fairytale of new york

As far as Christmas songs go, Fairytale of New York is pretty bleak. Instead of chestnuts on the open fire, horses come in 18 to 1; instead of white Christmases, morphine drips; instead of coming home for the holidays, one waits them out in drunk tanks. It’s not the stuff of greeting cards. And yet, for a whole lot of people, myself included, it wouldn’t be December without The Pogues 1987 holiday anti-ballad on repeat. It comes in handy when you’re feeling a little grinchy* about the season; there’s something of a relief in a song where nobody does anything right but aren’t pretending things are any other way. The sentiments are honest, and in a way, a little magical, choirs and bells and bands in the street, imagining better times and better years ahead.

winter spice syrup prep
the aroma of the syrup cooking will make everything right in the world

Not that I listen to the song anymore. I mean, I used to often enough that I’d drive my husband, less charmed by Christmas music, bonkers but then my son got old enough to start sorting out the words and abruptly, being a good parent won out, at least for another decade or so.

straining the syrup

a muddled orange peel

But my nostalgia for the song is so steep, when I spied a cocktail called the Fairytale of New York in this month’s Imbibe Magazine, there wasn’t a chance I wasn’t going to be making it (plus rugelach pinwheels, which are on repeat this year) for the next holiday party. The drink is essentially an Old Fashioned, except instead of muddling a sugar cube with bitters, you sweeten it with a “winter warmth syrup,” with raw sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, walnuts, apples and pears. The aroma of this simmering on the stove is so reverentially amazing; if you had even a trace of holiday hesitation left in you, it would instantly eradicate it. And if it didn’t, well: bourbon.

the fairytale of new york

I hope that wherever you’re spending the holidays, you are with the people you adore, getting to eat the food you love, and listening to all of your terrible holiday favorites (I like a steady mix of Pogues and John Denver and the Muppets, personally). And I hope that someone hands you one of these as soon as you walk in from the cold.

the fairytale of new york

More about the song: This is a great read on the history and making of The Fairytale of New York.

* warning, grimness ahead: …perhaps because you learned that one of the most famous crooners of the last century was a terrible parent or maybe you listened to Santa Baby in the wrong mood and found it grossly materialistic and paternalistic or perhaps because a certain song you once loved got ruined forever a few years ago…

One year ago: Gingerbread Snacking Cake
Two years ago: Fromage Fort
Three years ago: Cinnamon Brown Butter Breakfast Puffs
Four years ago: Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies (still a favorite!)
Five years ago: How to Host Brunch and Still Sleep In and Spinach and Cheese Strata that will make you a hero
Six years ago: Braised Short Ribs with Potato Puree, Swiss Chard and Horseradish Cream plus Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread
Seven years ago: Austrian Raspberry Shortbread and A Slice-and-Bake Cookie Palette
Eight years ago: Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti and Hazelnut Truffles

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Cherry Almond Dutch Baby
1.5 Years Ago: Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw
2.5 Years Ago: Triple Berry Summer Buttermilk Bundt
3.5 Years Ago: Blueberry Yogurt Multigrain Pancakes

Fairytale of New York
Adapted from Dave Mitton of The Harbord Room in Toronto, via Imbibe Magazine

This is essentially a winter spiced old-fashioned, a really wonderful variation on it for this time of year. The mulled simple syrup will make you home smell heavenly. I fudged the ingredients a little, using a whole apple because I didn’t have a half pear, using orange bitters instead of walnut ones, and ground cloves (a few pinches) instead of whole. Nobody was the wiser.

Winter Warmth Syrup
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup raw, demerara or turbinado sugar (granulated will do just fine if you do not have them)
1/2 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 pear, peeled, cored, and diced
12 walnut halves
3 cinnamon sticks, broken up
6 whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg

For Each Cocktail
1 piece of orange peel (about 1 by 2 inches)
3/4 ounce Winter Warmth Syrup (recipe above)
2 dashes of bitters (Fee Brothers black walnut bitters are recommended, I used orange bitters)
2 ounces bourbon, rye or Canadian whisky

Make the winter warmth syrup: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Strain into a clean glass bottle, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 2 cups.

Make a drink: Place the orange peel, syrup and bitters in a low glass and muddle. Pour in whiskey, add a large ice cube and don’t forget to share.

Make a carafe: We brought 2 4-cup carafes of this to a party, using all of the syrup and about 5 1/2 cups bourbon. We tossed a few orange peels into each jar. Don’t forget to remind friends to pour it over ice (we forgot), so they are not asleep before, you know, Santa comes down the chimney.

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185 comments on fairytale of new york

  1. SD

    My Irish husband and I love that song! Look for the excellent Christy Moore cover as well. We’ll be making these drinks tomorrow– thanks, Deb!

  2. frabjous

    “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a song Frank Loesser originally wrote for himself and his wife to sing together at parties. It is definitely playing off of the expected behavior for the pursuer and the pursued, but it’s meant as a *joke* on those roles. The fact that it doesn’t read like that to us anymore is, I think, a good sign of how far we’ve come, but please don’t write off the song Loesser thought was his best because someone decided to stoke up outrage about it!

    (Visit for, among other things, a clip of the Loessers singing it, which might save the song for you.)

