The more we’ve played around with this recipe, the more we find that you can swap in almost any liqueur, and any spirit, and it’s still delicious.
Speaking as professional cocktail writers: Even we don’t want to make a complicated cocktail on New Year’s Eve. We want a crowd-pleaser, a drink that’s friendly, likable, and above all, simple. Not dumbed-down, mind you. But straightforward and not too challenging to anyone’s palate. We’re in a celebratory mood, after all. And this holiday season, we’re sharing our secret weapon party drink with you:”The Duck Race.”
We originally created this recipe for our cocktail book, Be Your Own Bartender. The formula: A little gin, a little peach liqueur, and a lot of bubbles. Just pour ‘em all in a glass, serve, and go. (And there’s no need to grab the Champagne for a drink like this. Recently our go-to has been a beautifully-made cava, inexpensive and widely available, Anna de Codorníu Blanc de Blancs.)
But the more we’ve played around with this recipe, the more we find that you can swap in almost any liqueur, and any spirit, and it’s still delicious. Gin and cherry? Raspberry and vodka? Even spiced pear and dark rum? Done. Here are three variations on our own “Duck Race”—all of which we, personally, have already made this holiday season. All you need is the bottles, a jigger, and about thirty seconds.
Ducks in December
Our original cocktail makes use of crème de pêche, but peach really does say “summer” to us. A rich, dark cherry liqueur seems a bit more winter-friendly; we love the Luxardo Sangue Morlacco cherry liqueur, which gives a pronounced depth to this cocktail. Add some gin and you’ve got a rich but lively drink that’s a perfect start to an evening. Even your “I don’t like cocktails” friends will love this.
Instructions: In a flute, combine 3.5 ounces of well-chilled sparkling wine, 3/4 ounce of cherry liqueur, and 3/4 ounce of Plymouth gin. Garnish with a lemon twist.
We can’t take credit for this name, or even the cocktail idea — we have to hand it to family members who took the template of the Duck Race and made this crowd-pleaser of a drink for their neighborhood holiday party. (Well done, team!) Why this drink is so user-friendly: it uses raspberry liqueur, and Chambord should be available in stores just about anywhere; vodka is always good for party drinks; and since this cocktail is on ice in a wine glass, it drinks light and easy. Grab raspberries for a garnish if you wish, but a thin lemon slice will work well, too.
Instructions: In a wine glass with ice, combine 3.5 ounces of well-chilled sparkling wine, 3/4 ounce of raspberry liqueur, and 3/4 ounce of vodka. Garnish with a few raspberries and/or a thin lemon wheel.
If you want the warmth and cheer of winter distilled into a bottle, we can’t think of anything better than the spiced pear liqueur from St. George Spirits — just imagine the ripest pears with the most aromatic baking spices, and put that into one eminently drinkable liqueur. (Which we can’t keep stocked in our own house, because it disappears too quickly. But sorry, where were we…)
The pear liqueur is a perfect match for just about any dark spirit, but around the holidays we’re huge fans of aged rum. Combine the two and you’ve got a perfectly wintery but perfectly light sparkling cocktail — ideal for a New Year’s party.
Instructions: In a rocks glass with ice, combine 3.5 ounces of well-chilled sparkling wine, 3/4 ounce of St. George spiced pear liqueur, and 3/4 ounce of Mount Gay Black Barrel rum. Garnish with a few fanned-out pear slices.