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Holiday Shopping for Cocktail Lovers

Holiday shopping is even more online this year than usual. And depending on how your family’s budget was impacted by the pandemic, it might be a bit of a DIY holiday season as well.

Holiday shopping for the cocktail lovers in your life doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. And you can easily go DIY with infused liquors and homemade cocktail syrups.

Cocktail Recipe Book

Grab a copy of my new book “Homemade Happy Hour!” 18 cocktail recipes and 5 cocktail syrup recipes for the cocktail lover in your life. I have the ebook for sale on my site or you can grab a Kindle or Paperback edition over on Amazon.

Barware

Having nice cocktail glasses in the cupboard will go a long way in inspiring a home bartender. Treat the cocktail lover in your life to a new set of beautiful glassware.

Round Ice Cubes

Are round ice cubes necessary? Nope. Are they super fun and make drinks feel more special? Yup. Does the cocktail lover in your life have round ice cubes in their freezer? Probably not. Change that with a round ice cube tray!

Stainless Steel “Ice” Cubes

These are perfect for the cocktail lover who likes to sip high end spirits. Stainless steel cubes are stored in the freezer and keep drinks cold without watering them down.

Mixing Glass

There’s nothing like a mixing glass to make your favorite home bartender feel like a professional mixologist. Pair this up with bar tools and you have the perfect set for someone looking to up their home cocktail game.

Bar Tools

Can you make cocktails without fancy bar tools? Yes. Is it way more fun to make cocktails with fancy bar tools? Also yes. These display nicely, and keeping them in view will definitely lead to cocktail inspiration.

Bitters Sets

Bitters are fun to use in cocktails, but can be expensive and intimidating to buy in large bottles. These sets of small bottles are a great way to introduce someone to bitters so they can discover their favorites.

Luxardo Cherries

Luxardo maraschino cherries are the gold standard cherry garnish for Old Fashioned cocktails. These are the perfect addition to a cocktail themed gift basket or give to the bourbon lover in your life.

Cocktail Picks

Stainless steel cocktail picks are an inexpensive way to dress up any cocktail garnish and something that the cocktail lover in your life likely doesn’t have (because they just haven’t thought about buying them).

DIY Liquor Infusions

Holiday Shopping for Cocktail Lovers - DIY Liquor Infusions

Infusing liquor is an easy way to custom make a gift for the cocktail lover in your life. I have recipes for Strawberry Vodka, Apple Cinnamon Gin, and Lime & Mint Rum along with a free, printable cocktail recipe to go with each liquor infusion. Give them a try!

Don’t forget to package your infused liquor in a pretty jar for gifting!

DIY Cocktail Syrups

Holiday Shopping for Cocktail Lovers - DIY Cocktail Syrups

Cocktail syrups are easy to make, and use ingredients you likely already have in your pantry. Get the instructions for making honey, brown sugar, and berry cocktail syrups on my DIY Cocktail Syrups page.

Package your homemade syrup in nice bottles for gifting!

Cocktail Napkins

Another little thing that’s perfect to tuck into a gift basket. Nice cocktail napkins make drinks feel special and definitely elevate a happy hour at home.

Are you holiday shopping for cocktail lovers on your list? What would you add here? Do you love making cocktails? What’s on your holiday wish list?


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, I make a small commission.

Cranberry Gin Cocktail

Simple, delicious, and festive, this cranberry gin cocktail is perfect for the holidays. The rosemary syrup gives it an unexpected twist.

Makes 1 cocktail.

2 oz cranberry juice
2 oz gin (I love New Holland Knickerbocker)
1 oz rosemary simple syrup (recipe below)
3 dashes orange bitters 

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. 

Shake it up and strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. 

Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and/or some frozen cranberries

Enjoy! 


Rosemary Simple Syrup

¼ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 – 1 inch pieces of fresh rosemary

Rosemary Syrup for Cranberry Gin Cocktail

Heat the water to boiling. Add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. 

Wash the rosemary and break into pieces that will fit into your jar. 

Add the rosemary to the hot water and sugar mixture. 

Allow to cool to room temperature. 

Cover and place in the refrigerator until chilled. 