    All that having been said, this looks like EXACTLY my kind of drink, so I need to go buy bitters. Thanks and happy holidays!

    1. deb

      frabjous — I definitely get that it’s joking and happy and I don’t think it was meant as predatory. What I meant was: the suggestion ruined it for me. I can’t unthink it.

  3. Jacque

    This looks delicious, and I, unbelievably, have all ingredients on hand so I’m headed to the kitchen to whip up a batch. Thanks, Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  4. This is awesome and will round out the rest of your recipes that I am making for the next 4 days of Christmas hosting and visiting. Thanks for writing recipes I can count on!

  5. Deanna

    I’m in the midst of putting together a whiskey themed gift basket for a consumable gift exchange (you have to be able to eat it, drink it, or smoke it) and I think this winter warming syrup will be a perfect addition. Obviously I’ll have to test some tonight when I make it. I know it says granulated is fine, but would brown sugar work? Brown sugar>granulated sugar and I’m not braving the grocery store for turbinado sugar tonight.

  6. Caleal

    Oh, my goodness, I JUST came to this realization a few days ago singing along with Baby It’s Cold Outside. It’s not the intent I know but still, I can’t unhear it.

  7. Michelle

    Hot Damn! I have everything required, minus the pear.

    Deb, why do you post recipes “for the other side of the world” at half year increments?

    1. Devon

      I’ve made this now three time since The weekend before Christmas. I’ve also fished out the spices and used the steeped walnuts and apples in oatmeal in the mornings. So good!!

  8. Thank you for this. Not so much the recipe (though the syrup looks delicious) but for the link to the history of the song which has been in my Christmas line up since I was in Doc Martins and Ripped Levis. I got in an argument (never resolved) with my first serious boyfriend about whether the he or the she won the argument in the song and yet until today I did not know how long it took to come to be. Oddly I feel a little less Grinchy now and no not because of Bourbon ;) Happy Holidays!

  9. Una

    I second Deb’s recommendation of the Christy Moore cover of the song — I will try this cocktail out on my Christmas dinner party guests. Thanks, Una.

  10. Terri

    I’m not much of a drinker, although that song could certainly drive you to it. But hey, that beautiful blue towel, where do I snag one of those for some Holiday Cheer??
    Happy Merry Whatever You Celebrate This Time of Year!

    1. deb

      Terri — It’s, uh, actually dark gray but I did a terrible job of white-balancing these photos. (I was using a different lens than usual so my standard edits were thrown.) It’s from Fog Linen, not sure they have this specific pattern anymore but they have other great ones.

  11. Janna

    that sounds amazing and, if I were home, I would have all the ingredients. Alas, I’m on my way to Christmas with my tee-totaling mom. (I love her anyway.) But I think this will be a fine drink for any winter evening!

  12. alex

    Deb, this is perfect timing – we’re on deck to bring a drink to Christmas dinner. 2 quick questions: if you make a carafe, do you include bitters? (Don’t see any bitters in those instructions.) And since it’s a small dinner party for 7, do you recommend a carafe or just making the syrup, bringing the components, and mixing on the spot? Is there a significant difference in how it tastes in the end?

  13. amanda

    I think that the Idina Menzel/Michael Buble version does a good job of decreep-ifying Baby it’s Cold Outside, while giving a nod to the original intent of the song, as a joke between two lovers. This version has really saved it for me!

  14. deb

    alex — I did include a bunch of shakes of bitters. For the individual drink, you muddle the citrus with the bitters and syrup.

    amanda — Is that the video with the little kids? I’ve actually seen it. Pretty cute.

  15. Chelsea

    AH! I have everything to make the syrup but whole cloves! Is there any way I can substitute ground cloves for whole? Perhaps straining the final product through a coffee filter/paper towel?

  16. My husband handed this Imbibe recipe to me as soon as he saw it. We have yet to make it (though I did do a little batch of homemade eggnog), but man do those spices sound heavenly.

    My own holiday music favorites are Christmas with the Chipmunks (I know, I know, but nostalgia…) mixed in with Joni Mitchell’s River and The Pretenders’ 2000 Miles and the Bing Crosby/David Bowie Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy duet mixed in.

  17. Christine

    I had everything I needed, so I made up a batch of this syrup this afternoon, except I added fresh ginger chunks and used brown sugar for the molasses flavor and color. The syrup is super and I now I can’t wait for Christmas Eve Eve happy hour! Thanks for this perfectly timed post.

  18. TerryLa

    Just wanted to tell you THANKS! I made your amazing hot cocoa mix (for myself and as gifts), gingerbread biscotti and will be serving your Asian meatball apps for Christmas Eve! You inspire me. Oh and this sounds amazing too!

  19. PepperReed

    Peace on Earth, can it be?
    Years from now, perhaps we’ll see
    See the day of glory
    See the day, when men of good will
    Live in peace, live in peace again
    Peace on Earth, Can it be?:

    I pray my wish will come true
    For my child and your child too
    He’ll see the day of glory
    See the day when men of good will
    Live in peace, live in peace again

    Peace on Earth, Can it be?
    Can it be…

  20. Sarah

    Look on YouTube for the Walk Off the Earth cover of Fairtyale of New York. They do such a beautiful job. I could listen on repeat just to the part that starts “I could have been someone.” Under all the dysfunction it’s still a bit of a love song and I love it.

