Drink Up December:
Candy Cane Martini
December 16, 2021
Send 2021 out with a bang by enjoying Drink Up December! Five Thursdays, five cocktails perfect for chilly weather, the holiday season, and spending time with loved ones. This week, get out your sparkly reindeer antler headbands, because we are going full-on Christmas with a pretty peppermint candy cane martini.
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Every year I buy a box of candy canes. I’m not entirely sure why, since I don’t usually eat the whole box. So after a few years I just have a bunch of half boxes of candy canes in the pantry. This recipe uses five candy canes to make a lovely red peppermint syrup, which will definitely help my fellow candy cane hoarders.
My favorite part of this drink though, besides using up excess candy canes, is that the syrup on the rim of the glass along with a fully white cocktail really makes it look like a festive candy cane. So it’s delicious and perfect for a fun over-the-top Christmas party.
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for this candy cane martini at your grocery store:
- Pantry: Candy canes, Corn syrup, Red sparkling sugar, Peppermint extract, Mini candy canes
- From the Bar: Vodka, White chocolate liqueur
- Fridge: Milk
- Equipment: Saucepan, Candy thermometer, Cocktail shaker
How to Make Candy Cane Syrup
This recipe starts with the candy cane syrup for the rim and down the sides of the glass. Sometimes, the garnish of a drink can be an afterthought, take it or leave it. That’s not the case here. It’s totally necessary for the perfect candy cane martini.
Begin by melting down the candy canes. To do this, we will add them to a small saucepan with just a little bit of water to keep them from sticking and burning. You can break the candy canes into smaller pieces, or leave them whole.
Cook these together over medium heat, stirring the mixture frequently, keeping those candy canes from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Soon it will begin to bubble, and the candy will start to soften.
Stir while this is boiling, and the candy canes will completely lose their red color. Then they will eventually fully melt into a syrup. Once the candy is fully incorporated, turn the heat down to medium-low.
At this point, add in the corn syrup and remaining water. Continue cooking, although you can slow down on the stirring, and begin using a candy or instant-read thermometer to check the temperature. As soon as the syrup reaches 230°F, immediately remove it from the heat, and set it aside.
If needed, this syrup can be made in advance and stored in a sealed jar in the fridge. It will keep fine for a week or so. When you are ready to use the syrup, reheat it until it flows, but be sure not to exceed 230°F, as a higher temperature will cause it to solidify once cooled.
Let’s Make a Candy Cane Martini
The other part of this delicious rim is the sparkling sugar rim. I like to to use a small tapas plate or saucer when rimming glasses, since the sugar will naturally fall in the dip of the plate. But any dish that can hold your martini glass will do. Spread the sparkling sugar around in a ring.
To coat the rim, first dip the martini glass upside down into the candy cane syrup. I did this right in the pot that I used to cook the syrup, but you could also use a separate plate. Then, quickly place the glass into the sugar, turning and tilting to get the sugar coating all over the rim.
If you have any bare spots, feel free to press on additional sugar. Next, use a small spoon to add additional drips of syrup down the side of the glass. These are the candy cane stripes. Don’t worry about them looking perfect or evenly spaced, as they will bleed slightly into the drink itself.
Now it’s time to start the actual cocktail! Fill a shaker about a third to halfway with ice. Then add in the vodka, white chocolate liqueur, and milk. This combination makes for a moderately strong drink, but it is also balanced with the sweet creaminess of the milk and liqueur.
Add in the peppermint extract as well, but be cautious. Peppermint flavors can be extremely concentrated, and adding too much can happen very quickly. If you are sensitive to flavors, I suggest leaving it out completely or starting slow with half the recommended amount. You can always add a dash more if needed.
Place the lid on the shaker, and shake it vigorously with both hands until the metal feels very cold. This will take about thirty seconds. Shaking with ice both dilutes and chills the drink at the same time, so it’s important to really get it moving here.
Pour the liquid through a strainer into your prepared martini glass. Sometimes, a little bit of ice will get caught in the strainer before your glass is full. Just give it another short shake and continue pouring.
Finally, add a little extra garnish before serving. Hook a mini candy cane on the side of the glass, and if you’d like, you can even sprinkle the top with additional sparkling sugar. It’s a fun cocktail to drink, so definitely make it something you want to show off.
This candy cane martini tastes best immediately, and each should be made to serve. If you are making a whole batch, the syrup recipe will work for four or five cocktails, depending on how much you use on the rim and sides of the glass.
If you use a larger, Boston-style shaker, you can mix up two martinis at once. However, in most cases, I suggest shaking each separately to serve, with fresh ice each time.
Get ultra festive with this red-and-white striped cocktail, full of peppermint and white chocolate flavor. A candy cane martini is sure to brighten your holiday spirits!
How to Serve a Candy Cane Martini
A sparkly red dress and this cocktail in your hand, you will definitely be serving up some Christmas cheer. I love how fun and festive this drink is for a holiday party. But you can also enjoy it at home on any snowy evening during the season.
Lean into the peppermint flavor by serving a round of these striped cocktails alongside peppermint stick cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream. Or if you want more of that peppermint bark flavor, try some peppermint patty dark chocolate fudgy brownies.
If you would rather have these drinks with cocktail hour instead of dessert, build out a fully festive spread. Here are 32 holiday hors d’oeuvres to get you started, featuring some fun treats like vegan carrot ‘bacon’ wrapped water chestnuts.
More Festive Drinks to Try
Candy Cane Martini
Candy Cane Syrup
- 5 Standard Candy Canes
- ½ Cup Water Divided
- 2 Tbsp Corn Syrup
Candy Cane Martini
- 1 tsp Candy Cane Syrup for rim and sides of glass
- ½ tsp Red Sparkling Sugar for rim and garnish
- 1 ½ oz Vodka
- 1 ½ oz White Chocolate Liqueur
- 3 oz Milk
- 1/16 tsp Peppermint Extract optional, see note
- 1 Mini Candy Cane for garnish
Candy Cane Syrup
- Cocktail: shake with ice, strain into glass no ice
- Add ¼ cup of the water and the candy canes to a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until it begins to bubble.
- Stir while boiling, as the candy canes soften, and eventually melt. Once they are fully incorporated, turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the corn syrup and remaining water.
- Continue cooking until the syrup reaches 230°F, and then immediately remove from the heat.
Candy Cane Martini
- Spread the sparkling sugar on a small plate or saucer. Dip the rim of a martini glass into the candy cane syrup, and then into the sugar, turning to coat the rim. Use a spoon to add additional drips of syrup down the side of the glass.
- In a cocktail shaker, combine the vodka, white chocolate liqueur, milk, and peppermint extract with ice. Cover and shake vigorously until very cold, about 15-30 seconds.
- Strain into the prepared martini glass. Hook a mini candy cane on the side, and sprinkle with additional sparkling sugar on top if desired. Serve immediately.
- Make ahead tips:
- The syrup can be made in advance and stored in a jar in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. Reheat until it flows, but don't exceed 230 degrees F.
- The cocktail tastes best immediately, and each should be made to serve.
- Peppermint extract: Peppermint flavors can be extremely concentrated, and adding too much can happen very quickly. If you are sensitive to flavors, I suggest leaving it out completely or cutting the amount. There will be plenty of candy cane flavor from the syrup on the rim, and you can always add more if you'd like.