Holiday Food and Drink

Holiday Cheers: Seasonal Cocktails and Mocktails

Monkey's Tail is decked out for the holidays.
Monkey's Tail is decked out for the holidays. Photo by Dylan McEwan
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Horchata Eggnog is house-made at Monkey's Tail.
Photo by Becca Wright

The holiday season is one of family, friends and over-indulgence. From office parties to multi-generational feasts, we are filling up our glasses with holiday spirits. The holiday season typically ends with New Year's Eve and we all make our resolutions. But before we head into 2023 with our determination to eat healthy and cut back on the booze, here are some seasonal beverages to enjoy for decadent December.

So take a break from shopping and a house full of company. Grab a friend or two and catch up over a steaming cup of Christmas punch or a margarita on the rocks. We have a list of places to get cocktails and mocktails that will fill your heart (and belly) with cheer.
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The Tepache Smash is fruity and rummy.
Photo by Dario Herrera

Alicia's Mexican Grille
Four Houston area locations
Galiana's Tex Mex & Agave Bar
24110 Northwest Freeway

These family-owned restaurants from Grupo Herrera will both offer the Mama Coco ($14) a creamy coconut concoction spiked with Avion Reposado and a hint of cinnamon. For the taste of a tropical vacation amid the freezing temps, there's the Tepache Smash ($13) made with Plantation Pineapple Rum, pineapple juice, lemon juice and a splash of spicy cinnamon.
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Axlerad has a wide circle of cocktails.
Photo by Tommy Middleton
1517 Alabama

Though the hammocks at this laid-back bar probably won't get much use this week, there's still fun to had indoors with one of its festive cocktails. Its Irish Coffee ($10) will warm up your insides while The Mean One ($10) will make a Grinch's heart grow three sizes. It's a hot toddy homage to the foul one, made with Monopolowa Gin, matcha and lemon. Other cocktails include Midnight in Oaxaca ($12) and Nice Pear ($10).
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Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse has a great outdoor space but guests may want to stay inside the bar this week.
Photo by Chris Cusak

Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse
2101 Washington

This eclectic bar in Sixth Ward has an array of holiday cocktails through the month of December and the names are quite quirky. There's the My Brother in Christ, Are You Drinking a Grasshopper? ($11)  a frozen concoction made with creme de menthe, creme de cacao, vodka, coconut milk, chocolate bitters and chocolate shavings. The Santa on Acid ($12) has pineapple rum, Jagermeister, coconut liqueur, Allspice Dram, pineapple and lime for imbibers with strong stomachs. There's also the Apple Cider Old Fashioned ($14), Pistachio White Russian ($11), Abuelita's Hot Chocolate ($11) and the interestingly-named George Washington's Aged Christmas Eggnog ($12) made with bourbon, Cognac, Jamaican rum, sherry, eggs, cream, milk and freshly-grated nutmeg.
Warm yourself by the fire with The Naughty List.
Photo by Will Burdette
Bosscat Kitchen & Libations
4310 Westheimer

For Christmas, the restaurant has a drink called The Naughty List made with cinnamon bourbon, herbal bitters, allspice dram, hazelnut liqueur, lime juice and coconut. It will have a New Year's Eve cocktail called The Resolution with rye whiskey, Cointreau and bitters over a big cube of ice. It's garnishes with an orange wheel dipped in chocolate.
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Brennan's has a margarita that delivers the heat.
Photo by Kimberly Park

Brennan's of Houston
300 Smith

For a Creole take on Christmas cocktails, head to Brennan's for some French Quarter elegance. The Hot Buttered Rum ($14) with its warm spices, 1888 Rum and Bailey's Irish Cream would make Clarence the Angel from It's a Wonderful Life happy. There's the Caramel Apple Mule ($14) with Tito's vodka, caramel apple syrup, lime juice and ginger beer for those with a sweet tooth and the El Doctor will cure holiday blues with its smoky mezcal flavor. The Crystal Spicy Margarita ($14)gets a jolt from house-made Crystal Hot Sauce pepper mash and jalapeno tincture, not to mention the kick of Lalo tequila and Ancho Reyes liqueur.
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There's booze for Scrooge and martinis of mistletoe at Cowboys and Indians.
Photo by Carter D