  21. Caroline

    My mom used to play John Denver and the Muppets when I was growing up, and I used their version of “We wish you a Merry Christmas” this year to show one of my friends that it’s figgy pudding, not piggy pudding.

  22. Martha

    Love that song, and seriously, it just cannot be covered. Not ever, by anybody. Happy Holidays to all and thanks so much for such wonderful recipes!

  23. Kathryn

    Thanks so much for the half year interval recipe links Deb! I makes it easier to remind myself of all the great things you’ve posted that I said I wanted to try when you guys were in the opposite season. In for a scorcher of a Christmas Day in Australia- this might be one to try when it gets cooler!

  24. heather

    This has my name all over it. And how about that expensive bottle of bourbon unopened in our pantry…

    Christmas Eve just got a new drink for sure!

  25. I love mulled wine so I love all the spicy flavours in this – and I am with you on Fairytale of New York – in face it reminds me of a strange Christmas I spent in Ireland. And I can highly recommend Dr Demento’s novelty Christmas cd if you want some fun holiday songs.

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  27. Ariana

    Deb, when you first posted the rugelach pinwheel recipe, you said you’d follow up with a traditional recipe. I can’t find that you ever did so. Are the pinwheels so great that you don’t ever do the traditional roll-up version? And even if they are, can’t you pretty please share a recipe for them anyway?

  28. Angie

    I know what I’m doing tomorrow — thanks for the inspiration.

    Can’t stop listening to the Pogues’ song. Can’t believe I forgot about it!!!

    You’re awesome in so many ways.

  29. Tracy

    For another “non-traditional” Christmas son, look for “White Wine in the Sun” by Tim Minchin. He talks about an Australian Christmas, but in really lovely terms, and really gets to the crux of what Christmas means to many people – less spending money, more spending time.

  30. Catherine

    Please don’t forget that it was recently the 14th anniversary of the sad death of Kirsty MacColl who sang this song with the Pogues. She was killed by a boat in Cozumel Mexico, driven by a prominent politican. She was scuba diving and the boat was in a a prohibited area. She left behind two young sons, and her mother is still trying to get justice for her death.

  31. It’s 85 degrees here in Florida. I just read that article about my favorite Christmas song for the first time yesterday. I ruined my Pumpkin Praline cake because I drank a little too much wine while it was baking and burnt it. But this, this recipe you shared, I think it might just bring back my Christmas cheer! I’m adding it to the Christmas Eve menu tonight…after I take the cake out of the oven. Great stuff Deb!

  32. La Singe Cynthia

    it’s 8:14am here in wet gahhy connecticut and I’m about ready to whip this up right now and be in the “spirit” by noon!

    MERRY CHRISTMAS! (to all!!!) (Im Jewish but it’s Christmas, by God!)

  33. Terri

    I was introduced to this song a couple of years ago by a local group, The Once, who included it in their Christmas concert. Living in Newfoundland, we are used to huge amounts of talent and this group stands out and have become incredibly popular. Each year they do a Christmas concert in a local church which is always packed. They do some of the old favorites, Silent Night, Hark the Herald etc. but have also written a bunch of their own and every year cover this one. They always end the concert with Mummers Song, another local favorite, and during a quiet part the lead singer comes out into the audience to waltz with a lucky gentleman. It’s a wonderful night, we’ve gone every year.

  34. Tara

    i just learned that the story about said favorite holiday crooner was fabricated by his son to sell more books, as substantiated by his daughter. Faith in humanity restored? And I’m with you on Baby It’s Cold Outside, I can’t unthink it and now the song is ruined!

  35. StephanieR

    We made these last night and they were a hit! We too used a pinch of cloves instead of whole cloves and the syrup was wonderful — gently spiced and very warming. We found 3/4 ounces of the syrup to be too sweet, but another glug of bourbon fixed that right up!

  36. JP

    We don’t drink alcohol in our family, but it was worth reading your post just to watch and listen to the Betty Garrat and Red Skelton version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. I sure enjoyed that! Happy Holidays and a peaceful New Year.

  37. TinaD

    The Kinks, “Father Christmas,” is my anti-ballad of choice. “Fairytale” is good, but my favorite track from the Grace of God album is that how-not-to-parent anthem “Sit Down by the Fire”–and my kids know all the words. And can really belt that last line. (Bad mommy, me.) Thanks for the recipe. I love old fashioneds, even when they’re kind of cr*ppy…this sounds practically gourmet.

  38. Liz S.

    I’m kind of surprised that the cloves and nutmeg (as well as the walnuts) are not broken up or crushed to extract more of the flavor. Deb, any thoughts?

  39. Nancy in Vancouver

    This cocktail was the most popular guest at a party last night! We had a fair number of non-drinkers, and we put about 1/2 oz of Winter Syrup with hot water and a slice of lemon and clementine (we didn’t have oranges)- they thought it was divine. For the rest of us, divinity was almost reached- or so the bourbon was telling us. [We also subbed ALL ground spices b/c we didn’t have any whole clove, cinnamon or nutmeg- and it was lovely, though I am certain it would have been better w/ whole, as you suggest.]

