Savvy Cookbooks: Winter Cocktails by Maria del Mar Sacasa

Winter Cocktails

When I was planning our New Year’s Eve party, I searched through several cocktail books.  Nearly all of them were duds – they felt clunky and overly simple.  The recipes were rarely sorted in a convenience way, and it was difficult to get a sense of the seasonality of the recipes – whether they were best as summer refreshments or warming cold weather drinks, whether they tasted fruity or spicy, sweet or dry. Plus, they usually just covered the basics, which I can just as easily find with a quick Google search. I wanted a cocktail book that inspired me to make something a little different, something that isn’t a standard classic.

I didn’t find that perfect New Year’s Eve cocktails book that I was looking for last year, but now I have it: Winter Cocktails by Maria del Mar Sacasa. The layout, images, and even the square shape of the book convey the warmth and coziness of the recipes within. The gorgeous photography by Tara Striano portrays a “let’s get inside and out of the snow” feel, and the author’s background as a food stylist shows.

Winter Cocktails opens with step-by-step photos of basic techniques, such as muddling and making citrus twists, before transitioning into the recipe chapters.  The chapters are sorted by type of drink – hot toddies and mulled drinks; eggnog, hot chocolate, coffee & tea; punches and pitchers; chilled winter cocktails. As you might imagine, my favorite chapter is the one involving tea. I’m especially excited about the “White Witch” on page 60 – a spiked chai-infused white hot chocolate!  I mean, it’s like that recipe was added to the book just for me, right?

Orchard Fete

The straightforward and DIY ingredients and tools make all of the cocktail recipes approachable. Most of the pantry and refrigerator ingredients are things you already have or are easy to find.  And the majority of the alcohols and liqueurs called for are fairly standard, so you aren’t stuck buying five different flavored vodkas or whatever to make individual cocktails (hooray!).  The less common alcohols that are called for, like Aguardiente and Bährenjäger, aren’t used much in the book or have recommended substitutes, so you could just skip or tweak those recipes if you don’t want to buy a specific bottle. I’m keeping my bar stocked with just the basics, and I have pretty much all of the alcohols and liqueurs I need – it’s a win!

Oh, and the book ends with a chapter on DIY ingredients (like pink peppercorn simple syrup and blood orange sour mix), and a chapter of small bites (like candied bacon!) to serve with your cocktails.

I have a long list of recipes on my to-make list from this cookbook. I mean, a LONG list. I think I bookmarked over half the cocktails in the book to try, and some of these will definitely be on my New Year’s Eve menu this year.  There are a few basic recipes with suggested variations, like the “New Fangled,” a twist on the Old-Fashioned, or the Hot Buttered Rum made with vanilla-and-brown-sugar-infused butter.  Plus, there are some new versions of old classics, like Pumpkin Bourbon Eggnog, and plenty of new drinks.  I can’t wait to try the Liquid Gold, a mulled pineapple cocktail, and I’m intrigued by the beet granita, Red, Red, Red, on page 100.

Rosy Cheek2

Quirk Books was generous enough to allow me to reprint two of my favorite cocktail recipes for you: the Rosy Cheek from page 59 and Orchard Fête from page 81. You can find them after the jump!

Overall, I give Winter Cocktails by Maria del Mar Sacasa

5 out of 5 stars

Rosy Cheek

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Rosy Cheek

Reprinted with permission from Winter Cocktails by Maria del Mar Sacasa.


  • 1/4 cup roasted and salted macadamia nuts
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon whole pink peppercorns, crushed, plus more for garnish
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 ounces white rum, optional


  1. Pulse nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground.
  2. Bring milk and peppercorns to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes.
  3. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard solids. Return milk to saucepan and stir in nut mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Stir in white chocolate and salt and cook, stirring, until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
  5. Serve in warmed cups and spike with 1 1/2 ounces white rum per serving, if desired.


Orchard Fete

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Yield: Serves 24

Orchard Fete

Reprinted with permission from Winter Cocktails by Maria del Mar Sacasa.


  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 8 sprigs rosemary, plus more for garnish
  • 8 sprigs thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 4 cups applejack
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 (750-milliliter) bottles alcoholic sparkling cider
  • Ice mold, for the punch bowl


  1. Combine maple syrup, rosemary, and thyme in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let syrup cool to room temperature. Remove and discard herbs.
  2. Stir cooled syrup, applejack, and apple cider together in a punch or other serving bowl. When ready to serve, stir in sparkling cider and slide in ice mold. Garnish cups with rosemary and thyme sprigs and serve.

Psst: I was provided with a copy of Winter Cocktails from Quirk Books to review, but I was not otherwise compensated for this post.  This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own, and I truly do love this cookbook.


  1. Rick says

    It is starting to actually get really cold and now is the time to starting making some of these winter cocktails! I think the Orchard Fete sounds the most delicious to me I will have to try that out this weekend.

    I was just reading this list made by Grand Life Hotels of the Top 5 Winter Cocktails in New York. I am going to have to make my way around the city to try all of these !