“With one bottle of fortified wine, I can make a hundred different cocktails,” declares Neal Bodenheimer, proprietor of Cure and other New Orleans bars. What is it about fortified wine that lends itself to mixing festive cocktails? It’s the tremendous range of flavor—from nutty and light (think dry Sherries and blanc vermouths) to bold red fruit (ruby Port) or richer, dried fruit and cocoa tones (Madeira, oloroso and PX Sherry). But these bottles also provide versatility, complexity and, yes, an opportunity to lighten the amount of alcohol in even the stiffest drinks. No wonder so many bartenders find inspiration here.
“The wine presents the flavor profile—it could be the spicy orange notes of the bitter Italian vermouth Punt e Mes or the nutty dried fruit of an oloroso Sherry—and then I match different spirits and bitters to that,” Bodenheimer explains. Some of his favorite templates include a reverse Manhattan-style combination of two parts fortified to one part spirit; cobblers, over a mountain of crushed ice and garnished with seasonal fruit; and punches, like his St. Charles Punch, featured here.
From mulled wine to eggnog, here are 10 wine-based cocktails perfect celebrating the holiday season.
1. St. Charles Punch with a Port Twist
This heady cocktail, which marries fortified wine, bitters, lemon juice and homemade lemon-orange syrup, is the perfect quaff for any gathering.
Recipe: St. Charles Punch with Port
2. The Port World Cup Cocktail
Loosely inspired by the Manila Hoop Punch, this Port cocktail mixes aged Jamaican rum, fresh lime juice and a few other ingredients for a delicious drink.
Recipe: Port World Cup Cocktail
3. Classic Mulled Wine with Brandy and Orange
Sometimes you can’t beat a classic. But what’s the best wine for mulling? Try for a fruit-forward red to fortify with brandy, orange and spices.
4. The Classic Coffee Cocktail Recipe
This milkshake-like cocktail dates back to 1887 and curiously uses no coffee. Rather, Cognac and Port mimic the complexity of your morning pick-me-up.
Recipe: Classic Coffee Cocktail
5. Festivus for the Rest of Us
This rum and Sherry-based gingerbread cocktail would make Frank Costanza proud. Consider it a grown-up version of cookies and milk, but with a tropical twist.
6. Madeira Flip
With notes of dried figs, walnuts and savory umami, this cocktail has a smooth texture thanks to the addition of raw egg. (It works, trust us!)
Recipe: Madeira Flip Cocktail
7. Dulce de Jerez
Pedro Ximénez Sherry’s sweetness pairs perfectly with the other bold flavors and textures in this creamy cocktail.
Recipe: Dulce de Jerez Cocktail
8. Hot Eggnog
Hot eggnog? Don’t scoff, this wintertime warmer can help you beat the cold on a snowy day while doubling as a delicious, boozy dessert.
Recipe: Hot Eggnog Cocktail
9. An Easy Homemade Vermouth Recipe
A staple of bars and essential to cocktails, homemade vermouth is also a great DIY project if you have a bit of leftover wine. Here’s how to make your own.
Recipe: Homemade Vermouth Cocktail
10. Old Pal
While many cultures have a tradition of heating spiced wine to stay warm throughout the winter, savory aquavit sets apart the Norwegian version of this Scandinavian staple.
Recipe: Old Pal Cocktail
Last Updated: May 9, 2023