The Best of CaliGirl Cooking: Top 15 Cocktails and Mocktails

TGIF!

Caribou | CaliGirlCooking.com

Boy, what a week it has been. We’re still seeking refuge from the SoCal smoke up north, at least for a few more days, and I’m writing this at the eleventh hour so I’m going to keep things short, but I couldn’t let you kick off the second to last weekend before Christmas without the promised roundup of CGC’s Top 15 Cocktails and Mocktails!

So, without further ado….

A Festive Cranberry Clementine Martini is the perfect easy cocktail to whip up all through the month of December!

1. FESTIVE CRANBERRY CLEMENTINE MARTINI
2. CARIBOU
3. WINTER SPICED VANILLA EGGNOG

Cranberry Ginger Mule | CaliGirlCooking.com

4. CRANBERRY GINGER MULE
5. SPARKLING CITRUS VANILLA PUNCH
6. SPARKLING POMEGRANATE PARTY PUNCH

Sparkling Pomegranate Party Punch | CaliGirlCooking.com

7. ALMOND MILK EGGNOG HOT CHOCOLATE
8. PEAR, POMEGRANATE AND BOURBON PUNCH
9. SPIKED PEAR CIDER

A mug of Spiked Pear Cider is the perfect hot toddy for the holidays.

10. APPLE CINNAMON “FAUX-MOSA”
11. BOILO (A TWIST ON THE HOT TODDY)
12. FROM-SCRATCH SLOW COOKER SPICED APPLE CIDER
13. WARMING GINGER TEA WHISKEY COCKTAIL
14. BOOZY SPICED HOT APPLE CIDER

Citrus Vanilla Sparkler | CaliGirlCooking.com

15. CITRUS VANILLA SPARKLER

Okay, now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite holiday cocktails and mocktails! Leave ’em in the comments below!

Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch

Because every holiday season needs a delicious punch recipe!

This Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch is the perfect batch drink to serve a crowd!

I mean, am I right? We are, after all, in the season of entertaining, and nobody wants to spend their entire dinner party mixing up individual cocktails for every single guest. Nope, you need a delicious batch cocktail recipe that is festive, features some of the best flavors of the season and is super easy to throw together. Well, my friends, I’m here to tell you that this Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch is the answer!

If you know me, you know that I’m a hard-core sparkling wine lover. In fact, if I had to choose just one type of alcoholic beverage to enjoy for the rest of my life, it would be bubbles. There are so many different varieties, from dry to sweet, pink to star-bright, incredibly effervescent to just a light spritz. I love them all (enjoyed in the appropriate time and place) and ESPECIALLY enjoy them at this festive time of year. Doesn’t everyone?

Which is exactly why I decided to use sparkling wine as the base for this uber-tasty Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch. It lends the perfect celebratory touch to the other flavors of orange, lemon and vanilla, and has the added bonus of not being sooo high octane that your party guests will have one glass and end up needing to call a cab home. It’s the perfect drink for a crowd and comes together with no fancy bar tools or ingredients. My kind of holiday cocktail!

A pitcher of this Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch is the perfect drink to serve at your holiday get-together.

As far as what type of sparkling wine to use, feel free to use your own creative license here based on your personal tastes. I opted for a medium-quality dry cava (Segura Viudas to be exact) because that just happens to be our “house” sparkling wine. (Yes, we have one. Hey, my husband’s in the liquor industry!) I also don’t like my drinks too sweet, but if you’re entertaining a more sweet wine-loving crowd, by all means go for something with a little residual sugar to it.

You’ll just need a few more ingredients besides the sparkling wine to make this Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch a tasty reality at your holiday get-together:

Fresh orange and lemon juice, both of which should be incredibly easy to obtain, especially at this time of year.
Grand Marnier to add a little extra kick.
Simple syrup (which you can easily buy if you’re too lazy to make.)
And last, but not least, some vanilla extract!

See, I told you it was easy 😉

A glass of this Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch is the perfect, easy cocktail to serve party guests.

You’ll want to make sure your sparkling wine and citrus juices are chilled ahead of time, but when it comes time for your guests to arrive, you’ll literally need less than 5 minutes and a tall pitcher or punch bowl to throw this Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch together. I don’t know about you, but that’s my kind of party recipe! Cheers to a wonderful holiday weekend!

Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch
Prep Time
5 mins
 

A fun, festive punch recipe featuring the best winter flavors including lemon, orange and vanilla. Perfect for your next get-together!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 5 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice, chilled
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, chilled
  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 750mL bottle sparkling wine
  • Orange and lemon wheels, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher or punch bowl. 

  2. Garnish with orange and lemon wheels and enjoy!

Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte (No Sugar Added!)

The ultimate Thanksgiving treat!

A couple of Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Spice Lattes are the perfect treat for the holidays!