Cowboys and Indians
519 Shepherd

This restaurant is a mix of Indian and Texan flavors and it is offering two seasonal cocktails for an inflation-fighting $6. The Scrooge Booze is made with Emerald Lotus, whole egg, Santa Teresa rum, agave and half and half. The Mistletoe Martini mixes Tito's vodka and Rumplemintz with cranberry juice for a one-of-a-kind martini.
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Dish Society's elixirs will give guests the strength to finish the holiday shopping.
Photo by Maddy Lingwall
Dish Society
Five Houston area locations

This farm-to-table concept is locally-owned and there are five restaurants to choose from. It has two elixirs ($7 each) for those needing a shot of health rather than booze. The Pinky Swear is fruity,  with agave, lychee, grapefruit, lime, prickly pear, salt and strawberries while the L.O.L is a refreshing blend of lavender, orange juice, lemon and ginger beer.
Santa's Night Cap is a sweet ending.
Photo by Robert Waltrip
Karne Korean Steakhouse
2805 White Oak

This newly opened restaurant has a cocktail called Santa's Nightcap (aka Milk and Cookies). It's made with Bake Sale Chocolate Cookie Liqueur, Kula Toasted Coconut Rum, creme de cacao, Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters and chocolate milk foam, garnished with crushed candied pecans.

Local Table
Five Greater Houston locations

This family-owned restaurant is offering several cocktails for a holiday-friendly $10. There's a Yuletide Mule with Tito's vodka, cranberry, lime and ginger beer or a Hot Toddy with cinnamon apple-infused Rittenhouse Rye bourbon, honey simple syrup, lemon and hot water. The Boozy Hot Chocolate gets a spirited addition of Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka, and  Bailey's Irish Cream.

Milano Bar
800 Sorella Court

This hotel bar is offering a citrusy cocktail called By the Fireside and its has citrus cinnamon syrup, lemon tea, Slow & Low bourbon and it's garnished with a lemon wheel and cinnamon stick. Another citrus forward drink is its Deck the Halls made with fresh mint, hibiscus-cranberry syrup, Grand Marnier and lime juice. At least you'll be getting your vitamin C.

Molina's Cantina
Three Houston locations

While margaritas are always a popular drink at Molina's, the weather forecast isn't predicting margarita weather. For a warm tequila option, Molina's has a Mexican coffee ($7) with tequila, Kahlua and coffee. It's garnished with whipped cream, cinnamon and sprinkles for a festive touch.
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Monkey's Tail is decked out for the holidays.
Photo by Dylan McEwan

Monkey's Tail
5802 Fulton

There are a number of special cocktails to be had at this neighborhood hangout which is hosting its Noche Buena celebration December 23. The fun begins at 4 p.m. with Santa photo-ops, a photo booth and a wheel of prizes. There will be a mariachi playing music from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and DJ FLO will rock the house from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Some of the holiday drinks available will be Frozen Andes Mint, Mistletoe Marg and Oh Cactus Tree. For a warm drink, there's the Hot & Bothered. The bar also offfers a homemade Horchata Eggnog made with anejo tequila, Madeira, Oloroso sherry, heavy cream and nutmeg.

Guests can also purchase some of Monkey Tail's popular tamales. They are $9 for a half dozen and $16 for a full dozen. The patio will have heaters for what promises to be a chilly night and there's a 14-foot tree adding to the holiday ambiance.
Even the Gulf Coast will be chilly this Christmas.
Photo by Jason Montegut
Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House
113 6th

Those on the coast are not forgotten when it comes to holiday fun. Pier 6 in San Leon has a Peanut Butter Eggnog ($12) made with Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey, Disaronno Amaretto and Licor 43.

Slowpokes Coffee
Four Greater Houston locations

Coffee drinks are a great way to stay warm and get a jolt of caffeine at the same time. This coffee shop has some seasonal favorites to do both. There's the Campfire Latte, Candy Cane Latte, Tiramisu and Dulce de Leche.  All locations will be open Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day so there's plenty of time to try one before the season ends.

1801 N. Shepherd

This Tex-Mex spot from Ford Fry has been serving seasonal cocktails since November 25. On the not-too- naughty list is the Christmas Cactus with Blanco tequila, hibiscus liqueur, rosemary syrup, Dolin Blanc and lemon, served on the rocks. There's also a Pomegranate Margarita, Santa's Sangria and the Poinsettia, a bubbly drink of Cava, cranberry juice and orange liqueur with a rosemary garnish.

