12 Drummers Drumming
In a shaker over ice, combine 2 oz scotch, 1 oz dry vermouth, 3/4 oz Drambuie*, splash of orange juice (or triple sec), a glug of honey or simple syrup, and a dash or two of bitters. Serve in a chilled martini glass and garnish with an orange twist or slice, or a mint or basil leaf or a sprig of rosemary.
*Drambuie is scotch sweetened with honey and steeped with fennel and rosemary. You can make your own using this recipe - but plan ahead, because it needs to steep for three days.
11 Pipers Piping
Fill a Collins or highball glass with ice and add 2 parts whisky (bourbon or scotch) and 1 part butterscotch schnapps. Fill with ginger ale.
10 Lords a-Leaping
When I teach the "Twelve Days" song to children, I remind them that lords take small, restrained leaps, since they are elegant and important and a bit stuffy. (I couldn't find a picture of the cocktail, so enjoy instead the above image of Thomas Radcliffe, a Lord Chamberlain who looks like he would not - and possibly could not - have "leaped" if his life depended on it.) The Lord Chamberlain cocktail seems a rather apt cocktail, given that description.
In a shaker over ice, combine 2 parts brandy, 1 part port, 1 part dry vermouth, and a dash or two of bitters. Serve in a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist, being sure to squeeze a bit of juice into the drink.
9 Ladies Dancing
The first "lady" themed cocktail that came to mind was a Pink Lady, but a bit of research revealed that there is a lovely gin cocktail called a White Lady that seems much more appropriate for the Christmas season.
In a shaker over ice, combine 2 parts gin, 1 part Cointreau, and 1 part lemon juice. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass without garnish.
8 Maids a-Milking
Coat the edge of a martini glass with honey or white chocolate liqueur and dip in sanding sugar. Place in freezer until ready to serve. In a shaker over ice, combine 2 parts vanilla vodka, 2 parts white chocolate liqueur, 1 part white creme de cacao, and 1 part cream. Shake vigorously and serve in prepared glass.
7 Swans a-Swimming
After the movie "Black Swan" was nominated for a boatload of Oscars in 2011 (including Best Picture and Best Director noms, and a Best Actress win for Natalie Portman), there were dozens of recipes for Black Swan cocktails. Since the simplest is often the best, here is one of the simpler versions.
In a shaker over ice, combine 3 parts vodka with 1 part Chambord (or black raspberry liqueur of choice). Add a splash of lemon juice if you like. Serve in a chilled martini glass with a black raspberry garnish.
6 Geese a-Laying
In a shaker over ice, combine 5 parts eggnog, 2 parts Grey Goose vanilla vodka, and 1 part amaretto. Garnish with nutmeg or cinnamon. (You can also substitute any brand of vanilla vodka or any brand of plain vodka plus a splash of Tuaca, but it's much more thematic if you use Grey Goose.)
5 Gold Rings
Wet the edge of a chilled martini glass apple juice and dip it in sanding sugar (gold, if you have it), then return to freezer until ready to pour. In a shaker over ice, combine 2 parts apple juice, 1 part butterscotch schnapps, and a generous splash of Goldschlager. Serve in prepared glass.
4 Calling Birds
In a shaker over ice, combine 2 parts vodka, 2 parts Goldschlager, 1 part cherry syrup (or grenadine), and a splash of Tabasco (how big a splash you use is entirely up to you). Serve with a lemon twist.
3 French Hens
In a shaker over ice, combine 3 parts vodka, 2 parts pineapple juice, a splash of lemon juice (or vermouth), and a splash of chambord. Serve with a lemon twist.
In a shaker over ice, combine 3 parts vodka with one part each creme de cacao, butterscotch schnapps, and amaretto, and top with a splash of cream. If you want to get really fancy (and even sweeter), drizzle a chilled martini glass with chocolate and/or caramel sauce before pouring and garnish with your favorite chopped nuts.
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The Breath of Fresh Pear from Del Frisco's steakhouse in Boston became a favorite of mine the first time I had it, and they were happy to share their recipe. It seems perfect for representing the last (or is it the first?) gift in this series.
In a shaker over ice, combine 2-1/2 oz pear vodka, 1 oz Cointreau (or triple sec), and 1-3/4 oz white cranberry juice. Serve in a chilled martini glass and garnish with a thin slice (or two, or three) of pear.