Pittsburgh bartenders share their favorite holiday cocktails | Holiday Guide | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh bartenders share their favorite holiday cocktails

“Growing up, my family’s version of winter cocktails were always the same cans of Budweiser or Rolling Rock.”

There’s no disputing that alcohol brings people together, maybe even more so during the holidays. No matter your faith or celebration, a simple cocktail, punch or even mulled wine can help put the finishing touches on your snowy gatherings. City Paper asked two local bartenders to share their favorite holiday drink recipes with you. 

Kimmie Durik

Kimmie Durik, who won CP’s Best Bartender in our recent readers’ poll and currently bartends for Genoa, Downtown, says that her drinks “are for yinzers to keep warm this holiday season.”

Bearded Yinzer in a Pear Tree

  • 1 oz. Goldschlager
  • 1 oz. pear schnapps
  • 12 oz. mulled hot cider
  • Optional: layer Yukon Jack over the top

Simply pour equal parts of the liquor over the hot cider.

Kickin’ Hot Toddies

  • 1 to 2 oz. Fireball
  • 1 cup of hot black tea
  • Star anise to garnish

Add desired amount of Fireball to a cup of hot, black tea. Garnish.

The Russian Christmas

  • 1 oz. vanilla vodka
  • 1 oz. Bulleit rye bourbon
  • 1 dollop of maple syrup
  • ½ oz. heavy whipping cream

Over ice, mix liquor, syrup, and heavy whipping cream. Mix until glass is cold. This is a go-to classic holiday drink that everyone will enjoy.

Emily Struzebecher

Emily Struzebecher has previously tended bar at Livermore and Bar Marco and now resides at Pizza Taglio. “Growing up, my family’s version of winter cocktails were always the same cans of Budweiser or Rolling Rock, or a concoction my grandfather like to call ‘medicine,’ consisting of vodka and amaretto straight to the head,” she says. “Once I got older, I dove into the world of cocktails and have picked up a few favorites along the way that still drive me back to my childhood holiday memories, even though they don’t sear my throat quite like the ‘medicine.’” 

Mulled Manhattan

  • Orange slices
  • 1¼ oz. bourbon
  • ½ oz. Cointreau (or Triple Sec)
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 2 heavy dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Grape juice

Muddle orange slices in mixing glass. Fill mixing glass with ice, and add bourbon, Cointreau and bitters. Stir well, strain into a “Nick and Nora” glass, top off with grape juice, and garnish with orange twist and cherry. This is a winter take on a classic that is sure to hit the spot when you want a combination of mulled wine and something a little harder.


  • ½ oz. Cointreau (or Triple Sec)
  • 3 oz. cranberry juice
  • Champagne
  • Whole cranberries and rosemary sprigs for garnish

Build cocktail in champagne flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with cranberry and rosemary bomb (sprig inserted into cranberry). This is a great champagne cocktail that is light and simple, yet festive and sure to get you in the mood for the holidays.


  • Lemon twist for garnish
  • 1½ oz. dry vermouth
  • 1 oz. cognac
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients in glass for about 15 seconds with ice. Strain into coupe glass, and garnish with lemon twist. This cocktail is both spirit-forward and smooth, with hints of vanilla and cigar from the cognac, as well as a slight bite of clove and cinnamon from the bitters. It makes for a great holiday warm-up.

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