Notes on Cranberry Gin Cocktails

  • The longer you leave the rosemary in the syrup, the stronger the flavor. If possible, make the syrup a day or two ahead of making cocktails to allow the rosemary more time to infuse the syrup. 
  • If you don’t have rosemary on hand, you can substitute simple syrup or honey syrup.

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Snack Pairing

Slow Cooker Savory Spiced Nuts

Salty and spicy Slow Cooker Savory Spiced Nuts pair well with a Cranberry Gin cocktail.

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Cranberry Gin Cocktail

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from one of the links, I make a small commission at no cost to you.

Simple Holiday Recipes for a Delicious Season

‘Tis the season for entertaining! OK, so maybe you’re only “entertaining” your immediate family this year. And that feels… odd. It’s definitely going to look and feel different, but we can still have some entertaining fun with delicious holiday recipes.

For Brunch

These are two of my favorite holiday brunch recipes because they make the morning seem special, but are easy to put together.

Quiche is a dish that comes together quickly and then bakes in the oven while you sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee. Cheddar and broccoli quiche is featured here, but there are lots of other combinations you can do. I’ve included a couple suggestions in the recipe notes.

Chocolate for breakfast is always a win for me. And this chocolate cream cheese banana bread can be made ahead of time. Way ahead if you want – just freeze it! Another win, especially during a busy holiday season.

Happy Hour Sips

We all know how I feel about cocktails. (Hint: YUM!!) Both of these cocktails are slightly tart to help offset all the sweet, rich, and creamy foods of the holidays. Blackberry Vanilla Martinis feature vodka and lime, while Bee’s Knees cocktails have gin and fresh lemon.

Want something a little more festive? Garnish a classic Cosmopolitan with some fresh, frozen cranberries. Or mix up this sweet and cinnamon Holiday Spice martini, one of my favorite holiday cocktail recipes.

>More Cocktail Recipes

Appetizers and Snacks

Take your happy hour to the next level with delicious snacks! These slow cooker savory spiced nuts are the perfect bar mix. Full of fresh rosemary and garlic, make a batch up ahead of time and then just set out small dishes for your guests. Looking for something heartier? Three cheese artichoke dip is a hot, creamy appetizer that comes together quickly. Just add crackers!

>More Easy Appetizers

Pitchers of Cocktails

Whether you’re entertaining a group or just want cocktails at the ready, there’s no better time of year to make a pitcher of cocktails – or mocktails! Apple cider sangria is white wine based and full of fall holiday flavor. My pitcher cocktails recipe is SUPER simple and includes instructions for both cocktails AND mocktails. I love making a pitcher of each when entertaining.

Sweet Endings

Fancy, holiday desserts are so beautiful and tempting, but after a big meal, small, sweet bites are more my style. Like many of my other recipes, both of these desserts can be made ahead of time, which is important during such a busy time of year.

Soft, buttery cranberry shortbread cookies are a must-have on any holiday cookie try. They freeze beautifully, which means you can (and should) make them up to a month in advance (hint, hint), and then store them in the freezer until you need them.

You don’t want to freeze peppermint bark, but you can make it a few days ahead of time and then keep it in the pantry until you’re ready to gift it or serve it.

Of course, there’s always dessert cocktails. I love this espresso martini as an alternative to after dinner coffee. And if you prefer your peppermint and chocolate fix in liquid form, look no further than a peppermint mocha martini.

Every year, I strive to make more recipes ahead of time so I can spend more time enjoying the holiday season and time with my family. What about you? Do you like prepping in advance or do you find enjoyment in cooking for your guests day of? What holiday recipes are must-makes for you? Tell me in the comments!

Sugar and Spice Body Scrub

Soft skin and warm scents combine for a natural, DIY sugar and spice body scrub. Olive oil softens skin while the brown sugar takes care of rough patches.

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups packed brown sugar
⅔ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Combine everything in a medium bowl and mix together until well incorporated. 

Spoon into a jar and store at room temperature. 

Enjoy!

