How the Distilled Spirits in Your Favorite Holiday Cocktails Are Made

Eggnog is Just One of Many Popular Drink Options At The End Of The Year

Photo of Mulled WineIn this In The Mix blog, we take a look at how the distilled spirits are made in your favorite holiday cocktails. ProQuip tank agitators are used in production processes throughout the beverage industry to make both the spirits (e.g. vodka, rum, whiskey) in many of these cocktails as well as other beverages that are used as mixers.

How Distilled Spirits Are Made

Distilled spirits are among the oldest and most diverse alcoholic beverages with variations made around the world. Regardless of their ingredients and sometimes supplemental processes (e.g., aging), all utilize a core distillation process of heating and cooling to separate and concentrate the alcohol from a mixture of water, sugar, and yeast. This process includes the following steps:

  1. Mash Preparation and Cooking: Mash is a mixture of water and a sugar source. The most common sugar sources are grains (whiskey, vodka), fruits (brandy, cognac), and molasses (rum). Cooking the mash releases the sugars. It is then cooled to a temperature appropriate for fermentation.
  2. Fermentation: Yeast converts the sugar in mash into alcohol and carbon dioxide during fermentation. This takes several days to several weeks based on the spirit and yeast type. A low-alcohol liquid called wash (or wine) is produced.
  3. Distillation: Distillation separates the alcohol from the water and other substances in the wash. This is accomplished through evaporation and condensation in a still. A condenser collects the alcohol vapors where they are cooled back into a liquid with much higher alcohol content (typically 40% by volume). The distillation process can be repeated to increase the purity and strength of the spirit.

Supplemental processes for whiskey and rum can include aging in wooden barrels to add flavor and color. Vodka and gin are often filtered or infused with botanicals to create different styles and tastes.

Favorite Holiday Cocktail Recipes

The following holiday cocktails use various distilled spirits in their recipes except for the Poinsettia (champagne). Whether you’re in the mood for a rich, spicy or light cocktail, our favorites include something for everyone from eggnog to martinis to juice blends. Enjoy!

Eggnog: No beverage is associated with the holidays as much as eggnog. Its unique flavor is rich and creamy – and polarizing. Some like it, others not so much.

There is not only significant debate about eggnog’s taste but also its origin. Most food scholars believe it evolved from the British drink posset during the Middle Ages (Wikipedia). Posset was made with hot milk that was curdled with wine or ale and flavored with spices as a cold and flu remedy.

Modern eggnog can be store-bought, or you can make your own with eggs, milk, cream, sugar, nutmeg, and vanilla. Follow this simple recipe to make it yourself.

    1. Whisk 6 egg yolks and 3/4 cup of sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick
    2. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring 3 cups of whole milk, 1 cup of heavy cream, a pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg to a simmer, stirring occasionally
    3. Slowly whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, then return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Do not let it boil.
    4. Strain the eggnog into a pitcher and stir in 1/4 cup of the distilled spirit of your choice (typically rum, brandy, or bourbon)
    5. Refrigerate until chilled, then serve with whipped cream and more nutmeg to boost the richness

An Internet search provides many variations on this recipe.


Coquito: To add some Latin influence to your holidays, try the Coquito. This Puerto Rican cocktail is like eggnog but uses coconut milk in place of dairy. To make it, combine the following in a blender until smooth:

    1. One 15-ounce can of cream of coconut
    2. One 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
    3. One 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
    4. 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
    5. 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
    6. 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
    7. Transfer the blended mixture to a pitcher and stir in one cup of white rum.


Gingerbread Martini: There are many versions of the martini that are suitable for holiday festivities. One of the more appropriate is the Gingerbread Martini. If you like dessert in a glass, this cocktail is for you.

To make a Gingerbread Martini, combine the following in a cocktail shaker and shake well:

    1. 2 ounces of Vodka
    2. 1 ounce of coffee liqueur (e.g., Kahlua; Baileys can also be used)
    3. 1 ounce of gingerbread syrup (less or more to taste)
    4. 2 ounces heavy cream
    5. Ice

Then rim a martini glass with crushed graham crackers and strain the cocktail into it. Sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg on top for extra flavor.


Mistletoe Martini: The second martini on our list is the Mistletoe Martini. It is much lighter than its gingerbread cousin. To make, fill a shaker with the following and shake well:

    1. 2 ounces of vodka
    2. 1/2 ounce of white crème de menthe
    3. 1/2 ounce of cranberry juice
    4. A little lime juice
    5. Ice

Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with fresh mint leaves or cranberries if desired.


Poinsettia: The Poinsettia is also a cranberry-based cocktail but tastes entirely different than a Mistletoe Martini. To make it, pour the following into a champagne flute:

    1. 2 tablespoons of Cointreau (or another orange liqueur)
    2. 4 tablespoons of 100% cranberry juice

Top with half a glass of champagne and garnish with fresh cranberries if desired.


Hot Toddy: Many may remember sipping a Hot Toddy as a child to help relieve the discomfort of a sore throat or a cough. It’s also a comforting and soothing drink under any circumstances, especially as a winter warmer.

Making a Hot Toddy is easy. Simply rinse a mug rinse with hot water, then add the following:

    1. 2 ounces of whiskey
    2. 1 tablespoon of honey
    3. 1/2 ounce of lemon juice
    4. 1 cinnamon stick

Top with boiling water and stir until the honey dissolves. Cloves, star anise and orange peel are optional.


Holiday Mai Tai: The Mai Tai is typically a summer go to cocktail, but adding some cranberry juice and grenadine transforms it into a holiday favorite as well. To make one, combine the following into a shaker:

    1. 2 ounces of white rum
    2. 1 ounce of orange curaçao
    3. 1 ounce of lime juice
    4. 1/2 ounce of orgeat syrup (almond syrup)
    5. 2 ounces of cranberry juice
    6. Ice

Strain the cocktail into an ice-filled glass, pour some grenadine on top and garnish with mint leaves and fresh cranberries.


Mulled Wine: For those that prefer wine, this spiced version looks, tastes and smells like a holiday drink should. Prepare it in a large pot or slow cooker by combining the following:

    1. 4 cups of apple cider
    2. 1 bottle of red wine (e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon)
    3. 1/4 cup of honey
    4. 2 cinnamon sticks
    5. 4 whole cloves
    6. 3 star anise pods
    7. 1 orange sliced into rounds

Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve in mugs.


For More Information

For more information about how ProQuip tank agitators can be used to make distilled spirits and other beverages, email or call us at 330-468-1850.