Holiday Cocktail Conundrum

The holiday season is full of challenges, from finding the perfect presents to making small talk with distant relatives. You’re on your own when it comes to those, but one dilemma we can help you with is finding the ideal beverage to serve with your favorite dishes.

While there are a number of traditional drinks, “people get stuck on the sweeter holiday cocktails,” says celebrity chef and mixologist Kathy Casey, author of Sips & Apps.

The good news, according to Casey, is that the rules for pairing holiday foods and drinks are pretty flexible. But there are some general guidelines to follow. Before dinner it’s best to serve drier libations that will stimulate the appetite, including Martinis, Manhattans and champagne. Pair them with savory and salty snacks. (One of the most popular recipes in her book is for bacon, blue cheese and pecan cocktail cookies.)

It gets a little tricky with the main course. Generally, cocktails should have complimentary or contrasting flavors with the dish. For instance, a sweeter cocktail works well with honey-glazed chicken and also with a spice-rubbed steak. One trick Casey uses is to take an accent, whether it’s an herb, spice or vegetable, from the food and use it again in the cocktail. Vodka and gin are relatively easy to match with food. Brown spirits work particularly well with red meat, cheese and savory fish dishes and tequila is great with smoky foods.

After dinner it’s best to serve sweet with sweet, so pull out your dusty collection of liqueurs and small cordial glasses. (It’s also a good time to consult our guide to cleaning out liquor cabinet. ) “It’s a great way to get rid of your liqueurs and to enjoy them,” says Casey.


Bacon, Blue Cheese & Pecan Cocktail Cookies

Contributed by: Kathy Casey from Sips & Apps


  • .75 cup Pecans
  • 4 Minced bacon strips (about half a cup)
  • Salted butter
  • 1 cup Crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Minced fresh thyme (or .25 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • .5 teaspoon Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup All-purpose flour


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 5 to 6 minutes. Let cool and then coarsely chop.

In a medium skillet or sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat, sauté the bacon until crispy, about 5 minutes. Do not scorch the bacon. Drain the drippings into a heat-proof measuring cup and reserve the bacon separately. Let cool. To the cooled drippings, add butter as needed to make half a cup total.

With an electric mixer, cream the cheese, thyme and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Add the butter mixture and stir. Add the flour and mix the dough for about 2 minutes. Add the bacon and nuts and mix until just evenly combined. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes to chill. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 20 minutes before baking.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or leave them ungreased. Scoop up the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls and shape into 1-inch-diameter balls (you should get 36 to 40). Place the balls, spaced 2 inches apart, on the baking sheets. With a fork, flatten to 1.5-inch-diameter rounds, dipping the tines into flour as needed, and making crisscross patterns as you would on peanut butter cookies. Bake until lightly golden at the edges, about 14 to 16 minutes. Cool on the pan. The recipe makes about 36 to 40 cookies.


Dubious Manhattan

Contributed by: Kathy Casey from Sips & Apps


  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • .5 oz Dubonnet Rouge
  • .5 oz Sweet red vermouth
  • Dash Peach bitters
  • Garnish: 3 Drunken plumped cherries*
  • Glass: Martini


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Measure in the bourbon, Dubonnet and vermouth. Add the bitters. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain into a Martini glass. Spear the cherries on a pick and drop in.


Drunken Plumped Cherries*


  • .5 cup Dried sweet cherries
  • .5 cup Dubonnet Rouge
  • .25 cup Sugar
  • .25 cup Hot water


Put cherries, Dubonnet and sugar in a small bowl. Pour the hot water over the cherries and stir well. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours before using. Covered and refrigerated the cherries will last for up to 2 months. The recipe makes 1 cup.

Books: Sips & Apps
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  1 Comment.


  • Terry B. posted 8 years ago

    Good Lord,here we go again!!USE MORE BOOZE ALREADY.What's the secret?I give,do you know? Fruity,frothy,smooth,hard,mellow? Just put the stuff over plain ice,already!Get the most out of a good cocktail,already.That's the secret,already.

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