Cocktails

Christmas Cocktails: The best Breckenridge whiskeys for sipping and mixing this holiday season

Breckenridge Distillery’s award-winning liquid chef Billie Keithley shares her favourite cocktail recipes and whiskeys for sipping this holiday season.

This article was written by American Whiskey Magazine in partnership with Breckenridge Distillery.

High up in the Colorado Rocky Mountains lies a remarkable whiskey maker. Surrounded by forested slopes and with snow on the ground up to nine months of the year, Breckenridge isn’t your average distillery. The team is used to embracing extreme conditions, crafting whiskey at almost 10,000ft elevation whatever the weather. But there’s something extra special about being in Breckenridge over the holiday season, and the team know a thing or two about picking the best winter-time sipping whiskeys and Christmas cocktails that will impress friends and family — read on for the recipes.

Billie Keithley: The award-winning liquid chef

“It’s like living in a snow globe,” says Billie Keithley excitedly. The multi-award-winning liquid chef, like the rest of the team, lives close to the distillery. Winter is her favourite time of year, and she’s fully embracing the festive spirit. For Keithley, that starts with sharing an award-winning Breckenridge whiskey.

Billie Keithley, Breckenridge’s award-winning liquid chef.

Breckenridge Distillery was founded by Bryan Nolt back in 2008. The radiologist-turned-distiller had just returned from a whisky trip to Scotland when he fell in love with the landscape around the sleepy town of Breckenridge, Colorado. Soon after, he fired up the stills, and the distillery has been producing remarkable spirits ever since. Picking up accolades all over the world, Breckenridge’s crowning achievement is winning the title of World’s Best Blended for its High Proof Bourbon Whiskey at the World Whiskies Awards 2023.

Destination Breckenridge

Beyond its eponymous distillery, Breckenridge is a destination in its own right. The town is close to a renowned ski resort, bringing in national and international tourists, and stunning hiking trails snake all around. Its Main Street, quaint and whimsical, runs through the centre for a mile. Each Christmas, it’s the backdrop to the ‘Race of the Santas’, where hundreds make the mile-long dash out and back. The distillery, with its award-winning cosy diner setting, is the perfect place to retreat from the mountains. Anyone heading to the distillery during the holiday season can pick up a bottle of the limited-edition Breckenridge Holiday Blend. Only 500 bottles are released each year, and it makes for a special pour to share over the Christmas season.

The Breckenridge Distillery in wintertime.

Keithley oversees the drinks program at Breckenridge, and is no stranger to accolades herself. In 2021, she was named Bar Manager of the Year by the judges of Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky awards. “I was blown away,” she said, recalling the award win. “Everyone was calling me,” she laughs. “I was like, what is the big deal?! And when they told me about the Whisky Magazine Icons of Whisky award, it meant a lot. Her career, in her words, started as a shot bartender. Now, with 25 years under her belt, she’s officially up there with the world’s best.

The Holiday Season

Keithley loves spending the holiday season in Breckenridge. “The mountains are just so beautiful and inspiring,” she details. “I do take a lot of inspiration from nature, whether it be spring, summer, fall, winter. But winter is my favourite season of the year. It makes me happy.” When it comes to picking whiskeys for gifts and mixing cocktails while hosting, she really knows her stuff. And, of course, her go-to whiskeys are from the Breckenridge range.

A selection of Breckenridge whiskeys.

“Experimenting is super key,” she says of home bartending. “Your mind goes to ciders, toddies, spices for winter drinks – and Breckenridge Spiced Whiskey has it all.” The team has taken the award-winning core bourbon and infused it by hand with whole roots and winter spices. Cinnamon, allspice, caramel and vanilla leap from the tasting glass. “All those notes are already in there,” she continues. She suggests wrapping it up for a loved one to gift that fireside sipping experience, or use it as a punch base.

Experimenting with whiskey

Breckenridge PX Sherry Cask Finish and Breckenridge Port Cask Finish are also high on Keithley’s Christmas list. “They’re just fantastic sippers,” she enthuses. Both make phenomenal bases for spirit-forward cocktails – and can even add a touch of Breckenridge  magic to that big celebration meal. “If you’re making lamb or duck, use either PX Sherry Cask Finish or Port Cask Finish with some brown sugar to make a reduction.” Now that’s what you call holiday spirit!

Breckenridge’s whiskeys are the perfect choice during the holiday season.

