In a state known for its wine, craft beer, and growing artisanal spirits scene, finding a festive drink to toast to the holidays shouldn’t be difficult. To help your efforts, though, we’ve put together a few suggestions on how—and where—to sample some yuletide concoctions.
Wine-based cocktails at home
The California Wine Institute created a free e-book highlighting wintery concoctions made with Golden State wines. The downloadable California Wine Cocktails for the Holidays features drinks such as the West Coast Warm Winter Wine, a fruit-forward take on mulled wine with pomegranate and fresh citrus, and the California Gold Rush, which blends Chardonnay with fresh lemon juice and lemon-thyme honey. Download your free copy today and toast the California vibe from the comfort of your living room.
Themed drinks at pop-up bars
Christmas-themed pop-up Miracle has been transforming bars into over-the-top kitschy winter wonderlands since 2014, and this year it took over nine California locations for the month of December. Each of Miracle’s festively named cocktails—the Christmapolitan, Jingle Bowl, and The Bad Santa—are served in custom holiday glassware. Find the nine California locations here, including The Ordinaire in Long Beach, Brewsters Beer Garden in Petaluma, The Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar and Tiger in Sacramento.
Festive tiki concoctions
Sippin’ Santa, the companion pop-up to Miracle, brings Christmas tiki cheer to three California bars this season. Order the Sippin’ Santa, the pop-up’s signature drink, which combines rum, Amaro, citrus juices, and gingerbread into a sunglass-clad Santa mug. You can make reservations at all three California locations: Strong Water in Anaheim, The Jungle Bird in Sacramento, and The Grass Skirt in San Diego.
Seasonal winter beers
Ring in the holidays with a limited-release seasonal brew. For the 45th year in a row, San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing has released its secret-recipe Christmas Ale; you can taste the blend of toasty cocoa notes, roasted malts, pine, and hints of Mexican chocolate through early January. At The Bruery in Anaheim, brewers produce 12 specialty beers for its annual 12 Days Collection, including 10 Lords-a-Leaping and 9 Ladies Dancing. Sierra Nevada has brewed its Celebration Fresh Hop IPA since 1981, and you can sample the American-style IPA at its Chico Taproom or the Torpedo Room in Berkeley. On the North Coast, don’t miss Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale and North Coast Brewing Company’s three limited releases (Old Stock Cellar Reserve 2018 and two editions of Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin XXII).
Twists on classics
Keep an eye out for mixologists’ holiday spins on classic drinks. SF Travel recently highlighted tasty suggestions for drinks that will warm you up during the holidays—try the Cranberry Cocktail at Che Fico, where bartenders infuse cranberry liqueur with decaf beans from San Francisco’s Sightglass Coffee and add pine-scented alpine Amaro Braulio, Rabarbaro Zucca, absinthe, bitters, and bourbon. In Monterey County, there's also an abundance of winter cocktails, including multiple apple-flavored drinks. Head to the Sardine Factory in Monterey for a taste of Hot Apple Pie (warm apple cider, Tuaca liquer, whipped cream, cinnamon), go to Marina's Salt Wood Kitchen and Oysterette to try the Smoked Apple (Glenmorangie scotch, apple juice, brown sugar syrup, St-Germain), warm up with a Highland Cider (house-made cider, ginger maple syrup, High West Double Rye, orange peel, cinnamon) at Hyatt Carmel Highlands, or wind down with a Smoked Apple Old Fashioned at Carmel Valley Ranch.