Category Archives: Libations

Have a Merry Christmas Eve!

Wishing you and yours the merriest of Christmas Eve celebrations today!

Just a reminder, if you would like some fresh air, consider going to see Santa and his water skiing elves at the Old Town Alexandria, Virginia Waterfront at 1 pm today.

There are so many options for today; if you need some ideas, please check out the calendar.

Oh, and did you know that today is also Egg Nog day? Here is a recipe if you would like to make some from scratch.

Creamy Holiday Eggnog (from the Pillsbury Kitchen Cookbook, out of print)

Gather: Electric hand mixer, mixing bowl, punch bowl


  • 6 pasteurized eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup of sugar or honey
  • 5 cups of milk (or lactose-free milk)
  • 1 tablespoon of rum extract
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of whipping cream (1/2 pint carton)
  • Nutmeg

Directions: In a large bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add yolks and sugar, beat well. Stir in milk, rum extract and vanilla extract. Chill in refrigerator. Just before serving, whip whipped cream and fold into mixture. Pour all into a punch bowl and sprinkle with nutmeg.



DIY Cocoa Bar for ☕ Hot Cocoa Day ☕

Photo by Sam Lion on

  • Make Hot Cocoa from scratch
  • Set up a Hot Cocoa Bar
  • Explore Hot Cocoa scented products

Today is Hot Cocoa Day!

What is better than a steaming cup of cocoa? Maybe one your make from scratch!

Hot Cocoa Recipe – makes 4 cups

Combine 1/4 cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa (like Hershey’s cocoa powder, for example), a dash of salt and 1/2 cup of hot water in a medium saucepan.

Stir, then simmer for 2 minutes.

Add 3 cups of milk to the pan and heat until hot. Before serving, beat with a whisk until frothy. If desired, top with marshmallows or whipped cream.

Make a Hot Cocoa Bar

Hot chocolate fixing (Arina

I have seen some impressive set-ups, including hot cocoa stations arranged artfully on craft carts and bar carts. Check those out on Pinterest! So creative. But a table or counter-top would serve just as well.

You could set one up at work or when friends come over. A hot cocoa bar would also be a great teacher’s lounge treat this winter.

Cocoa. If you are making cocoa for your family, you know what they like. But if you are presenting a hot cocoa station, it may be more practical to offer instant cocoa mix in packets or canisters. There is even non-dairy cocoa and white chocolate cocoa now.

Fixings. The fixings are what make cocoa extra special. How about…

  • Whipped cream (in the can)
  • Candy canes
  • Marshmallows (look at those snowmen!)
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Christmas and/or Hanukkah-themed sprinkles
  • Red or green decorating sugar (a sprinkle looks so pretty on top of whipped cream!)

Cookies. Well, you were not going to put out hot cocoa without some cookies, were you? Personally, I think cookies that are not chocolate taste best with hot cocoa. You could try…

  • Mini white powdered donuts
  • Ginger Man cookies
  • Mini Christmas sugar cookies
  • Shortbread cookies

Cups and stirrers. If you are at home, of course, you can use your own drink ware. But if you are setting up for more than 8 people, I think it makes sense to splurge on some seasonal hot cups with lids and hand-protectors. I have seen some beautiful ones at Ross and Marshall’s for about $4 but they also have these in the grocery section. Just be sure to get a festive design.

The Delicious Smell of Hot Cocoa (Without the Calories)  Bath and Body Works has a candle called Hot Cocoa and Cream. I think it’s the best smelling candle in the store! I bought it last year, and I need to pick up another one. It smells so good. The only drawback was that it did make me crave cocoa! I noticed that they didn’t bring back the Hot Cocoa and Cream lip gloss this year. Fortunately, I bought some after Christmas last year and didn’t use it. I’m using it now!

Happy Hot Cocoa Day!


Apple Pie Smoothie

Happy Apple Day! I have an apple recipe that I know you’ll love. This healthy recipe tastes a lot like Apple Pie to me. Add a few drops of vanilla or almond extract if you like. For one serving, add to a smoothie blender…

About 1/4 cup of applesauce (or 1 apple sauce single serving cup)
About 1/2 cup of milk, milk alternative or yogurt
6 ice cubes
Generous shake of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
1/2 tsp. brown sugar or honey, optional

Blend all ingredients until well mixed. If mixture is too thick, add a little apple juice, water or milk. Pour into a tumbler. If desired, top with spray whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel syrup and serve with a re-usable or paper straw. Enjoy!

Non-Alcoholic Festive Drinks

Here are some of my favorite festive drinks — non-alcoholic so you can enjoy them anytime!

Photo by Madison Inouye on

The Mary Christmas In  a glass with ice, pour in mandarin orange seltzer. Top with cranberry juice cocktail. Sprinkle a pinch of ground cloves on top. I also add a twist of orange peel (when I eat an orange, I freeze the peel and store it in a freezer bag). This drink smells and tastes just like Christmas 🙂

The Holly Jolly This is nice to drink if  you are at an office party with an open bar and you don’t want to drink alcohol. Ask the bartender to make you a spritzer of plain seltzer topped with cranberry juice (plain seltzer with cranberry juice) and add a wedge of lime. It looks festive, it’s refreshing, it’s low calore and most importantly, non-alcoholic! Tip: If you are making this at home, try freezing some whole cranberries and fresh rosemary sprigs in some ice cubes for an extra festive touch.

