Cookies & Cocktails 7

A Delicious Party to Share Holiday Cheer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Holiday parties, decorations and merrimaking around every corner. What inspires you and gets you into the holiday spirit? It could be a song or movie or perhaps it’s a festive cocktail that stirs memories of holidays past. For many, it’s the smells of the holidays, specifically grandma’s sugar cookies baking in the oven or mom’s freshly baked apple crumb pie in the kitchen, begging to be sliced and topped with old fashioned vanilla bean ice cream.

It’s with this festive spirit that we hosted a cookie exchange with close friends and loved ones. A casual gathering where we shared our fond memories of the holidays, the recipes for our favorite treats, and laughter. Some of our perennial favorites made the cut: snowball cookies, iced sugar cookies, sugared plums and raspberry almond rugelach. However, we discovered some new cookies which will definitely be added to our recipe collection: chewy ginger cookies, peppermint bark and rosemary shortbread cookies. Of course, there were libations to be enjoyed, which always makes for holiday cheer: Winter Sangria is a seasonal twist on the summer favorite and Spiced Vanilla Pear Cider because it is traditional but fun, and smells divine as it mulls…it could be served minus the bourbon. How many cookies actually made it home to share with our families? We will never tell, but each cookie was amazing. Enjoy!

Snowballs (Russian Tea Cakes)

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour,
1/4 teaspoon salt, 
1 cup butter at room temperature, 
1/2 cup powdered sugar, 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 
3/4 cup finely chopped almonds toasted, powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F. Sift flour and salt together. Cream butter in large bowl until light, then gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until fluffy. Add vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients in three batches. Mix in almonds. Refrigerate at least one hour or up to 12 hours. Form dough into 1-inch balls. Space 1-inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until just firm to touch, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly. Roll in powdered sugar. Cool completely. Roll cookies in powdered sugar again.
 Adapted from

Peppermint Bark

30 crushed peppermint hard candies divided, 
1 1/2 pounds milk chocolate candy coarsely chopped, 
1 1/2 pounds white chocolate chopped, 
1 teaspoon oil-based peppermint flavoring or to taste

Spread 1/3 of peppermint candy over 9×13-inch baking pan lined with wax paper. Melt milk chocolate in top of double boiler, stirring frequently and scraping down sides with a rubber spatula to avoid scorching, just until melted. Pour melted chocolate over peppermint candy in prepared pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of the candy on top of milk chocolate. Keep aside until set, about 30 minutes. Melt white chocolate in the top of double boiler as above, stir in the oil-based peppermint flavoring. Pour white chocolate over the milk chocolate, then sprinkle the remaining 1/3 peppermint candy on top. Keep aside until set, about one hour. Cut or break into pieces to serve.

Ultimate Ginger Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 
1 teaspoon baking soda, 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves, 
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 
1 cup dark brown sugar lightly packed, 
1/4 cup vegetable oil, 
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses, 
1 extra-large egg at room temperature, 
1 1/4 cups chopped crystallized ginger (6 ounces), 
granulated sugar for rolling the cookies

Preheat the oven to 3500 and line two sheet pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift together the first seven ingredients, then whisk together. With an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium for five minutes. On low, add egg, and beat one minute. Scrape the bowl with rubber spatula and beat for one more minute. On low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl, mix on medium speed for two minutes. Add the crystallized ginger and mix until combined. Roll each cookie into a 1 3/4-inch ball and flatten them lightly with your fingers. Press entire cookie in granulated sugar and place them on sheet pans. Bake for exactly 13 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 
Recipe Ina Garten on

Spiced Vanilla Pear Cider

 2 quarts pear juice (no sugar added), 
2 cinnamon sticks, 
1/4 tsp nutmeg, 
1 star anise, 
1 vanilla bean pod, 
Rum or Bourbon (optional)

Add juice and spices to a large soup pot or crockpot. Slice vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise and toss in pot. On low heat, bring the cider up to a simmer, whisking often. The spices and vanilla will infuse into the cider. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Ladle into a big mug and add a shot of rum or bourbon (optional). 
Adapted from

Winter Sangria

1 red apple thinly sliced into strips, 
1 green apple thinly sliced into strips, 
½ cup fresh cranberries, 
¼ cup fresh pomegranate seeds, 
2 cinnamon sticks, 
¼ cup bourbon, 
1 bottle cold sparkling white wine, 
Prosecco or champagne

Fill a pitcher with all of the fruit and the cinnamon sticks and then add the brandy or bourbon. Top with the cold sparkling wine and serve immediately. 
Adapted from

Sugared Plums

Iced Sugar Cookies

Rosemary Shortbread

Raspberry Almond Rugelach

Don’t Forget Boxes to Bring Home the Goodies