Kwanzaa Cocktails That Are As Festive As They Are Delicious



Dec. 26 marks the beginning of Kwanzaa, the annual celebration of African-American and Pan-African culture. The holiday culminates on Jan. 1 with the communal Karamu feast, but all seven days (which align with Nguzo Saba or The Seven Principles) are filled with activities, parties, and — most importantly — community. And, like other winter holidays, festive cocktails can serve as a fun and spirited component to all Kwanzaa celebrations.

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“Cocktails are for celebrations so they play a big part in [Kwanzaa] festivities,” explains Phil Wills, mixologist, co-founder of beverage consulting company The Spirits in Motion, and expert on the hit TV show Bar Rescue. “I feel that if you are going to have libations to celebrate, it is the perfect opportunity to use Black-owned business for your liquor, beer, or wine indulgence.”


Wills also explains that any cocktail celebrating African culture and awareness would be considered traditional or ideal for Kwanzaa festivities. So, with that in mind, ahead, check out six cocktails to help you celebrate the communal holiday in a big way this year. Cheers!

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Mint Julep

In honor of Tom Bullock, bartender and the first African-American cocktail book author (he penned The Ideal Bartender in 1917), why not make the classic elixir he was famous for? Yes, Bullock’s original Mint Julep and Overall Julep recipes can be found in his iconic book. Shutterstock

The Stinger

Another favorite of Bullock’s (and Wills’), The Stinger is a classic concoction that’s super easy to make, consisting only of creme de menthe and cognac (mixed and poured over ice). Add a sprig of mint or dried lemon for garnish and you’re good to go. Shutterstock

First Fruits Cocktail

Created in collaboration with Thrillist, travel and cocktail enthusiast Ashlee Tuck developed this drink to highlight the “it takes a village to raise a child” philosophy, celebrating “the concept of selflessly passing down guidance to uplift future generations,” according to a 2021 Thrillist article. For this reason, the drink incorporates crops and sources found on the African continent like spiced rooibos tea.@willdrinkfortravel

Winter Jubilee

Nicole Young, CEO of Frisky Whiskey is partial to this Winter Jubilee elixir for Kwanzaa. It incorporates 2 oz Frisky Whiskey, 2 oz fresh blood orange juice, 1/2 oz tart cherry juice, 1 oz ginger beer, and a blood orange slice and rosemary sprig for garnish. “This drink absolutely explodes with flavor,” she says. “Which is the same energy I picture at the harvest festivals that originally inspired Kwanzaa.”

Sorrel Cocktail

Wills marks the popular Caribbean drink, the Sorrel cocktail, as a favorite of his this time of year. “A rum-based punch, with red sorrel buds seeped in water, sugar, lime, and ginger — this is a great one to do as a punch during Karamu, when you have additional guests at your celebration,” he notes, adding, “You should always have a non-alcohol version or option of whatever you serve for the non-drinkers and the under-age children as everyone should feel included. It’s Kwanzaa! It’s a celebration of culture and community.”Shutterstock

Seasonal Old Fashioned

Wills adds an Uncle Nearest Maple Old Fashioned with an apple cider reduction syrup as another cocktail to have on hand during the holiday. “I like to break out my Stundenglass Cocktail Smoker on this one to add additional smoke flavor and have a celebratory cocktail with friends and family,” he says. “I make a big batch and keep it refrigerated and readily available when I’m in the mood to imbibe.”Brent Hofacker / 500px/500Px Plus/Getty Images

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