Notes on Sugar and Spice Body Scrub: 

  • This sugar and spice body scrub is not for use on your face. Use from your shoulders, down. 🙂 
  • Use the cheap olive oil for this recipe! 
  • You can also swap coconut oil for the olive oil if you prefer, just melt it to a liquid before mixing.
  • Depending on how long it sits before use, some of the olive oil may separate out. Just mix it back in when you go to use the scrub.

Body Scrub is a Great Gift!

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More DIY Selfcare

Grapefruit Body Scrub

Try my 3 ingredient Grapefruit Body Scrub!

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Sugar and Spice Scrub

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using those links, I make a small commission at no cost to you.

Easy, 10 Minute Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark is a classic holiday treat. This candy has only 4 ingredients and comes together in 10 minutes. It’s perfect for gift giving or as a fun addition to a holiday cookie tray.

Ingredients

2 cups Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips
2 oz Ghirardelli white chocolate (OR 1/4 cup of chips)
2 – 6-inch candy canes

Ingredients for Peppermint Bark

Directions

Preheat oven to 225 degrees.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, making sure the paper overhangs all side of the pan. Pour all semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips on to parchment-lined pan. Toss the chips together to mix, and then spread into a single layer.

Place pan of chocolate chips in the oven for 4-5 minutes.

KEEP AN EYE ON THE CHOCOLATE. You are looking for the chips to be *just* melted. The chocolate chips will retain their shape, so watch for the chips to start looking glossy. That will be the indicator that they’ve melted. If you leave them in too long, the chocolate will scorch and turn grainy.

Once the chips have melted, remove the pan from the oven.

Using an offset spatula, gently mix and smooth the chocolate chips so they fill the pan with a single layer of melted chocolate.

Melted Chocolate Chips for Peppermint Bark

Sprinkle the white chocolate chips on top of the melted chocolate.

Sprinkle the melted chocolate with white chocolate pieces/chips

Leave them alone for 3-4 minutes while they melt.

Using a butter knife or offset spatula, carefully swirl the tip of it through the melted white chocolate chips creating whatever designs you like. The more you swirl the knife through the pan, the more you’ll mix the chocolates together.

Swirl the chocolate together for the peppermint bark

Remove wrappers from candy canes and place them in a resealable bag. Using a small pan or rolling pin, crush the candy canes into very small pieces.

Sprinkle the crushed candy cane pieces over the melted chocolate.

A pan full of peppermint bark

Let the pan sit overnight, or until the chocolate has hardened.

Using the parchment paper that’s overhanging the pan, lift the peppermint bark out and place it on a cutting board.

Using a sharp knife, cut the bark into pieces.

Enjoy!

Tips for Peppermint Bark

  • Use good quality chocolate for this recipe. Ghirardelli is a great, high quality brand of chocolate that’s available in most major grocery stores.
  • Do not use your hands to break up the bark. The heat from your hands will melt the chocolate.
  • Can’t find candy canes? Crush 5-6 starlight mints and use those instead.
  • Peppermint bark makes a great hostess gift and is a fun gluten-free alternative on a cookie tray.

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More Easy Chocolate Treats

Pecan Turtle Candies

Want to make another fun, easy candy recipe? Give these 4 ingredient pecan turtles a try!

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Peppermint Bark

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, I make a small commission at no cost to you. 

West Michigan Artisans to Shop (Online) this Holiday Season

The first Saturday in November is my traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season. I grab a coffee and a friend (or two) and head to Meijer Gardens for their annual Holiday Market.

The UICA Holiday Artisan Market and Downtown Market’s Merry Market Day – both in December – are also can’t-miss local holiday shopping days for me. Covid has canceled these markets for 2020. But not the holiday shopping or great local, West Michigan artisans. So it’s time to go online. 

Below is my list of favorite local artisans and small businesses creating amazing products. These are the artists whose goods are in my home, whose shops I seek out, and/or whose products are on my wish list.

Who are your favorite West Michigan artists to buy from? Let me know in the comments! 

I love: 

Lisa Lehmann Designs – Any time you see me, I’m wearing at least one piece of Lisa’s jewelry. Her craftsmanship is incredible. She uses a variety of metals, and some of the most beautiful stones to create stunningly unique designs.  

