There’s something so nostalgic about holiday cocktails. When the weather starts cooling off and we begin gathering with family and friends to celebrate the season, there’s nothing more sentimental than a warm mug that features the flavors, and in turn, memories, of holidays past.
Cocktails are an important part of Louisiana’s culture throughout the year, but they’re extra special during this season of twinkling lights and fuzzy sweaters.
Louisianians drink differently once winter arrives. Tall, icy concoctions give way to more spirit-forward slow sippers, and mixologists across the state are prepared to meet the demand, each putting their unique spin on holiday classics and giving them a distinctly local flair. From spicy eggnogs to comforting hot toddies, they craft taste memories and help put us in a festive spirit.
In true Louisiana fashion, no special occasion comes without a special libation. We set out on a mission to find the most requested holiday cocktails across the Bayou State, from new ways with milk punch to tasty Irish coffees to an authentic Café Brûlot.
Whether you’re touring the Holiday Trail of Lights in North Louisiana or catching a romantic carriage ride through the French Quarter, these cheery potions are sure to put you in the holiday spirit. So bundle up, grab your loved ones, and get ready for some merrymaking. Joyeux Noël, Louisiana.
Doe’s Eat Place in Baton Rouge is known for its Mississippi Delta hot tamales, but during the Christmas season, the restaurant’s bartenders bring another regional specialty to the table: the hot toddy. Chef, mixologist, and cocktail history euthusiast George Krause began serving the hot toddy on a winter menu, and it became wildly popular.
“The recipe I use is actually based on the original punches,” says George. “A ‘toddy’ is just a small punch. The term ‘punch’ is based on the Hindi word for five, as the original recipe contained five ingredients.”
Today George’s recipe still contains just the right mixture of honey, fresh lemon juice, hot water, scotch, and fresh grated nutmeg. The spicy concoction continues to lure Baton Rouge’s savvy drinkers and offers a comforting cure for whatever ails you.
If your idea of a great holiday cocktail means fresh ingredients in a spot known for its hyper-local approach, look no further than the bar at Lafayette’s Social Southern where mixologist Lyndsey Darbonne is turning out expertly crafted cocktails year-round and has a few new tricks up her sleeve for the winter months.
Her newest creation, aptly named First Frost, uses coconut milk and cinnamon, finished off with simple syrup, Buffalo Trace whiskey, and a touch of Grand Marnier.
“I wanted to try something different with the coconut. I think it adds a nice texture and a rich taste,” says Lyndsey.
Lyndsey believes the dessert cocktail would be an appropriate ending to any meal, but she recommends pairing it with house favorite Brick Oven Chicken with seasonal vegetables or the ever-popular Steak and Frites. Either way, Social Southern’s festive plates and warm atmosphere make it a must-stop during the holidays.
Like many of New Orleans’ culinary treasures, the Café Brûlot Diabolique from Antoine’s has some history to it. Rumor has it that the drink, literally “devilishly burned coffee,” was invented by Jules Alciatore, son of the restaurant’s founder, to conceal alcohol during prohibition.
Today there’s no need to hide the brandy, but the drink’s spectacular tableside preparation has kept it popular with modern diners. The Café Brûlot starts with a spiced brandy concoction, which is heated and dramatically set aflame. To that, the server adds hot coffee and divides the mixture among special cups.
Cinnamon and clove add warm holiday flavor to this drink, which is all the more enjoyable against Antoine’s festive background. The Café Brulot is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit and wake you up in time for a late-night French-Quarter jaunt with loved ones.
At the French Quarter corner of Iberville and Bourbon sits Bourbon House, Creole-eatery and home of the famed Milk Punch that’s next on our list. With a full view of Bourbon Street revelry as a backdrop, the barkeeps at the Dickie Brennan-owned eatery have put an equally playful twist on the classic drink—they serve it as a milkshake.
The creamy concoction features whole milk, bourbon, vanilla extract, and just the right amount of grated nutmeg for a distinctly festive taste. Stop in while enjoying the Christmas decorations in the Quarter, and get one to go to make your walk jollier.
Quintessential French Quarter dive bar Molly’s at the Market earns a spot on our list for its satisfyingly rich Hot Buttered Rum.
The popular lower Decatur Street watering hole has served this comforting mix of rum, butter, and various spices for years, and the drink’s history goes even further. Legend has it that political candidates in America’s colonial days would give constituents hot buttered rum to influence their vote.
This budget-friendly bar is also known for its hot and frozen Irish coffees, so there’s a spirit to suit every taste. For the perfect accompaniment to a chilly French Quarter evening, stop in and grab a go-cup before caroling in Jackson Square.
Nestled inside the towering L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles is Jack Daniel’s Bar & Grill, which offers one of our favorite holiday libations. In place of the omnipresent rum or brandy, Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Milk Punch features its famous whiskey namesake, in addition to traditional ingredients like half-and-half, simple syrup, and nutmeg.
Those in the know line up on Sunday mornings during brunch service for a taste of this wildly popular cheery libation. Try it alongside Chef Lyle Broussard’s Andouille and Crawfish Benedict for a festive meal.
In the northwest corner of the state sits Shreveport’s Wine Country Bistro, where the restaurant’s passion for bourbon shines in its Bourbon Milk Punch.
A clove-based simple syrup forms the rich and sensuous backdrop to this punch, but the true star of this decadent drink is the farm-fresh milk delivered by local Flowing Hills Dairy.
Judd Smith, Beverage Director for Cadre Hospitality, says, “It’s really a nice rich milk, that old-school type that has the cream on the top when you open it. You’ve got to have great ingredients to have great anything.”
And great ingredients star in all of the Wine Country Bistro offerings, with Southern classics like Low Country Shrimp and Grits and Buttermilk Waffles dominating the brunch menu. Stop in before hitting Shreveport holiday happenings like Christmas in Roseland or Benton’s Christmas on the Square.
Visitors to New Orleans’ South Market District will find plenty of holiday cheer inside Willa Jean, Besh Restaurant Group’s newest bakery venture, headed by Kelly Fields and 2014 Louisiana Cookin’ Chef to Watch LisaMarie White.
The space itself is bright, warm, and inviting, but it’s the mix of expertly crafted edibles and cocktails that captured our attention. Not only do the bakery’s Milk and Cookies land it firmly on Santa’s nice list, the house-made eggnog deserves its own special nod. A silky mixture of cream, eggs, spices, rum, Amaretto, Cognac, and rye, the drink takes on a delicious complexity that’s perfect for chilly afternoons. Be sure to try it with one of the bakery’s signature pastries or cookies for a delectable holiday treat. And you can even order a carafe to go!