  40. Cait T.

    Grew up with the Pogues and this song is a requirement for any holiday festivities! Imagine my joy when my favorite site marries alcohol and childhood memories/inappropriate lyrics. Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan slow dancing will always be a happy Christmas-y moment. Thank you for this!

  41. tess

    baby it’s cold outside is NOT actually a song about rape – in fact it’s a song about a woman finding a way to exercise sexual agency in a patriarchal society designed to stop her from doing so. but it’s also, at the same time, one of the best illustrations of *rape culture* that pop culture has ever produced. it’s a song about a society where women aren’t allowed to say yes, which happens to mean it’s also a society where women don’t have a clear and unambiguous way to say NO. i took that quote from here – – which sums it up nicely. also, happy holidays! and the recipe looks great :)

  42. Fairytale of New York is the BEST Christmas song ever! I’m pretty sure this drink will match accordingly. It caught my eye in Imbibe yesterday and I instantly regretted not purchasing the magazine. Thank you for posting. I even have all the ingredients on hand. Can’t wait to make this. Hopefully it won’t land me in the drunk tank. ;)

  43. Lynne Muskoff

    Hey Deb,

    I can’t find your Flicker site. I love keeping up with your adorable little boy in the photos. Have been following his life since day 1.

    Thanks, Lynne

  44. Love. That. Song.

    My fiance is very into bourbon, so I think we’ll have to give this a try this week… Yum! I need something to “get me in the mood” for the season. Here it is Xmas Eve, and I’m still kind of blase about the whole thing this year. Eh.

  45. Melanie

    Just wanted to say thank you for introducing me to my new favorite Christmas song (and potentially, my new favorite Christmas cocktail)…I’ve watched the video 4 times in the last 30 minutes. The Pogues rule. Merry Christmas and thanks for being my go-to blog when I need uncomplicated, impressive recipes for the holidays!

  46. Andi

    I highly recommend Tim Michin’s “White Wine in the Sun” for a family-friendly but not-sappy holiday song. Search on youtube and you won’t regret it. I mostly hate Christmas music and challenged myself last year to find “30 Days of Holiday Music That Don’t Suck”. This one was recommended by an Australian friend and came in second to “Fairytale of New York”.

  47. Laurel

    We made these last night! And now we’re looking at the clock trying to figure out how long is an appropriate time to wait before we can make them again. These will definitely be a part of our holiday repertoire in future. Merry Christmas!

  48. Gail

    Not a song, but when I’m feeling grinchy this time of year, I cue up Bad Santa on Netflix. Billy Bob Thornton is the absolute worst Santa ever – and he’s great.

    Happy Holidays, and thanks for all the great recipes this year!

  49. Ailidh

    You might enjoy the gender-flipped version, where Buck 65 ‘has to go’ and Meghan Smith is trying to convince him to stay. I find it much less rape-y.

    Thanks for the recipes! I’ve been reading since before ivillage, if you can imagine!

  50. I am laughing—-what a different beginning for a holiday blog. Luckily I don’t drift in the direction you took long ago. Good for your son that you are a good person. I am smiling. But let’s lift a glass of this good stuff and salute all that we have to be grateful for.

  51. Nell

    I made up the Winter Warmth Syrup this afternoon but was short a cinnamon stick so added a half teaspoon of ground cinnamon and was slimed. The entire batch turned into a slimy unusable mess. I googled around to try to find out why this happens with ground cinnamon and hot liquid, but could not find a “scientific” explanation. Deb?

    1. Sc’Eric H.

      Was wondering why a Pogues song didn’t feature Irish whiskey in some quantity.

      So, in the spirit of the home craft bartender “working with what you got” paradigm–and also not mixing up large-batch, multi-ingredient cordials with a limited shelf-life–I’ve been working on a modified version of your recipe that I can make on-the-fly. Call it Fairytale of New York v1.3:

      ~ 2-dash Fee Bros Black Walnut bitters
      ~ 2.00-oz Irish Whiskey (I use Knappogue Castle 12-yr at home and at work.)
      [Or… substitute Canadian whisky, Rittenhouse Rye or a combination thereof!]
      ~ 0.50-oz Boulard Calvados VSOP (or substitute Skyy Bartlett Pear vodka)
      ~ 0.25-oz St.Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
      ~ 0.25-oz Torrani Almond Roca syrup (It’s not just for coffee.)
      Stir. Strain over fresh ice.
      ~ Top with Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters
      ~ Garnish w/ Orange peel (flamed) and freshly ground Nutmeg.

      This is a work-in-progress. Feel free to embellish. =)

      1. Ms. Anne Casson

        I was looking to see if anyone had developed the recipe using black walnut bitters rather than 12 walnut halves…thank you for your suggestion. I’ll still make the syrup (fourth or fifth or sixth annual!) but save the walnuts for baking and snacking. Such a perfect seasonal stay home cocktail.

    2. Sc’Eric H.

      This does happen with some “grades” of cinnamon–notably the ones with high oil content, such as Saigon cinnamon that tends to reach 7%, as opposed to Chinese cinnamon at 5%.

  52. Verde

    We DJ at our local bar on Xmas Day evening, so I made a quadruple batch of the syrup and served these all night. So amazing! Also, subbed pecans for the walnuts, yummmm…!