John Jurries Art – We are HUGE fans of John Jurries’ fun, eclectic, and adorable monsters. Magnets, prints, coloring sheets – John’s work is all over our house, including this unicorn print that hangs in kiddo’s room. The kids in your life will love it all. 

Red Hydrant Press – Two of artist Alynn Guerra’s prints hang in our home. Her work is timeless, classic, and whimsical. It’s favorite of mine for gift giving, like this hops print for the beer lover in your life.

K Studio – Yet another artist making multiple appearances in our house. Shelly Klein’s delightful designs are on zip bags in my purse, mugs in our cupboards, and ornaments on our Christmas tree. 

Grow Up Awesome – Kiddo and I both have several shirts from this fun Grand Rapids company. Everything is done by hand, and holds up great wash after wash. We recommend their solar system print, pictured here.

Luxe Artisan Preserves – Kimberly’s herb and liquor infused preserves are incredibly delicious. Bonus: Her packaging is gorgeous, so you can open the jar and put it straight on to your table or charcuterie board. Pick up her gorgeous products starting on Cyber Monday when her new gift boxes go live!

Nikki Mac Jewelry – I love jewelry and have many of Nikki’s pieces. They’re delicate, timeless, and amazingly affordable. Perfect for gifting (or keeping for yourself). 

Jeff Hamm Ceramics – My poppies mug from Jeff Hamm is my go-to for morning coffee. It can go in the dishwasher and microwave, and stay beautiful time after time. The birch vases pictured here are extra festive with evergreen cuttings in them at the holidays.

Beer City Dog Biscuits – Treats the pups in your life will love, along with apparel for their humans. Check out their website to meet the brew bakers making healthy dog treats from Founders Brewing Company spent grain. Did I mention this Grand Rapids nonprofit’s mission is empowering the disabled? High paw! 

Kalamazoo Candle Company

Kalamazoo Candle Company – My house smells like their Apple Harvest candle year round. These soy candles burn clean and smell amazing! Other favorite scents – White Tea and Ginger, and Salted Grapefruit. 

Gustafson Design Co. – This new local business features some of the most gorgeous, handcrafted wood products you’ll find. They debuted with a wine collection that I’m drooling over.  

Moyaka Chocolates – Let’s be honest, these are the kind of gifts your kids’ teachers really want. This amazing chocolate shop can ship anywhere in the lower 48. Do yourself a BIG favor and order the jars of caramel and chocolate sauces. And the truffles. And the caramels. 😉

Who did I miss? Who are the West Michigan artisans that you love? Drop their shop links in the comments below!


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West Michigan Artisans to Shop Online

Recipe: Apple Bacon Brussels Sprouts

This side dish comes together quickly with the oven doing most of the work for you.

16 oz Brussels sprouts
1 small onion
1 apple
2-3 slices bacon
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

Give the Brussels sprouts a good wash in cold water. Cut off the bottoms, then cut the Brussels sprouts in half – lengthwise. Place onto a metal* sheet pan. 

Dice the onion. Peel, core and dice the apple. Add both to the sheet pan with the Brussels sprouts. 

Cut the bacon into small pieces, around the same size as the onion. Add to the sheet pan. 

Drizzle the Brussels sprouts, onion, apple, and bacon with 2 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss well to coat everything. 

Your pan full of raw veggies, apples, and bacon should look a lot like this.

Put the sheet pan full of Brussels sprouts into the hot oven. Roast veggies for 25 mins, tossing every 5 mins or so. You can keep cooking them 5-10 mins longer if you like your Brussels sprouts super caramelized. 

Remove veggies from oven. Toss with apple cider vinegar and remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. 

Enjoy! 

*Using a metal pan is important here, otherwise the Brussels sprouts won’t caramelize. You can use a 9×13” pan with high sides if you’d prefer, just be sure it’s metal. 

Recipe: Spiced Milk

Warm, sweet, and cozy, Spiced Milk is a perfect treat on a cold night or upgrade your next cup of coffee.