Because every pumpkin spice latte deserves a little bourbon in it for a long holiday weekend. Am I right? Seriously, though, I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before. Yes, me, the queen of spiking my coffee with Bailey’s and enjoying hot toddies like my OG favorite, Boilo. It only makes complete sense that we should dress up the annual favorite espresso drink with a little sumpin’ sumpin’, and bourbon sure fits the bill!

Annnnndddd, we’re making this Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte CaliGirl Cooking-friendly by using only REAL pumpkin and spices…none of this super-sweet syrupy stuff you get at your neighborhood chain coffee shop (not gonna name names here.)

A Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte will spice up any holiday get-together!

That’s right, this five-ingredient recipe contains no added sugar, so it can basically be called a health food (save for the bourbon of course, which I suppose you could leave out if you really want to be SUPER healthy, but where’s the fun in that?) So here are those five ingredients we’re looking at:

Espresso
Pumpkin purée
Bourbon
Milk of your choice
Pumpkin pie spice
And, if you’re feeling fancy, a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or cinnamon stick to garnish

Pretty easy, right?

This Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte has been largely responsible for keeping me out of the coffee shops that become so addicting with their “red cups” and special holiday drinks this time of year (well, that and the fact that I have a three week-old on my hands :-P) It’s creamy and delicious, with a wonderful pumpkin spice flavor that won’t leave you with a sugar hangover. Let’s leave that to all the pie and other fancy desserts we’ll be indulging in this weekend.

If you don’t have an espresso machine, feel free to just use a little bit of regular coffee as the caffeine source for said Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte. It won’t be quite as potent, but who needs tons of caffeine on a lazy holiday weekend, anyway?

This Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte has no added sugar and is made with REAL pumpkin!

Speaking of the holiday weekend, what are your plans? We are headed up to NorCal tonight to spend the long weekend with our families, and it will be Raia’s first long car trip. Any tips or tricks on how to make it through a four-hour drive with an almost one-month old? So far our plan is to just take our time and have no expectations about when we’ll get there. Hopefully that relaxed attitude about it all will make the trip a breeze!

We’ll be spending Thanksgiving day with my husband’s family, then heading over to Santa Cruz to see my family on Friday, with a stop to cut down a Christmas tree in between. The hubs and I have been cutting down our own tree every year since we started dating, so we’re very excited to continue the tradition with the newest addition to our family.

Other than that, we plan on doing lots of relaxing, eating and I’m sure watching allll the football, which means we’ll have plenty of time to whip up some tasty Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Spice Lattes while we’re at it. Who else is with me?

A Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte is the perfect treat for fall festivities.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

*Programming Note: I’ll be taking a break from posting on Friday so we can really enjoy the weekend with our family and friends. I’ll be back in action on Monday and can’t wait to tell you all about our trip! Xo

Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte (No Sugar Added!)
Prep Time
10 mins
 

This spiked version of the classic fall espresso drink contains real pumpkin and no added sugar - the perfect balanced treat for the holidays!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 2 drinks
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 espresso shots (or more if you want the extra caffeine!)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 8 ounces milk of your choice (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon or cinnamon stick, to garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine ingredients in a blender and pulse until combined.

  2. Divide mixture into two mugs and microwave until hot, 1 ½ - 2 minutes.

  3. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or cinnamon stick and enjoy immediately!

Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte (No Sugar Added!) | CaliGirlCooking.com

Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Apple Shandy

I hope you’re ready for a cocktail that’s as easy as it is delicious!

This Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Apple Shandy is the most delicious, easy fall cocktail!

This Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Apple Shandy is quite likely the drink of any fall-lover’s dreams. After all, the two ingredients involved include pumpkin and apple, which we all know are the stars of the show for the months of at least September, October, November and maybe even December. And who doesn’t want a crowd-pleasing beverage that can be whipped up at a moment’s notice?

In case you’re not quite familiar with what a shandy is (aka “radler” in German), it’s basically a low-octane cocktail made with a mixture of light lager and some sort of citrus juice. Now, I’m not one to normally want to mix my beer with anything, but when it comes to pumpkin-flavored beer mixed with my favorite apple cider, I can certainly make an exception!

Pumpkin beer and apple cider are the only two ingredients you need for this Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Apple Shandy!

And now that I’m breastfeeding our little one, I’m all about the low-octane drinks. Less alcohol + more liquids equal better hydration, which we all know is really important when you’re feeding for two!

At this time of year there is certainly no shortage of pumpkin beers out there, so feel free to use your favorite. To be honest, I’ve been a little bummed that Trader Joe’s hasn’t had a bigger selection this season, but I’ve still been able to find some of my favorites at stores like BevMo and Gelson’s. Right now the two I really like that I can seem to find fairly easily are Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale and Ballast Point’s Pumpkin Down, so if you see either of those, I highly recommend you give them a try.

As far as the apple cider goes, you can either buy some from the store (preferably with as little added sugar as possible) or make your own using my super-easy recipe for From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider (which you should honestly have on hand at all times during this holiday season anyway.)

This Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Apple Shandy is the perfect low-alcohol cocktail to serve over the holidays.