  53. One of the most enjoyable and – useable – posts for Christmas in memory. I shared it on our Facebook page and promised the cocktail on the menu. Always good, but this was most welcomed. – bw

  54. Verde

    Also, toddy style – made some hot black tea, added syrup and bourbon. Super yummy. Perfect for the couch surfing and cold fighting we’re doing today.

  55. Elizabeth L.

    This deliciousness took me back to when the liquor store employees asked if I was buying the Jack Daniels for my boyfriend…um, no. Deb, good parenting skills–we were too late at not playing the Starbucks mixed cd which included “I wanna be sedated” at Christmas parties, thus, my 10 year old was playing Rock Band with her new friend and said, ‘oh, I know this one’. There was some ‘splaining to do.

  56. Allison

    Apologies for my ignorance; I’d like to make this drink for NYE but I don’t understand all of the lingo in this post. Can you explain what bitters are, and where they can found/made (I live in the Middle East, so if I can skip bitters or make them, that would be great!). Also, what does it mean to muddle something in a drink? Thanks!

  57. Wendy

    I love this song! My son discovered this song on my iPod 3 years ago on a 22 hour drive from michigan to Florida over Christmas break. He must have listened to that song 100+ times and giggled the whole time!

  58. deb

    Nell — Whoa, I’ve never experienced that. In fact, I used ground cloves and had no such textural issues. Are you positive it was from the ground cinnamon?

    Allison — Bitters, as sold here, are concentrated herbal/botanical mixtures, usually with a bitter flavor, that are added to drinks in very small amounts. Here are some of the most common ones. If you cannot get it, there are some homemade recipes on the web, but tend to involve a complex list of ingredients. You can skip them here if you can’t find them; they add a nice flavor, but it’s subtle enough that the drink is still largely the same without them. To muddle the ingredients, usually a blunt or rounded edge stick (they’re sold here as muddlers) that can be used, as you would a mortar and pestle, to bang up the ingredients in a glass, typically trying to get more flavor out of herbs or peels. You can make due with whatever you have around, even the end of a rolling pin.

    Lynne — Thanks. Here’s the link: And it’s linked from the sidebar, the logo with the two dots.

    Liz — I didn’t find it necessary. The 20 minutes of simmering does a good job of getting the flavors out — two friends even commented that they could taste the walnut. No reason not to break up the nutmeg, if you wish, however. Given that one nut tends to last me years, it is kind of a bummer for it to be used up in 20 minutes.

    Tara — My cousin told me the same over the weekend. We’ll never know. Although I usually feel a responsibility to believe the abused because usually few people want to but none of us were there; I’d rather hope the story is incorrect.

  59. Joy

    I’ve had the same problem with ground cinnamon, too — for whatever reason it starts to ‘congeal’ if it’s left in a liquid mixture in a way that other spices (like the clove) don’t. lesson learned: it’s worth the trip to the store to find it whole!

  60. KatieK

    Just made the syrup; smell is outstanding. I only used pears because I had two halves left over from Christmas day–people were too full to finish. Also I only had two sticks of cinnamon (god only knows how old they were). But a brief sip tells me that all is well. My question: 3/4 ounce, is that the small side of a jigger? We will being using another bitters, black walnut flavoring is about my least favorite. Also, I think we’ll shoot for rye. I think this recipe has room for variations. Also, who is Angela and why is she using this blog to peddle some voodoo master? Please, keep the posts to things which are relavant.

  61. Deanna

    These go down dangerously easily. I got antsy and didn’t let my syrup simmer as long as necessary (moving deserves a drink ASAP), but I have some sitting left that will be extra delicious. And I must say, I love your love of bourbon cocktails. It matches so well with my love of them.

  62. Lisa M.

    I have NEVER heard of “Fairytale of New York” and I listen to Christmas music all the time. Maybe it’s less popular outside the Big Apple? (But I do hate “Baby it’s Cold Outside.”)

    In any case, Happy New Year!

  63. Liz

    If we are talking about the same favorite holiday crooner, my cousin worked for a guy who grew up with the son and he witnessed the nastiness. The guy was not a nice person and it ruined his songs for me. I did not know there was a book or public accusations, my finger is not on the pulse of celebrity anything.

    As non drinker I think the syrup would be wonderful with soda water and orange peel. There are never enough cocktails for us out there. Also in case there are pregnant women around. Yum, I may have to get on this one.

  64. Robin

    My favorite modern Christmas song by far. And I can listen to it in front of my kid in spite of foul language, because she can’t understand them anyways! Ah, The Pogues.

  65. Tiernan

    I made this last night to have around/ bring to New Year’s Eve and just couldn’t bring myself to toss the fruit and walnuts that were strained out. I took out the spices and the other goodies were fabulous on top of pancakes this morning.

  66. Carmen

    I made this tonight. Smelled wonderful.
    Bourbon and apples hard to go wrong.
    I actually pulled all the apples and pears out of the spice mix after straining the syrup and ate them.

  67. Katieliz

    These are wonderful! Shared them with friends for NYE – just perfect. Easy to drink; maybe too easy! The fruit & nuts from steeping the syrup were too good to toss – they’re awaiting a warm bowl of oatmeal.

