If there’s one thing Joe Laguda knows, it’s how to create a heavenly cocktail. Meet the man behind some of the area’s best booze through his genius holiday drinks. Try one of these five recipes to tickle your taste buds and truly get you into the spirit of the season.
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A 10-year veteran of Zesty’s this holiday season, bartender and manager Joe Laguda knows his way around a restaurant. Co-owned by a certain football star, Zesty’s has played host to the likes of Philadelphia celebrities including Mayor Michael Nutter’s wife. Not only is the food to die for (especially the hummus with warm pita bread – you won’t find better in the city!), but the cold-weather cocktails Laguda creates will get you glowing from the inside out.

Warm Wine Punch

This recipe requires a crockpot, and depending on how much you would like to serve, it’s great for a small gathering or a large family get together. First, take an old red wine or a holiday spiced wine and add it to your crockpot. It can be one bottle to four, depending on your party size. Then add some brandy. Pour lightly if you want to keep it light and people less tipsy, or more if you want your holiday spirits bright. Then add some fresh cloves. Be stingy with your cloves though, as they can be overpowering – remember, you can always add more later to taste. Then comes the orange peel and cinnamon sticks. You can always add other fruit as well, such as cherries and orange slices for an extra punch. Set the crockpot to the lowest setting for an hour or more and keep it there. Be careful not to cook off the alcohol, then serve with a ladle.

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Peppermint Chocolate Martinis

This recipe is perfect for people with a sweet tooth. Take 1 ounce of peppermint schnapps, 1 ounce chocolate vodka and a half ounce of Baileys, and shake it up in a martini shaker. Add a splash of cream to fill it to the rim, and garnish with a peppermint patty or dip the rim in chocolate for more sweet deliciousness.

Apple Harvest Cider

When fall comes and the leaves begin to go, most people are ready to enjoy some delicious apple cider. This recipe lets you kick it up a notch with rum. Take 1.5 ounces spiced rum and top it off with apple cider. Rim the glass with cinnamon and add apple slices as a garnish. Sit back and let the spiked cider warm your cold bones.

Black Forest

Sometimes you want a dessert cocktail that tastes like a decadent pastry without actually eating said pastry. This is your cocktail. Take a half ounce Patron Café, a half ounce Chambord, a half ounce of raspberry vodka and shake it up. Then balance the glass with cream. With its sweet, thick texture, this drink will surely satisfy that sweet tooth.

Crantastic Cosmo

A nice twist on the classic vodka and cranberry, the Crantastic Cosmo adds more zing and zest (pardon the pun) to the summer staple. Add 1.5 ounces cranberry vodka, half an ounce of triple sec, and use cranberry juice to fill the glass. Add fresh-squeezed lime and the magical ingredient, a splash of cranberry puree – don’t be stingy! Purchase the puree at the store or make it yourself, and then use the leftovers for garnish, along with your fresh cranberries.

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Cassie Hepler is a freelance writer covering all things Philadelphia. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.