Can I make a confession?

I can’t stand eggnog.

Through the years, I’ve had friends assure me that my distaste for this beloved holiday beverage stems from simply not trying the right kind of eggnog. Friends, let me tell you: I’ve tried them all, and it is just not for me.

Because of this peculiar aversion of mine, I’ve spent some time collecting festive drink recipes of the non-eggnog-variety to serve to family and friends through the holiday season.

This year, however, I am upping the challenge for myself. We’ve recently doubled-down on our emphasis on simplicity, and that has included paring down our kitchen gadgets. Because both my husband and I love to tinker in the kitchen, we have an unfortunate tendency to accumulate too much stuff in there.

I’ve been on the lookout for drink recipes that don’t involve special shakers or strainers or jiggers or tongs. I also want to keep my trips to the store streamlined, so the recipes I’m relying on can’t require a scavenger hunt through specialty stores. Ingredients easily available in local stores that will keep well in the pantry are de rigueur, and these five sound so fantastic, I couldn’t resist sharing them with you as we move into all the holly and the jolly of the weeks ahead!

Photo by epicantus

Simple punch for a crowd

Inspired by Martha’s warm cider and rum punch, this couldn’t be easier! For a nice, inexpensive dark rum, check out Whaler’s Original Dark Rum (but good old Captain Morgan’s Black will work just fine, too).

8 cups apple cider
1 Honeycrisp apple, sliced thinly
1 orange, sliced thinly
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cups dark rum

Bring cider, apple slices, orange slices, and cinnamon sticks to a boil. Reduce to simmer and allow to cook for 5 minutes. Cool slightly, pour into punch bowl, add rum, and serve warm!

Simple non-alcoholic punch

Another way to make use of the copious amounts of apple cider this time of year, this sweet, fruity punch is perfect for keeping things cool for a holiday gathering.

1/2 gallon apple cider
1 bottle sparkling apple cider
1 quart white grape juice
8 oz. orange juice
8 tsp. star anise
2 Golden Delicious apples, sliced thinly

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl. Serve over ice with extra slices of apple for garnish if desired.

Simple drinks for a small gathering

Serving mugs of mulled wine at a small holiday dinner is a cozy way to celebrate the season. For the bottle of red, there’s no need to spend more than $10-$15. A merlot (Bogle’s is nice!), a petite syrah, or even a Malbec will do the job.

1 750 ml bottle of red wine
1 orange, peeled and sliced (or a few Clementines which is what we always have in the fridge!)
2/3 c. honey
1/4 c. brandy
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves (or more to taste)
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

Combine all ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. Cook until wine is steaming. Ladle into mugs (leaving seasonings in the pot), and serve warm to happy guests!

Simple elixir for the sick

What a bummer it is that we sometimes bring home more than holiday cheer from gatherings this time of year. A traditional throat soother that is especially comforting the winter months is a hot toddy. Both Jack Daniel’s and Maker’s Mark are easy-to-find whiskeys to keep on hand. This can be made without tea as well depending on what you have on hand.

1 T. honey
2 oz. whiskey
1 T. lemon juice
6 oz. near-boiling water
1 tea bag
Coat the bottom of a mug with honey. Add whiskey and lemon juice. Separately, combine hot water and tea and allow to steep. Cool slightly then add to mug. (If not using tea, just add hot water and sip carefully!)

Simple host/hostess gift

While this is technically not a recipe, a few bottles of wine are great to keep on hand for last-minute hostess gifts. We’ve fallen in love with red and red wine blends from Australia, particularly a Shiraz named Raw Power. This or any wine in the $15 range with a cheeky name would be a fun wink to a hostess in the midst of holiday madness. Wrap the bottle in kraft paper and tie it off with raffia or twine and you are all set to delight!

I hope these low-effort, high-enjoyment recipes will be a helpful resource as we move into the winter months. Here’s to happier holidays for all!