  68. PG

    I love “Fairytale of New York” — I think I first heard it in college when I started listening to a UK online radio station. It and the DMB “Christmas Song” are among the few holiday songs that don’t make me want to flip stations.
    I’m surprised the Salon article on “Baby It’s Cold Outside” didn’t acknowledge this same sex version, which I thought worked very well:

  69. Kelly

    Deb! This may help with the Baby, It’s Cold Outside thing. It was ruined for me too, but then I read this:

    Basically, ““Say, what’s in this drink” is a well-used phrase that was common in movies of the time period and isn’t really used in the same manner any longer. The phrase generally referred to someone saying or doing something they thought they wouldn’t in normal circumstances; it’s a nod to the idea that alcohol is “making” them do something unusual. But the joke is almost always that there is nothing in the drink. The drink is the excuse. The drink is the shield someone gets to hold up in front of them to protect from criticism. And it’s not just used in these sort of romantic situations.”

  70. KatieK

    Restaurant quality drink! Earlier, I posted how great I thought the syrup was but hadn’t made the actual cocktail yet. Made it NYE, and OMG!!! So smooth and boy, if you didn’t watch it, several of these would put you under the table. Finished up the syrup yesterday as a New Year’s treat. This would have made my all favorite list for 2014.

  71. Colleen

    And if you are too cold for a cold cocktail, you can skip the ice (and the bitters) and put the other ingredients in a pre-warmed mug and enough boiling water to make a hot drink. I am certain that it would work wonders for a cold as well. Thank you Deb for another wonderful year of recipes! I am looking forward to many more years of your wisdom and creativity.

  72. This was decidedly absent from my Christmas celebrations. I wish I’d seen this sooner :) Btw. Have you seen the new Death & Co “cookbook”. It has awesome drink recipes and lots of good how-to mix at home. There’s even a section on naming the drinks you come up with :)

  73. Alyssa

    Serious hit on New Year’s Eve. Used some specialty orange bitters from Seattle distiller Sun Liquors. Absolutely delicious!!!!

  74. Julie

    this was a big hit with my husband and guests. Thanks!
    Really like the glasses you used too – will you share where you got them/name?

  75. Chris

    This was wonderful! I am in Texas so I replaced walnuts with pecans and the kitchen smelled wonderful! My husband wonders what about a warm format, so I may try it as a toddy with hot water.

  76. deb

    Julie — Glad it was a hit. The glasses are “Aarne” from Iitala, I think the 5-ounce cocktail glass but I can’t figure it out exactly from the site. A wedding present.

  77. Ok. That’s my favorite Christmas song EVER!!! It’s so inappropriate! I put it on my IPod this year for listening to in the car (kinda loud) AFTER I drop the kid at preK. It reminds me of bar tending in NYC at this cool Irish pub (Tir NA Nog) and singing along with my favorite band that played there (the screaming orphans). I can’t believe you know that song. I wish we were friends. I always wish that. Anyway, Happy New Year. Thanks for the fun recipes.

  78. Ilana

    I have loved that song for so long, so I knew I had to try this recipe. It is fantastic! So good in fact, that I will be simmering my second batch of this syrup tonight! I had to go out and buy some more Jack Daniels. Woo hoo!

  79. Jessica

    This is a little late in coming, but my sis-in-law made this for us this past winter. And – oh. my. goodness. HEAVEN. I’ve pinned this and am now waiting impatiently for fall and winter to roll around again so I can once again indulge in this pure loveliness. Thank you *so* much for sharing.

  80. *Stacey

    I made this last Saturday for a holiday party. I brought the simple syrup along with the orange peels (had some leftovers from the endives w/ oranges and almonds appetizer) and everyone requested a drink! It was a hit! I accidentally forgot to include the walnuts in the simple syrup but it still turned out great. I also used Angostura Aromatic Bitters instead of the suggested bitters. I will be making it again for another holiday party this week. Thanks for the amazing recipes Deb!

  81. Amanda

    Made this syrup last night for gifts and it smells and tastes awesome. However, I noticed this morning that there are some “floaters” at the top.. just little pieces of spices, etc. that were small enough to fit through my strainer. I can just tell people to shake before using, right? Has anyone had any trouble with the little tiny “extra bits of flavor” in there? I guess I could strain it through cheesecloth (but I’d prefer not to).
    Also, the leftover fruit/nuts is amazing and delicious. Has anyone made anything out of it? I’m thinking maybe a crumble, or put it on ice cream…

  82. Helen

    Has anyone made this without the walnuts? Was there a huge difference in flavour? I was looking for a signature drink for a cocktail event, but a few guests have nut allergies *sigh*. Racking my brain for a substitute.

  83. Andrea

    Awesome drink! I used bourbon, a whole apple (no pears), and standard Peychaud’s bitters (I have no idea what flavor they’re supposed to be). One of us drank it on ice and the other with hot water as a toddie. The fruit is saved for oatmeal or waffle toppings. Thanks SK for the awesome recipe and thanks to your commenters for their great ideas! (This is one of the few blogs that people actually cook from and post their comments on – it’s the only cooking blog I truly follow!)

  84. A

    I just wanted to say that we made these for a large, multi-generational family gathering at Christmas this year and it was a huge hit! It even inspired a slightly boozy singalong of what is also one of my favorite Christmas songs. People are still asking me to share the recipe. Awesome!!!