Breckenridge Bourbon and Breckenridge High Proof are both aged for at least three years. Richly mouth-filling thanks to a high rye content, the bourbon is vibrant with butterscotch, dry cacao and brown sugar notes. It’s delicious all year, but there’s something exquisite about enjoying it during the holidays. The WWA’s World’s Best Blended whiskey, High Proof, offers a similar profile with an amped-up ABV.

“If you were to get a bottle of 105, pour it and throw an ice cube in, you’re proofing it down,” Keithley continues. In her opinion, adding water slowly is one of the best ways to savour the drinking experience.

Simple whiskey cocktails to make at home

A real drinks expert, she’s got some easy cocktail tips up her sleeve for simple holiday drinks, too. “Play with apples – apples and whiskey go hand-in-hand,” she opens. “Experiment with bitters, and try adding a splash of whiskey into mulled wine.” And perhaps the simplest Christmas twist: “Cranberries are fun because they float, so they’re an easy, colourful garnish.” A Breckenridge Highball with floating cranberries is a guaranteed to impress friends and family as they unwrap their gifts – it’s the perfect serve for those who are new to whiskey and seasoned enthusiasts, too.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect bottle to wrap up under the tree, or for the perfect whiskey to serve, order your Breckenridge bottles now for the festive season. Happy holidays!


The Best Whiskey Cocktail Recipes For Christmas

Keithley has shared two of her favourite festive cocktails below – and they’re perfect for making at home. Grab a bottle of Breckenridge whiskey and get mixing this Christmas.

Holiday Highball

Once you’ve prepped the Cranberry Collins cube, this is an incredibly easy drink to make. Just build as guests arrive!

Ingredients

Bar tools

  • Jigger or measuring beaker
  • Collins cube mould (or other large ice-cub mould)

Method
Freeze cranberries and water in the Collins cube mould. When you’re ready to serve, place the Collins ice cube into a chilled Collins (aka Highball) glass, add the Breckenridge 105 and top with soda. Pro tip: make sure all the ingredients are cold. Garnish with fresh cranberries.

Sugar Plum Fairy

A delicious winter warmer, this is the perfect drink to enjoy by a fire after a long, chilly walk. It smells incredible, too.

Ingredients

Bar tools

  • Tempered mug
  • Jigger or measuring beaker

Method

In a tempered mug, add the Breckenridge Spiced Whiskey and top with hot spiced plum tea. Garnish with gum drops.

Fa, La, La, La Nog

Smooth, sweet and decadent, this feels like a festive dessert in a glass. Ideal for after dinner sipping.

Ingredients

Bar tools

  • Cocktail shaker with strainer
  • Cocktail or Nick & Nora glass
  • Jigger or measuring beaker

Method

Shake all ingredients with ice. Served up in a chilled cocktail, coupe or Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of vanilla bean sugar.

My Grandma’s Recipe

Don’t be alarmed by the syrup recipe – this really is easy to make and it adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the cocktail.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 oz Breckenridge Rum Cask Finish 
  • 1 oz Maple Ginger Tea Simple Syrup*
    • Brown sugar
    • Maple Ginger tea
  • 1 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1 oz Apple Cider
  • An apple
  • Cubed ice
  • Crushed ice (Or add cubed ice to an ice bag and bash vigorously with the hammer!)

Bar tools

  • Jigger or measuring beaker
  • Measuring cup
  • Cocktail shaker with strainer
  • Ice bag and hammer
  • Saucepan
  • Teapot or tempered jug
  • Spoon
  • Sharp knife

Method

Steep maple ginger tea until brewed. Transfer the tea to a pan and add one cup of light brown sugar. Simmer and stir over medium heat until all sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool, transfer to a flask, bottle or sealed jug and then refrigerate. (Refrigerated syrup will be good for about a week, so feel free to batch prep.) When you’re ready to serve, shake all ingredients with ice. Strain and serve with crushed ice. Garnish with an apple chip.

Après Ski

A twist on the spirit-forward Manhattan classic, this is an easy one to pre-batch ahead of a holiday party. Just multiply quantities for what you need, and add a dash of water for dilution.

Ingredients

Bar tools

  • Mixing flask, large glass or jug
  • Strainer
  • Spoon

Method

Add all ingredients to the mixing flask, large glass or jug. Add lots of ice and stir, tasting periodically until you’re happy with the dilution. Strain into a chilled glass over a large ice cube.


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