Give all your drinks a little holiday spirit with the addition of this Christmas syrup for cocktails, mocktails, and all things cheery! Awash in flavors of citrus and spice, this easy-to-make and delicious holiday simple syrup will brighten up the flavors in your bourbon cocktails, gin drinks, and vodka tipples.
Because it’s made with whole spices, it’s easy to strain and even easier to adjust the spice to your preference. Tasting the syrup while making it and as it steeps allows you to pull out the spices as the syrup reaches the perfect flavor level.
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Flavors in this Christmas Syrup
While I love the flavors of chocolate and mint this time of year, when I think of cocktails, my mind goes to citrus, clove, cinnamon and star anise, flavors found in desserts and cookies of the season.
If you think of gingerbread syrup, it has clove, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, and molasses. If you think of spingerles you have vanilla, orange oils, and licorice flavors. Both collections of spices make delectable additions to cocktails.
For this syrup, I chose the following spices to add whole to the syrup to steep:
- Star anise
- Orange peel
In addition, instead of using water as the liquid base for the cocktail, I used strained fresh orange juice as the base with water and added white sugar.
However, if you’re going to be using this mostly with bourbon and whiskey cocktails, light brown sugar would add a wonderful note of complexity. However, it does make the syrup much darker. That means vibrant colored cocktails with red, green and blue ingredients will be yellowed or have tinge of orange to them.
How to Make a Christmas Syrup
I love an easy syrup made in the microwave, but in this case, because we are steeping whole spices and peels, we’ll use the stove.
First, peel two oranges of just the peel, not the pith. The pith is the white part of the peel underneath the fragrant, orange surface. Pith tastes bitter so leave it out of the syrup.
Add the whole spices to the saucepan and toast them for 3 to 4 minutes or until very fragrant. Be careful not to scorch or burn them.
Then, squeeze the oranges, strain the juice and add it to a small saucepan on the stove with water, sugar and the orange peel.
You’ll add in the whole spices to the mix, let it all come to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. This heats up the spices and helps extract the flavors from them. Once you turn off the heat, let the syrup cool to room temperature. It steeps as it does, increasing the flavor and making the spices pop more and more.
How to Use a Holiday Simple Syrup in Cocktails
The beauty of a flavored Christmas simple syrup for cocktails is the variety of ways and spirits with which it can be combined. As a whiskey nerd, my first impulse was to test the spirit in an Old Fashioned.
But any cocktail that uses simple syrup would be delicious!
Here are some examples of cocktails you could add this syrup to:
- Pisco Sour
- Old Fashioned
- Whiskey Sour
- Tom Collins/John Collins
- Mint Julep
- Hot Buttered Rum
- Hot Toddy
- Jungle Bird
- Singapore Sling
- Pina colada
- Irish Coffee
- Whiskey Smash
- Gin Smash
But really, any cocktail hot or cold that uses simple syrup could be a good match. As always when designing your own cocktail, make sure the base spirit matches the flavor of the Christmas syrup.
The easiest way to do that is through the sniff test. Hold the base spirit and a bit of the syrup under your nose and see if the two smell good together.
Tips and Tricks to Make an Orange Christmas Syrup for Cocktails
This syrup is easy to customize for your flavor preference. While I started with a base amount of spices. If you prefer some spices to others, you can swap out with other baking spices that do well with citrus, or even adjust the amounts.
For instance, in the first batch I made with this recipe below, the clove is not very prevalent. But I wanted more of that aroma and flavor in the final batch for a particular cocktail application. The second time I made it, I doubled the amount of clove.
Use a different citrus peel, or combined types of peels. If you prefer lemon over orange, either add the peel of one orange and one lemon, or add in lemon peel only. Grapefruit is another option to use for experiments.
Add a cracked whole nutmeg if you’re a fan of the scent of nutmeg in drinks over the holidays. Likewise, adding a split vanilla bean pod is perfect if this syrup will be used primarily with whiskey.
Use the steep time to control the intensity of the spice. Letting the syrup cool to room temperature may take an hour or two. As the syrup cools it gathers more of the flavor and aroma from the spices. Allowing additional steep time further intensifies the flavor.
If you find the spice flavor too intense, remove the spices when the syrup reaches its best point, whether or not the syrup has cooled.
Reserve the peels and spices to dry in a dehydrator or in an oven set on low. They make fantastic drink garnishes, or added atop a fancy trifle or tart.
Make a large batch to bottle and share with friends and family as gifts. In fact, it’s a perfect gift to give with a bottle of bourbon and a special rocks glass as a gift!
Remember that you want to keep it refrigerated since it’s a simple syrup.
Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy
- Christmas Old Fashioned
- Christmas Sour with Uncle Nearest
- Cranberry Gin and Tonic
- Salted Caramel Orange Hot Chocolate
- Gingerbread Martini
- Gingerbread Manhattan
- Eggnog Espresso Martini
- Pomegranate Deliciousness Cocktail
Christmas Syrup for Cocktails
- ½ c fresh squeezed orange juice, strained
- ½ c water
- 1 c sugar
- 10 allspice berries
- 8 cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- Orange peel from two oranges no pith
- Add all ingredients to a sauce pan and simmer on low for 10 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved and the orange peel is slightly translucent.
- Let the syrup cool to room temperature.
- Strain and refrigerate. Will keep for 3-4 weeks in the fridge.