  85. Ah the song Irish people consistently vote our favourite Christmas song – we are indeed a twisted nation. As a child, I was more accustomed to the Christy Moore version which is equally as explicit but suffered no ill effects morally from yelling out explicit lyrics aged 10 or under 😄

    Also cannot wait to try this recipe but possibly with whiskey as good bourbon us pricey over here!

  86. Leigh

    I cannot thank you enough for this recipe. It is a year due. I gave this recipe, the ingredients, citations to the blog with the article and a cd of the song to some lawyer friends as a gift. I am a divorce lawyer who has a dark humor to court this time of year. ( see lyrics ) The gift blew attorney minds as fans of the Old Fashioned recipe and the humor of collective holiday bleakness. Cheers. My compliments from a small kitchen attorney mom with a 90’s grunge flannel Christmas tinge.

    Eternally grateful. And the bells were ringing out…

  87. Leslie

    Thanks so much for posting this. I can’t wait to try it. I went out to get bitters and nutmeg–since I ran out. My store seems to be out of whole nutmeg–do you think the recipe would still work with ground nutmeg? If so–how much would you put in?


    1. Steph

      Would love to know the answer to this question. Stuck at home with kids who are COVID contacts and quarantined. Please, for sanity sake advise!

  88. carly

    Really loved this. The 3/4 oz of syrup was a bit sweet for us so we cut it down to 1/2 oz per cocktail. Used cardamom bitters. It was a hit!

    1. What a great idea using the cardamom bitters! I always struggle to figure out what to use them with and will definitely try that this year. TBH, I was tempted to throw a cardamom pod into the spice mix but didn’t want to ruin this perfect recipe when I was making a big batch.

  89. Jen

    I made this and it is so fantastic!! My boyfriend loves old fashioneds and I wanted to try this. We add just a small squeeze of orange juice (from the orange peel you need) and a splash of soda to cut it all down a bit! Fantastic! Making a double batch for New Years !

  90. t

    I cannot have tree nuts (they give me canker sores/mouth ulcers, which is enough, but blessedly not anaphlyaxis). Can I skip the walnuts in the syrup? Thank you.

  91. Michelle

    This is such a perfect drink for December. Warning! If you serve this to guests, make sure they know it contains walnuts. My sister would die if she drank this. I don’t think people would think about nuts being in an old fashioned.

  92. Deb

    Deb – just made this and it is delicious!! Just what the holidays ordered!! Thanks for being a constant source of inspiration!! All the best to you and your family!!

  93. Beth

    Hi all! I’m thinking about making bottles of this as little Christmas goodies for my family. I’d probably have to make it about a week in advice – will this keep? Thanks in advance!

  94. Sarah

    I am looking for a bourbon drink recipe for a friend’s birthday, but he is allergic to walnuts. Can this be made without or can they be subbed out for something else?

  95. jjjeanie

    not essential, but out of curiosity–what is the brand of spirit you used to make the drink–I can’t quite make out the label!

    1. deb

      I don’t have a single preference, but shown is Basil Hayden, one of the smoothest, mellowest bourbons for drinking. I do like it. It’s not absolutely necessary for mixing though. I often go less expensive for mixing.

  96. Katrina

    As an Old Fashioned fanatic, I couldn’t resist this recipe when you first published it and I can’t resist it now. I’ve made it every year since 2014 and sometimes I share. As someone else noted, it is sweet and I usually use one part syrup to four parts bourbon or rye. I omit the walnuts when I have friends with allergies.

  97. alison

    Reading this post has become one of my Christmas traditions. And I also have the Pogues and John Denver & the Muppets on my Xmas playlist. :)

  98. ilene

    I made this for sipping while we decorated. I used a whole apple, ground ciinnamon and nutmeg- still delicious. found out it was better with a little more syrup, a little water, and one jigger of bourbon. Nice! I also reused the cooked apples and walnuts in oatmeal the next day. yum.

  99. Rachael

    We loved making these for Christmas Eve and used the left over fruit from the winter warmth syrup in our annual aebleskivers on Christmas Day. We now have a new Christmas tradition!

  100. Mary

    This is a phenomenal recipe. Absolutely gorgeous drink. It has been an autumnal tradition that I eagerly anticipate each year. Delicious.

  101. I’ve been making this recipe for my annual holiday party since 2015 and it makes one of the best holiday drinks ever. This year, I’m making 6x the recipe because I ran out last year half way through the party!

    Though I do have to say the black walnut bitters makes this cocktail taste extraordinary. I’ve been also using them in my manhattans whenever I want a bit of winter warmth too.

    Recipe notes: I almost always forget to peel my apples and pears and it hasn’t made a different in the delicious taste. I tend to boil this mix for a bit longer so I add in an extra half cup of water (per recipe – an extra three cups this year). Do use black walnut bitters if you can find them, makes it extraordinary. This year I chopped open the nutmeg nuts and wow. It’s even better.

    Thank you for making my holiday season a little better with this delightful recipe!