TEN Sushi + Cocktail Bar

200 Park Place

This sushi restaurant just opened November 17 but it's already in the festive spirit with two fizzy water mocktails including the Nojito (lime, mint, bubbles) and the Lemon Nomimono with lemon, seasonal berries and bubbles. There's also the Lone Lychee made with lychee, pineapple and cranberry. All three mocktails are $8.
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Tobiuo's mocktails are pretty and healthy.
Photo by Isabel Protomartir

23501 Cinco Ranch Boulevard

This Katy sushi restaurant and bar has a selection of four signature mocktails on its menu from General Manager and Beverage Director Le Chau. They include the Strawberry Basil, Lavender Lychee, Orange Dreamsicle and Honey Ginger for a reasonable $6. There's an off menu Prickly Pear ($8) made with prickly pear, agave and lime which is a non-alcoholic version of its Prickly Pear margarita.
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Tony's Hot Buttered Rum can be a cocktail or mocktail.
Photo by Becca Wright
3755 Richmond

This longtime Houston institution is a perfect place to take a revered relative out for a special meal or a good friend for a drink. It has a Hot Buttered Rum made with Appleton Estate Signature rum, peach cider and brown butter. The rum can be replaced with Lyre Zero Proof Alternative for a seasonal mocktail.
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The Holiday Punch at Trattoria Sofia is aptly named.
Photo by Carly Shuttlesworth
Trattoria Sofia
911 W. 11th

Berg Hospitality's Italian concept has yummy drinks like the Coquito with Bacardi rum, coconut milk, almond milk, turbinado sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. The Holiday Punch is a spirited cocktail with Remy VSOP Cognac, Bacardi rum, Mathilde peach liqueur, Gambino prosecco, lemon juice and simple syrup. Its version of Hot Buttered Rum is made with Bacardi anejo quatro rum, simple syrup and butter.
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Holiday cocktails get seasonal garnishes at Traveler's Table.
Photo by Becca Wright

Traveler's Table
520 Westheimer

This globally-inspired restaurant is offering seasonal drinks with international flavors. There's a Fig & Walnut Old Fashioned ($15), Spiked Holiday Eggnog ($13) and European-spiced Winter Wine ($12).

Recipes for Mocktails:
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You can make these mocktails at home or let the Rosie Cannonball mixologists do it for you.
Photo by Taylor Hall

Rosie Cannonball
1620 Westheimer

Mocktails are becoming a popular drink for customers at bars and restaurants around Houston and not just for 'Dry January'. The good people at Rosie Cannonball offered to share some recipes for mocktails that they serve at the restaurant. They also serve delicious boozy cocktails such as The Bounce House and Late Monsoon.

Safe and Sound
For those who dream of tropical sunsets in winter

.25 ounce cola syrup                                    .5 ounce pineapple juice
.75 ounce peach syrup                                 1.25 ounce grapefruit juice
.25 ounce lime juice                                   

Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake. Strain into a glass filled with pebble ice. Garnish with pineapple wedge and mint leaves.

A Pantomime
Inspired by Gin and Tonics, Rickeys

1.25 ounce Seedlip Grove 42 (a N/A spirit)    .5 ounce cinnamon syrup
.5 ounce lemon juice                                       1 ounce chamomile tea (cold brew)

Build in a pebble ice-filled Collins glass, stir

Top Five!
Inspired by tall Collins-style cocktails

2.5 ounce hibiscus and mint leaves tea            .5 ounce lime juice
.5 ounce cranberry syrup                                  .25 ounce grapefruit juice

Add ingredients to cocktail shaker and shake. Strain into glass over pebble ice. Garnish with mint sprigs and freshly-grated cinnamon.
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URBE has pretty non-alcoholic options along with its popular margaritas.
Photo by William Fernandez
1101 Uptown Park Boulevard

Chef Hugo Ortega and the team at H Town Restaurant group are busy with holiday to-go orders while also preparing for URBE's Santa & Friends family event December 21 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. However, William Fernandez, manager at URBE, kindly took the time to share his colorful mocktail recipe with the Houston Press.

Mercado de Jamaica

2 ounce hibiscus tea                                          1/2 ounce cranberry juice
1/2 ounce orange juice                                       1 ounce cinnamon syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice                                         sparkling water

Shake ingredients over ice and strain into glass. garnish with lemon wheel and rosemary sprig. 
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.