Aside from the fact that this Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Apple Shandy involves, yes, just TWO ingredients, I also love it because it is sooo easy to make. I mean, you don’t even need to break out the cocktail shaker or jigger! You can totally eyeball the amounts, or just adjust the ratio of pumpkin beer to apple cider however you happen to prefer. I prefer a little more beer to my cider, but if you want more cider to your beer, by all means go ahead!

One final tip when making this delicious drink: Be sure your ingredients are well-chilled before mixing them together. I don’t often like to use ice in beer cocktails because I feel it waters them down too much, so you want to start out with your beer and cider being as cold as possible.

This Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Apple Shandy is the perfect cocktail to serve at any time of day during the holidays.

I hope you enjoy this Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Apple Shandy as much as I have been!

Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Apple Shandy
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This easy cocktail may be low on alcohol but it's certainly high in flavor! Two favorite fall ingredients come together to make one delicious drink.

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 cocktail
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 9 ounces of your favorite pumpkin beer, chilled
  • 6 ounces apple cider, chilled
Instructions
  1. Combine ingredients in a large glass and enjoy!

Midnight Mai Tai

I mean, what better way to celebrate a Friday the 13th in October?

This Midnight Mai Tai features a spooky twist on the classic tiki drink with the addition of activated charcoal.

If you know me, you know I’m not the superstitious type, but when a Friday the 13th also happens to fall within the spookiest month of the year, I feel it’s only appropriate that we celebrate with a dark-as-night Midnight Mai Tai. You feel me?

But before we get to the recipe, I want to take a minute to send out thoughts and prayers to all my dear friends in Napa and Sonoma Counties who have been quite literally living in their own type of apocalypse this past week.

As you may know, I lived in Napa for three years before moving to Santa Barbara, and I can say with confidence that I made the best group of friends and had the strongest sense of community living there than any other city I’ve lived in in my life. It’s a small town with a big reputation, but everyone supports each other and lifts each other up.

While most of my friends are currently safe, I am sad to say that my dear friends from college lost their home in Santa Rosa. They’re estimating that their house burned down only 10 minutes after they were able to get out with what mattered most – themselves and their three little boys.

We also have a good friend who is a firefighter up there, taking on the daunting task of getting these fires under control, and we are praying for his safety and courage every day.

It’s a very sad time for many who I still call my closest friends, and I feel helpless being so far away and somewhat limited in what I can do, seeing as we could be welcoming our baby girl into the world any day now. Nevertheless, we’re finding ways to help, and if you’re interested in doing so as well, please feel free to reach out and I will steer you in the right direction.

A Midnight Mai Tai is the perfect spooky cocktail to kick off the weekend.

With all that being said, I’m sharing this Midnight Mai Tai recipe with the hopes of providing a small bit of fun distraction amongst a barrage of unsettling news. It’s also my hope that, by the time Halloween rolls around, my friends’ worlds will have returned (as much as possible) to normal and they’ll be ready to enjoy a festive cocktail or two.

Activated charcoal has become one of my new favorite ingredients, especially during the month of October when inky black foods are hip and on-trend, for quite some time now. In fact, last October I shared this recipe for a Total Eclipse cocktail, which is still one of my favorites today. I also have a fun dessert to share with you later this month that gets a Halloween-esque hue from the popular new superfood. How fun is that?

So this year for my annual activated charcoal cocktail, I decided to put a spooky spin on the classic Mai Tai. I love a good Mai Tai, and it is certainly my drink of choice whenever I’m in Hawaii or visiting another tropical locale. That being said, I didn’t want to mess with the classic recipe too much.

Midnight Mai Tais use activated charcoal to give them their inky black color, perfect for Halloween!

In this Midnight Mai Tai recipe, you’ll find the requisite rum, orange curacao, lime juice and orgeat, but then you’ll add just a smidge of activated charcoal (which you can easily find on Amazon) to give it that jet-black color that makes it so fun.

So no, this isn’t a complicated recipe, but right now I think it’s just what we need to kick off what will hopefully be a relaxing weekend. We’re hoping to hit up our local Harbor & Seafood Festival and maybe a pumpkin patch to get in the Halloween spirit before baby comes. We’re trying to get in as much quality time as possible before we’re a busy family of three!

Midnight Mai Tais are the perfect cocktail for Halloween!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend as well and, remember, if you’re looking for ways to help those affected by the fires up north in Wine Country, leave me a comment below!

Midnight Mai Tai
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This spooky take on the classic tiki drink uses activated charcoal to achieve a rich, inky black color. The perfect cocktail for Halloween!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 cocktail
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 3/4 ounce orange curacao
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce orgeat
  • 1/4 teaspoon activated charcoal
  • Pineapple wedge and cocktail umbrella, to garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake to combine. 

  2. Strain ingredients into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. 

  3. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and cocktail umbrella and enjoy!

Midnight Mai Tai | CaliGirlCooking.com