The holidays are a great time to get a little creative with cocktails. With all the seasonal celebrating and parties, it seems like there’s always a glass in hand and a toast to be made. It’s the perfect opportunity to step up your mixology game. A little extra effort only adds to the spirit of the season!

For me that means making infused spirits to use all season long. They’re easy to make and fun to incorporate into drinks. Flavored rums, bitters, mixers...the possibilities are nearly limitless. My yearly holiday list includes making staples like limoncello, a batch or two of coffee liqueur, and boozy homemade eggnog. Lots and lots of eggnog. My favorite eggnog recipecalls for three kinds of alcohol, and can age for nearly six months in the fridge. It’s superb.

Aged spirits and mixers are fantastic...when I remember to make them in October or even earlier (I age the eggnog recipe above for three or four months in my fridge.) When time starts running short, I turn to recipes that are ready in days or maybe a week. I need it to be simple to assemble. and low-maintenance. Easy-peasy is the way to go when we’re so close to the holidays. Bourbon infused with vanilla and ginger is just the ticket.

Bourbon alone is a winner for winter cocktails. The rich, warm tones are a natural for cold nights. Whether anchoring a classic Manhattan or just served over ice with a cherry, the brownest of the brown liquors doesn’t disappoint. Steep it with vanilla and ginger, and you’ve taken it to a whole other level.

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You can use just about any bourbon for this. I’ve even had great results with American whiskeys, especially the one made by Roxbury’s very own Bully Boy Distillers. Made with both corn and rye, it’s a balanced compromise between the sweetness of bourbon and the dry character of rye.

This recipe only takes a week to mellow (although you can go longer if you like), is super-simple to make, and hits all the right holiday notes. Once made, let the cocktail fun begin. Try this sparkling pear and bourbon cocktail, or a restorative take on a Hot Toddy. If you’re entertaining a crowd, whip up a batch of cider-bourbon punch. The vanilla and ginger flavors only make it better.

You can even cook with your fancy new libation. Bourbon sweet potatoes take on a whole new level of flavor. Even dessert wins. Make this easy maple-bourbon banana pudding cakeand serve it neat with a little sip of chilled bourbon. Happy holidays, indeed!

Vanilla-Ginger Infused Bourbon

Makes 1 750ml bottle


  • 1 750ml bottle Kentucky Bourbon
  • 1 Vanilla bean, split and seeded
  • 1 Tablespoon light honey
  • 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 1” piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 2” piece of orange peel


  1. Warm 1 cup of bourbon in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Do not let it boil or simmer.
  2. Add honey and brown sugar. Stir until dissolved. Remove from heat.
  3. When cool, pour into glass jar or other aging container. Add rest of bourbon and ingredients.
  4. Let age in cool, dry, place for one week. Each day, gently shake the container to mix ingredients.