Hosting a holiday party? You’ve got the crudité, dairy-free dips and gluten-free crackers to accommodate the dietary requirements of your guests. Now it’s on to the plant-based cocktails.

No jello shots or egg nog here. But you can make fantastic crowd-pleasing drinks without compromising your food preferences. Keep things simple with one signature cocktail, along with wine and beer (no honey porter though).

Aquafaba: The miracle water

I’ve always avoided cocktails like whiskey sours because of egg whites. And plenty of people who don’t follow a plant-based diet just don’t like the idea of raw egg whites in their drinks. Aquafaba, the liquid that remains after you cook chickpeas, is the perfect vegan substitute.

You can make your own aquafaba, but an easier way is to drain a can of chickpeas and save the starchy liquid. Low sodium chickpeas are preferable so your drinks aren’t salty. One 15-ounce can of chickpeas yields about six ounces of aquafaba. Use the chickpeas to make hummus, or add to a Buddha bowl or salad.

For a whiskey sour, you also need simple syrup. Most simple syrups are an equal mixture of sugar and water, but I prefer a less sweet version, with half the amount of sugar. 

Simple syrup

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

Bring sugar and water to a boil, then simmer and stir until sugar dissolves. This keeps for about a month in the refrigerator.

Please Note: Recipes are for one serving. If you want to make a batch, mix in a pitcher, then pour some into the shaker. Unless you have a giant shaker, it’s hard to make more than 2 or 3 at a time.

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Plant-Based Whiskey Sour

  • 2 ounces bourbon (Use a decent brand, like Makers Mark or Knob Creek)
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce aquafaba
  • 2 drops bitters (I like Hella Bitters Citrus)
  • Strip of citrus peel

Fill a martini shaker with ice and add all the liquid. Shake till cold and strain into a martini or old fashioned glass. Garnish with the citrus peel.

Plant-Based Gin Fizz 

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/2 ounce aquafaba
  • 1-ounce club soda
  • Garnish: lemon peel

Fill a martini shaker with ice and add the gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and aquafaba. Shake till cold and strain into a highball glass. Top with club soda and garnish with lemon.

Bee’s Knees with no stinger (i.e., no honey)

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1-ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce maple syrup

Fill a shaker with ice and add all the ingredients. Shake or stir and strain into a coupe glass.

Martini time

Martinis are simple drinks, which means it’s all about the execution. You need great quality gin or vodka, super cold liquid and bleu-cheese stuffed olives. I found a vegan bleu cheese made by Reine Fauxgonzola. Just get some big, meaty, pitted green olives. Cram some of this into the olive cavities and voila, the ideal martini garnish.

Many bars store martini glasses in a freezer so the martini is even colder. I used to do this until I replaced my refrigerator with a model that has a bottom freezer. It opens by pulling the drawer, so the martini glasses fall over.

Perfect Martini

  • 3 ounces of your favorite vodka or gin
  • A drop or two of white vermouth
  • 3 homemade Fauxgonzola stuffed olives

Fill martini shaker with ice, add your booze of choice and shake and shake. Then shake some more. Pour into chilled martini glass and garnish with olives.

Time to celebrate

This holiday drink will banish thoughts of egg nog but the spiced rum brings plenty of cheer. If you don’t want to squeeze citrus for the other drinks, you can get away with using bottled lime (unsweetened) or lemon juice. But for this drink or really anything that calls for fresh nutmeg, go the extra mile and buy fresh. The taste is so much better than the pre-ground.

Milk Punch

  • 1 1/2 ounces spiced rum
  • 3 ounces almond milk
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • cinnamon stick

Fill a shaker with ice and add the liquid. Shake and strain into a glass mug. Grind a little fresh nutmeg over the top and serve with a cinnamon stick.

Looking for more holiday recipes? Right this way.