Mom’s Mocktail My mom likes this. Mix cranberry cocktail with gingerale. Yes, they make this flavor. B ut the blend you make yourself is more tasty! To make this even more festive, rim the glass with green sugar.

The Rudolph In a glass with ice, mix coca cola with a little cherry juice from the maraschino cherry jar. Add a cherry. Bonus points if you rim the glass with cocoa or chocolate syrup.

The Clarice In a glass with ice, mix Sprite with a little cherry juice from the maraschino cherry jar. Add a cherry. Bonus points if you rim the glass with pink sugar!

Three Wise Men In a glass of ice, add a couple of splashes of tart cherry juice and an equal amount of pear juice (you can use the pear syrup from an individual cup of pears or pear nectar). Fill the rest of the glass with plain seltzer or mineral water, mix and add an anise star.

Happy Cocoa Day! Gourmet Cocoa Ideas…

Photo by Jill Wellington on

Happy Cocoa Day!

Health benefits of hot chocolate or cocoa include antioxidants that help prevent heart disease and stroke. And it gives you such a lift on a cold day!

There are plenty of ways to make a cup of cocoa special. Try these at breakfast with your family, set up a cocoa fixings bar at work or your holiday party, or just make a special cup for you or someone you love.

Try adding…

  • Coffee
  • Whipped cream
  • A drizzle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup or caramel syrup on the whipped cream
  • Some red or green sugar on top of the whipped cream
  • Some sprinkles on top of the whipped cream
  • Marshmallows — which now come in a variety of flavors
  • A sprinkle of cinnamon
  • A pinch of chili powder
  • A twist of orange peel
  • A splash of egg nog
  • Any flavored creamer, such as hazelnut or pumpkin spice
  • A Stroop waffle
  • A candy cane stirrer (I like Spangler’s or Bob’s candy canes best)
  • A little Kahlua, Amaretto, Grand Marnier or Bailey’s Irish cream

Which way is your favorite?

Holiday Beverages Without Alcohol

Ah, the holidays.  I like to have people over, and you know what everyone asks to drink?


I kid you not! I put out a beautiful little bar of sodas, juices, wine and champagne. And the first thing everyone asked for was…water.

Lesson learned. Now I stock up on plenty of bottled water — Pellegrino sparking mineral water and Acqua Panna still mineral water — and lime slices, which everyone seems to like. I put the bottles on ice. It makes water look and taste special. Your guests will love it!

But some will also partake non-alcoholic beverages…eventually! so here are some suggestions…

Toasts without Alcohol

Sparkling Apple Cider

You need something bubbly for New Year’s Eve. The brand I like best is the one you see the most, Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider, about $2.50 a bottle. If you run out, you can almost approximate the taste by mixing apple cider or juice with ginger ale.

Un-champagne Punch

Here is a non-alcoholic “un-champagne” recipe to try (for a punch bowl or pitcher): combine 32-oz bottle of cold club soda with a 32-oz bottle of cold ginger ale and a 24-oz bottle of cold, unsweetened white grape juice.

Cranberry Spritzer

This is a refreshing drink to order at a cocktail party or bar when you don’t drink alcohol. It’s easy to make: fill a glass with ice, fill it about 3/4 full of seltzer or club soda, and top off with cranberry cocktail. Add a lime wedge and enjoy! This is also good with flavored seltzer – like lime or orange.

Shirley Temple

You’ll need some ginger ale and a bottle of maraschino cherries. Pour the ginger ale over ice and add a little cherry juice from the jar and a cherry. I like this best in small amounts, like 6 or 8 ounces. It looks and tastes special. No one needs to know the name of this drink, if it matters!

Hot Drinks

Hot Apple Cider

If you’re having a party or just staying home with your family, nothing beats a pot of hot spiced apple cider simmering on the stove’s back burner.  It will make the whole house smell wonderful and it’s always been a hit when I’ve served it.  Here’s a recipe for it from Betty Crocker (

  • 6 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cinnamon sticks

In 3-quart saucepan, heat ingredients to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 minutes. Before serving, strain cider mixture to remove cloves and cinnamon, if desired. Serve hot. So easy!

So many ways to love cocoa…

I LOVE hot chocolate. It’s so easy to make Try some of these variations.

  • Go classic with marshmallows or spray can whipped cream. Sometimes I sprinkle a tiny bit of green or red decorator sugar on top for a little color.
  • Jazz up cocoa mix with a peppermint candy cane and whipped cream on top.
  • Add a teaspoon of freeze-dried coffee or decaffeinated coffee to cocoa mix to make mocha.
  • Try white chocolate cocoa! Safeway makes my favorite kind. It is great on its own, with a little peppermint or mixed into coffee.