This sweet Sugar Plum Cocktail is boozy, festive and delicious, and it actually tastes like plums! The key ingredient here is an unaged plum brandy. With flavors of cinnamon, vanilla and whiskey, this drink is a festive holiday treat that may even give you some visions of sugar plums.
What better inspiration for a Christmas cocktail than the sugar plum? I always used to think sugar plums were actual plums that had been dried and preserved with sugar. Turns out, they're a type of candy made with nuts, fruits or spices and surrounded by a hard candy shell. So, not necessarily plum flavored at all, but kind of shaped like them.
I still wanted to incorporate a plum flavor, so I found a delicious plum brandy to do the heavy lifting in this drink. Unaged fruit brandies, which are also known as eau de vie or schnapps, make really delicious cocktail ingredients because they taste so much like the fruit they are made from.
Here are the ingredients you'll need for this Christmastime cocktail:
- Plum brandy - look for a clear-colored plum brandy. It's also called Slivovitz when it is made from damson plums. I used Reisetbauer brand, which is pricey, but has an amazing flavor.
- Apple cinnamon infused vodka - you can make this infusion yourself if you can't find one for purchase. Just put a few cinnamon sticks and a cut-up apple in some vodka for about two to three days, then strain out the solids, and bottle the liquid in an airtight container.
- Rye whiskey
- Vanilla syrup - I used Vanilla Bean syrup from Amoretti. The syrup was gifted to me by the brand (and I highly recommend it).
- Apple cinnamon syrup - if you can't find this flavor of syrup, you can make some. Combine equal parts by volume of sugar and water, along with two to three cinnamon sticks and a cut up apple, in a pot. Bring to a boil for three minutes, then let it cool, strain it into an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator.
- Rum cocktail cherry for garnish
- Sparkling coarse sugar for garnish
If you don't have one of the listed ingredients, here are some things you could try instead:
- Plum brandy - if you can't find plum brandy or Slivovitz, you can try a different flavor of fruit brandy like apple or cherry (Kirschwasser). In a pinch, you can pick up some flavored vodka. Peach or blackberry flavored vodka would work well here.
- Apple cinnamon infused vodka - if you can't find this for purchase or make it at home, use a spiced rum instead.
- Rye whiskey - you can substitute in a different whiskey or an aged rum for this spirit.
- Vanilla syrup - instead of this syrup, you could use maple syrup and a few drops of vanilla extract.
- Apple cinnamon syrup - instead of this, you could use maple syrup or honey.
There are lots of different ways to change this recipe up! Here are a few:
- Spritz - after you mix the drink, strain it on top of ice in a larger glass, and top it off with seltzer or Champagne.
- Amaretto - instead of the syrups, you could substitute in some Amaretto liqueur for more of a nutty flavor. Keep in mind that this will increase the alcohol, so decrease some of the whiskey or apple cinnamon infusion by a few bar spoons as well.
- Sugared Cherry - substitute Kirsch (cherry brandy) for the plum brandy, and also substitute Cherry Heering liqueur for the syrups. Like the Amaretto version, you'll need to decrease the whiskey or apple cinnamon infusion by a little bit.
You'll need a few things to create this drink:
- Jigger or small measuring cup
- Heavy-bottomed glass for mixing
- Long-handled bar spoon
- Coupe or other cocktail glass for serving
- Cocktail pick
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This drink is pretty simple to put together. You'll want to start by rimming your serving glass with the silver sanding sugar if you're using it. To get it to stick, just wet the rim with water, or better yet, the syrup from your rum cocktail cherries.
Then, get started making the drink. Add the plum brandy to your mixing glass.
Then, add the apple cinnamon infusion, rye whiskey, vanilla syrup and apple cinnamon syrup.
When all of the ingredients are in, fill the mixing glass with ice and use a long bar spoon to stir the mixture for about thirty seconds. This will mix everything, and the ice will melt a little to dilute and chill the drink.
Then, strain the drink into the serving glass.
Add a rum cherry to a cocktail pick, and rest it on the side of the glass to serve.
Hint: you can chill the serving glass beforehand in the fridge or freezer to keep your drink cold longer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many people equate brandy with Cognac, but Cognac is just one type of brandy. An unaged brandy made with a fruit juice base is also called an eau de vie. This type of brandy is clear in color. A good quality eau de vie will retain much of the flavor of the distilled fruit juice.
Plum brandy (or Slivovitz) is hugely popular in Eastern Europe, and is normally enjoyed neat, which means just by itself without any ice. Although that's the traditional way to use it, it makes a delicious cocktail ingredient as well.
A sugar plum is a type of old fashioned candy with some kind of nut center, often with spice flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg, and a hard outer shell. A Jordan Almond is a type of a sugar plum. In modern times, many sugar plum-inspired products (like this cocktail!) do incorporate a plum flavor because of the name.
Since this drink doesn't have any fresh juices or anything that would spoil quickly, it is a great cocktail to batch for a party. This just means that you can increase all of the ingredients to make several drinks at once, and then store the mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
If you make a big batch, you'll also want to add ½ ounce of filtered water per cocktail serving to the mixture. That way you won't even have to stir it with ice, since it is already chilled. Easy peasy!
Sugar Plum Cocktail
- Cocktail stirring glass
- Cocktail strainer
- Wet the rim of your serving glass with water or the syrup from your cocktail cherries. Dip the rim into the coarse silver sugar so the sugar sticks to the glass.
- Add the plum brandy to your cocktail mixing glass.
- Add the apple cinnamon infusion, rye whiskey, apple cinnamon syrup and vanilla syrup to the mixing glass.
- Fill the mixing glass with ice and, using a bar spoon, stir for about 30 seconds.
- Strain the liquid into your prepared serving glass.
- Skewer a cocktail cherry with a cocktail pick and add it to the glass. Serve immediately.