2 cups milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground ginger
kitchen string*
cheesecloth**

Make the Spice Pouch: Place 2 – 4”x4” squares of fine mesh cheesecloth together and set on the counter. Place cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger in the middle of the cheesecloth. Stir gently to combine the spices. Gather all sides of the cheesecloth together, forming a little pouch. Wrap a few inches of kitchen string around the cheesecloth, staying just at the top of where the spices are. Tie string tightly and double knot so the spices can’t escape. Set your spice pouch aside. 

Make the milk: Place milk, maple syrup and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Warm the mixture, stirring occasionally, until syrup has dissolved and milk is hot but not bubbling or boiling. 

Remove milk from heat and add spice pouch to the hot milk mixture. Gently push it down into the milk until the spices inside the pouch have been submerged. (The top of the cheesecloth will stick up from the milk. That’s ok, just make sure those spices are below the surface.) 

Let steep for 1 hour while milk cools. 

Remove spice pouch from cooled milk. Gently squeeze to remove liquid from the cheesecloth and spices. Dispose of spice pouch. Store milk in the refrigerator. 

*If you don’t have kitchen string on hand, use some white thread or unflavored dental floss to tie the cheesecloth together. 

**A coffee filter can be substituted for the cheesecloth, just make sure it doesn’t rip when bundling.

How do I use Spiced Milk? 

  • Drink it as is! It’s a delicious treat hot or cold.
  • Add it to coffee in place of milk/creamer. (This is my favorite way to use it!)
  • Make a warm cocktail with 4 oz hot spiced milk + 1.5 oz brandy
Spiced Milk

Peppermint Mocha Martini

Peppermint and chocolate are synonymous with the holidays. Coffee shops are busy pouring Peppermint Mochas, so why not pour yourself a happy hour peppermint mocha martini at home?

Makes 1 cocktail

1 oz vodka
0.5 oz white creme de menthe
1 oz half and half or whole milk
1 oz cold, brewed coffee
0.5 oz white chocolate liqueur
0.5 oz coffee liqueur
3 dashes chocolate bitters
Chocolate syrup

Prepare your glass

Drizzle a circle of chocolate syrup around the inside top of your glass.

Holding your glass upright, give the glass a gentle spin using its stem to help the chocolate syrup slide down the inside of the glass.

Set aside.

Make your cocktail

Place all ingredients, except the chocolate syrup, in a cocktail shaker with some ice.

Shake it up!

Strain into your prepared glass.

Enjoy!

Notes on Peppermint Mocha Martini

  • White creme de menthe is a clear liqueur. You can use green creme de menthe if that’s all you can find or have on hand. The taste will be the same, but the color will be a little off.
  • If you can’t find chocolate bitters, you can buy them here or leave them out completely. I like what they add to the cocktail, but it’s still delicious sans bitters.

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Cookie Pairing

Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

Pair this mint cocktail with buttery cranberry shortbread cookies!

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Peppermint Mocha Martini

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, I make a small commission at no cost to you.

Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

Light, buttery, and much softer than traditional shortbread, this cranberry shortbread cookie is a favorite on my holiday cookie trays and a hit at cookie exchanges.

Ingredients

1 cup butter,* softened
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until blended. Add flour and baking powder to the butter mixture. Stir until incorporated. Stir in dried cranberries. 

Cranberry shortbread - in progress

Form dough into logs aprox 2 ½” inches diameter.

Wrap in parchment paper or wax paper and refrigerate until dough is firm, at least 2 hrs. (I often leave mine overnight.) 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove dough from wax paper.

Place on a cutting board and using a sharp knife, cut into slices aprox ¼ inch thick.

Place dough about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set, but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack. 

Enjoy!

Tips for Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

  • *This is no time for substitutions. Butter is a main ingredient in this recipe so only use real, dairy butter.
  • Toasted chopped pecans, chopped chocolate, or toffee bits are all great substitutions for the dried cranberries. 
  • These cookies are very freezer friendly. You can freeze as dough in logs – slice it first! – then thaw in the fridge and bake. Or you can bake the entire batch and freeze the baked cookies. I like to do this early in the holiday season as these are a great go-to for gifting and cookie exchanges.

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Cocktail Pairing

Holiday Spice Martini

I love a Holiday Spice Martini with these cookies.


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Cranberry Shortbread Cookies
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