  102. Patricia Finnegan Lalor

    Well I know New York was a fairytale come true to s lot of New Yorkers My dad and my included. In my opinion the music is outstanding but the lyrics are a disgrace

  103. elainesl

    This was such a hit at a recent holiday party that I had to share the recipe with those eager to make it themselves. I will say that the recipe did not yield anything close to two cups for me; I doubled the recipe and ended up with three cups.
    When doubling the syrup ingredients, I used a pear and an apple, but no walnuts for flavoring. because I don’t like them. I did not have a whole nutmeg, but threw some whole allspice into the simmering syrup. I used orange bitters and extra orange peel. As directed, I strained the syrup before chilling it.
    I’ve done some of the math if that is helpful:
    For twelve cocktails, use 3 cups of bourbon, and 1 cup + 2 Tbsp of the syrup, plus a few strands of fresh orange peel.

  104. Lorie Wild

    This is one of the best recipes ever. I make the winter syrup every year, have given it as a gift, and generally love having it on hand for Fairytales. On the cocktail, we like to make it as directed but add a floater of cava which gives it a lovely zip. Oh, and add a luxardo or amareno cherry as well. For those less inclined to cava a bit of LaCroix is also good. Finally, so as not to waste any of the fruit used to steep the winter syrup, it makes a great topping for yogurt or ice cream. You can fell smug for a “no waste” effort as you sit down to sip your cocktail.

  105. Mark Charles

    For a more kid friendly, and quite beautiful version of the song, check out the Cameron Barnes and Blythe Duff version – and make sure to watch the video. It’s a quite brilliant version!

  106. Corinne Kaz

    So glad I stumbled upon this recipe! My coping mechanism as we approach the end of 2020 is to go as hard with Christmas as I can, despite the fact that our celebrations will be much different this year. But the winter warmth syrup simmering on the stove and my rotating Christmas albums (John Denver and the Muppets, Vince Guaraldi Trio and John Fahey right now) will go a long way to summoning that Christmas spirit.

  107. Joetta

    We made the syrup over the weekend and made this cocktail last night and it’s SIMPLY PERFECT for the holiday season. So happy.

    Also, I kept the apples, pears, and walnuts and added them to oatmeal this morning for breakfast (with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top) and it’s SO DELICIOUS.

    Thanks again for another awesome recipe.

  108. Sandy

    The Winter Warmth Syrup is so delicious that I put it in hot tea, iced tea and yes, I even used it in place of water for my oatmeal. SO GOOD!

  109. Heather

    OH MY GOD!

    btw- save the fruit and nuts that you strain out of the syrup. I am trying to imagine how to make a granita with it. Any other ideas?

    1. Anne N

      Has anyone modified this recipe for a brandy old fashioned? Seems like it would work, but thought I’d see if anyone had tried it.
      (Sounds like some found it sweet, so that might mask some of the whiskey/bourbon flavor. I might make my husband’s old fashioned first and try it.)

  110. Abby

    I made this twice this holiday season. So good! I also used the leftover apples, pears and walnuts in a baked Brie. Delicious!

  111. This is one of my favorite drink concoctions ever! I try and keep some of the “winter warmth” in the fridge year round. My hubby and I both adore this and it’s the perfect amount of sweetness without being overly sweet….I would suggest it to anyone!

  112. Jessica

    This cocktail is an absolute stunner! It’s become a fave for kicking off holiday celebrations. I made the syrup yesterday in prep for Thanksgiving, and afterward decided to toss the walnuts in the oven (325 until they were brown); delish! Winter-spiced, crunchy, not as sweet as candied. Would have been great in a wintry salad but I ate them all before that could happen. Thanks Deb!

  113. Just coming here to say that my best friend and I have been doing a duet of this song every year since we were 18. This year, we were all set to do it with my band at my winter solstice concert… which has been canceled. So he and I and two other band members are getting together to sing it in my living room… along with a round of these cocktails. Making the syrup tonight. Thanks.

  114. Beth Curtis

    As an Irish American and former New Yorker, Fairy Tale of New York has been a part of my life since it came out in the ‘80s. Thanks for sharing the article too. As always your recipes do not disappoint. I finally made these (I pinned this recipe ages ago) and I love this cocktail. My husband is a big fan too. Thanks for sharing your recipes and looking forward to the new cookbook. Cheers!

  115. David Chambers

    I only netted 1 strained cup. This makes sense to me since I only started with 1 1/2 cups of liquid and there is naturally going to be evaporation. Is the 2 cup yield in the recipe a typo?

  116. Shelley Santrach

    Just a thought I am using the dangerous bits of nutmeg that are too small to great anymore equivalent to a whole.
    Love this recipe!!

  117. Jane

    This was delicious, wintry, Christmas-y, plus it made my house smell amazing! I did find it a bit sweet for my tastes. Can I reduce the sugar, or would that affect the syrupy aspect of it? Or just add more whiskey?😉

  118. Catherine

    This is so delicious! We started making it for our Christmas Eve. Party a few years ago and have continued every year to rave reviews. Someone else is hosting this year, and they asked us to bring this drink along with us! A definite keeper.

  119. BrklnMama

    How long will the mixed drink last in the fridge? This was so delicious! I mixed the syrup and bourbon to serve out of a carafe and have leftovers… it’s been quite a while and not sure if it’s safe to drink (it’s been sealed in fridge this whole time) Thanks!