Festive French Christmas Cocktails to Dazzle and Delight

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Any time I am tasked with preparing an elaborate holiday feast, there’s always a moment somewhere in between my third grocery run and trashing my final attempt at a pie crust when I remember I’ve forgotten to sort out the beverage situation. Sure, I’ve told everyone who asked what they can bring that wine is never unwelcome. But there’s just something about a festive cocktail (or mocktail) that makes me feel less like I’m playing house, and more like I’m a real adult who owns coupe glasses and won’t shut up about it.

Rosemary Ginger Bubbly

Ginger is both a crucial ingredient in the holiday spice palate and a natural digestive aid, so using a shot of ginger liqueur in this recipe (or a fresh ginger shot in a pinch) provides a kick of flavor, and pairs well with a heavy holiday meal.

Ingredients:

1 oz Joseph Cartron Gingembre liqueur (or fresh ginger juice)

1 oz Lemon juice

4 oz Champagne, crémant, or sparkling wine

Rosemary

Add the ginger liqueur and lemon juice to a coupe or flute and top with a sparkling wine like Veuve du Vernay Brut. Take a sprig of rosemary and smack it against the palm of your hand a few times to release its aromas before adding it to the cocktail. (This is best done when your aunt is asking why you don’t have a boyfriend.) Replace the bubbly with a non-alcoholic sparkling wine and the ginger liqueur with fresh ginger juice to make this a mocktail.

Cranberry Mimosa

This beverage is really halfway between a Cosmopolitan and a Mimosa, so it is obviously best served alongside hot goss and a cheese plate. (Bonus points for a gooey, dippable baked brie.)

Ingredients:

1 oz Cranberry juice

0.5 oz Orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier

4 oz Champagne, crémant, or sparkling wine

Add cranberry juice and orange liqueur to a champagne flute or coupe, then top with chilled champagne or crémant. You can make a mocktail version of this drink using a non-alcoholic sparkling wine, like Veuve du Vernay Alcohol Free. Instead of orange liqueur, fill a container with sliced oranges (or clementines or mandarins) and soak overnight in cranberry juice. Add 1.5 oz of the orange-infused cranberry juice to 4 oz of NA sparkling wine. (You can even use the soaked oranges as a garnish.)

Gentian Spritzer

When there are three different pies or cakes or cookies to choose from after Christmas dinner, the last thing you want is an overly sweet cocktail. To cut the sugar, a gentian spritzer might be in order. Gentian is a bitter plant with a grassy, botanical flavor profile, long loved by the French for its use in bitter apéritifs, like Salers. This cocktail calls for a mixture of gin, Salers, crémant, and lemon juice, which fuse to form a complex botanical drink.

Ingredients:

1 oz Gin

3 oz Salers

1 oz Lemon juice

1 oz Champagne, crémant, or sparkling wine

1 oz Club soda

Shake gin, Salers, and lemon juice with ice, then strain into a cocktail glass and top with crémant and club soda.

Negroni. Sbagliato… with Champagne in it.

A classic Negroni Sbagliato calls for Prosecco, Campari, and sweet vermouth. This rendition calls for crémant (or champagne if you have it), a French bitter liqueur, and French vermouth. Bigallet makes a cult favorite bitter liqueur called China China Amer, and for vermouth, the obvious choice is Dolin sweet vermouth. (You can make a low-alc twist on this by using Ghia non-alcoholic apéritif in lieu of Campari or China China.)

Ingredients:

1 oz China China Amer

1 oz Dolin sweet vermouth

1 oz Champagne, crémant, or sparkling wine

Orange twist

Stir China China and Dolin vermouth with ice. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube. Top with bubbly, and garnish with an orange twist.

Vin Chaud

Mulled wine, glühwein, grog… this drink goes by many names. But the French version, vin chaud, tastes like wandering the Christmas market on the Champs-Élysées in years of yore. It’s best served with a canelé and a long walk to admire the neighbors’ Christmas decorations, and can be turbocharged with a shot of cognac, armagnac, or brandy. This recipe makes 5 glasses.

Ingredients:

1 Bottle of fruity red wine (Such as Merlot, Gamay, Grenache, or Pinot noir)

2 Cardamom pods

4 Cinnamon sticks

4 Cloves

2 Star anise pods

½ Inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced

¼ Cup brown sugar

1 Orange

Peel orange and add the peels to a saucepan with the other ingredients. Heat the mixture on low (make sure that it doesn’t boil!), stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to steep for an additional five minutes before straining out the solid ingredients. Serve warm.

Catherine Rickman is a writer, professional francophile, and host of the Expat Horror Stories podcast. She is currently somewhere in Brooklyn with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman, or on TikTok @catinthekitchen.

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