and squeeze 2 lime wedges into a copper mug. Stir to combine and garnish with lime wedge.

To make a YULE MULE Mocktail: Skip the vodka (the best vodka isn’t supposed to have a taste anyway, so enjoy a good laugh the next time you hear some show-off insist on Grey Goose or Absolut).



The calming color, BLUE, has been my favorite during this all-is-not-calm, all-is-not bright year (check out my blue paintings at www.BendigoArt.com).  But, I only want Ty-D-Bol Blue Curacao cocktails in the summer or maybe on Christmas Island. However, Fats Domino and I would both find a thrill with this Spicy Blueberry Feliz Navidad Margarita.

Ingredients: ¼ cup fresh or frozen blueberries and a few more for garnish, 4 tsp. sugar, 4 thin slices of jalapeno chile, plus more to kebab with blueberries for garnish, ice, 6 oz. of tequila, 2 oz. orange liqueur, 2 oz. fresh lime juice

Preparation: Divide the ¼ cup blueberries, sugar and 4 jalapeno slices among 4 glasses. Muddle blueberries, fill glasses with ice. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake Tequila for about 10 seconds with the liqueur and lime juice. Strain into iced glasses, stir and garnish. Makes 4.



(Note to friends: THIS is the cocktail I most want to try this holiday, okay, SBG?) I found it at www.imbibemagazine.com the ultimate in “liquid culture” and they got it from Miracle in NYC. It’s caffeinated, liquored up fun and the “perfect trifecta of holiday flavors.”

Ingredients: 1 ½ oz. tequila, ½ oz. coffee liqueur, 6 oz. COLD hot chocolate (for which they offer an elaborate recipe, but we could just use Bosco and more tequila)

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled highball glass and stir to mix; squirt whipped cream on top and sprinkle with cinnamon-cocoa dust (there’s also a recipe for that at Imbibe or we can improvise).



Warm beer has been a yuletide tradition across Europe since the 17th century. I adapted this recipe from ChilledMagazine.com and used Goat Island Thrill Hill Porter, which is a decadent beer with a pleasant, vanilla aroma and a mix of holiday tastes like caramel, chocolate and coffee. This dark but surprisingly light-tasting beer is available only in the wintertime. www.GoatIslandBrewery.com

Ingredients: 3 tbsp. honey, 2 cinnamon sticks, ¼ tsp nutmeg, 6 whole cloves, ¼ tsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp. brandy, 24 oz. dark beer/ale

Preparation: Pour beer in a saucepan over low heat. Add the brown sugar, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks and honey. Turn the heat up slightly to medium and keep stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Stir in the brandy, then turn off the heat. Cover the saucepan but don’t remove from the stove. After a few minutes of steeping, your Mulled Holiday Cheer Beer is ready for sipping. Ladle into mugs and garnish with a cinnamon stick.



I’m a professional pie judge (my favorite job, ever) at various county fairs. The dreamy mix of bourbon, pecans and chocolate that is Derby Pie is one of the all-time blue-ribbon winners. This recipe, which is like Derby Pie-in-a-glass, was adapted from “The Drink Blog” and would be great for brunch, bedtime or anytime in between. It’s bourbon-thirty somewhere.

Ingredients: 2 oz. pecan-infused bourbon, ¼ oz. maple syrup, ¾ oz. dark Crème de Cacao, chocolate bitters. Glass type: Old-Fashioned

Preparation: Make your pecan-infused bourbon (it’s not hard and plenty of quick recipes online). Add the maple syrup, dark Crème de Cacao and bitters into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake. Let it rest. Put a big ice cube or a few small ones in an Old-Fashioned glass. Strain as you pour over it. YUMMM! PIE OH MY!



These little darlings are sweet conversation starters in shot glasses. Perfect to have a masked-up butler pass on a tray at your 2020 socially-distanced holiday party.

Ingredients: 2 parts Butterscotch Schnapps to 1 part Irish Cream, whipped cream and fresh raspberries for garnish

Preparation: Add ice, Butterscotch Schnapps and Irish Cream to shaker. Shake well. Strain mix into shot glass, top with squirt of whipped cream and a raspberry nipple


Please give “A Round Of Applause” to all the joy-giving cocktail and mocktail mixologists whose gifts of creativity are shared in this delightful array of holiday thirst-slakers. CHEERS Y’ALL! MERRY CHRISTMAS!


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Ben South