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16 Christmas Party Beverages, Cocktails, and Jello Shots

On the weekend before Christmas, you may be off work and ready to celebrate with friends before the whole family gets together. A Christmas party only takes people and maybe some food and refreshments (although a good game or two is nice as well), but along with your Christmas treats and snacks and drinks, you should have at least one visually-stimulating recipe that will truly impress your guests with your ingenuity and style. With that in mind, here are some eye-popping holiday beverages you can whip up, including cocktails, punches, non-alcoholic drinks, and jello shots. However, many of these have intense Christmas flavors, so you should offer some plainer alternatives as well. Follow the yellow links for the complete recipes.

There are many ways to incorporate the taste of peppermint candy canes into drinks.

1. The Candy Cane

The cocktail called the Candy Cane consists of white chocolate liqueur and peppermint schnapps. Make the visual effect grand with a rim of crushed candy canes!

2. Candy Cane Spritzers

Why should adults have all the cocktail fun? Candy Cane Spritzers are fancy holiday drinks with no alcohol that kids will love. And it's not too sweet. The flavor and color comes from pomegranate juice; the canes are just for garnish.

3. Candy Cane Punch

Candy Cane Punch is an easy, non-alcoholic party punch that gets its Christmas flavor from the use of peppermint ice cream. But miniature candy canes for garnish add an extra touch.

4. Candy Cane Milkshake

This looks amazing -and fattening. But no! This Candy Cane Milkshake has only 205 calories, because it contains no ice cream or candy. It does, however, taste like a candy cane, thanks to peppermint extract and low-calorie sweetener. A perfect non-alcoholic treat that won't blow your diet.

5. Candy Cane Swirl

I promise that there are drinks that aren't candy cane flavored coming up! The Candy Cane Swirl gets its kick from vodka, peppermint schnapps, and white creme de cacao. But there are mixers as well.

6. Santa Shot

The Santa Shot has both the look and the taste of Christmas, which is good, because you'll want to limit the number that you serve. There are no mixers, just layers of grenadine, green creme de menthe, and red peppermint schnapps.

7. Cranberry Margarita

If limes and strawberries make great margaritas, you know the traditional holiday flavor of tart cranberries would, too. This Cranberry Margarita also has a touch of orange from orange liqueur, which should taste like my mother's traditional homemade cranberry-and-fresh-orange sauce.

8. Jingle Jangle Holiday Punch

Jingle Jangle Holiday Punch contains your favorite fresh berries, both crushed in the mixture and again whole as an eye-pleasing garnish in the individual servings. Oh, it also has vodka, wine and Grand Marnier in it.

9. Mistletoe Mojito

The Mistletoe Mojito is a mojito spiced up with the flavor of pomegranate. If you don't already associate pomegranate with Christmas, maybe you should start! Mint, lime, and pomegranate have the perfect colors.

10. Boozehopper

The Boozehopper is basically a grasshopper with chocolate. Doesn't that sound delicious, especially for Thin Mint fans! The garnish is a rim of crushed chocolate-mint cookies, with another cookie floating on top of the drink.

11. Gingerbread Apple Cocktail

The Gingerbread Apple Cocktail gets its taste from ginger liqueur and apple cider, and vodka adds the kick. The rim is crushed gingersnaps held on with honey!

12. The Grinch

The Grinch cocktail has more of the Christmas look than the flavor. Just make sure your melon liqueur is the right color! The cherry garnish represents the Grinch's shrunken heart.

There are those who might argue that Jello shots aren't beverages. Instead of arguing, let's just enjoy some ways to make your Jello shots more Christmas-y. The folks at your party don't care.

13. Blue Christmas Jello Shots

The liquor is subtle in these Blue Christmas Jello Shots, containing champagne and blue Curacao instead of vodka. Marshmallows and blue candy canes complete the look.

14. Caramel Apple Jello Shots

Caramel Apple Jello Shots are apple slices containing a homemade gelatin mixture with coconut milk, caramel hot chocolate mix, and butterscotch schnapps. The combined effect is that of a caramel apple -with alcohol.

15. Jingle Bell Rock Jello Shots

But if you want to make Jello shots in Christmas colors, here's your recipe. Jingle Bell Rock Jello Shots are layered with cranberry juice and vodka for red, apple flavor for the green, and condensed milk and peppermint schnapps for the white.

16. Candy Cane Jello Shots

Oh yes, here's one more candy cane recipe! Candy Cane Jello Shots are a culinary/mixology work of art. It takes time, as the red and white gelatin layers must be carefully poured and chilled one at a time, then sliced and cut into shapes. The flavor comes from peppermint schnapps.

Bonus: Christmas Ice Cubes

Then again, some people want to drink nothing but Sprite or champagne or water, in which case you can dress up your clear drinks with Christmas Ice Cubes. Making them is just a matter of finding the nice decorative yet edible ingredients to freeze inside filtered water. Lovely!

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Animals
Want to Recycle Your Christmas Tree? Feed It to an Elephant
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Sean Gallup/Getty Images

When the holiday season finally comes to a close, people get creative with the surplus of dead Christmas trees. One San Francisco-based artist transformed brittle shrubs into hanging installation pieces. Others use pine needles for mulch, or repurpose trees into bird sanctuaries. For the average person, sticking it into a wood chipper or "treecycling" it as part of a community program are all eco-friendly ways to say goodbye to this year's Douglas fir. None of these solutions, however, are as cute as the waste-cutting strategy employed by some zoos around the world: giving them to elephants.

Each year, zookeepers at Tierpark Berlin—a facility that bills itself as “Europe’s largest adventure animal park”—feed the elephants unsold pine trees. The plants are reportedly pesticide-free, and they serve as a good (albeit prickly) supplement to the pachyderms' usual winter diets.

A bit closer to home, the residents of The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee rely on local residents to take part in their annual Christmas Tree Drive. In addition to being nutrient-rich, the tree's needles are said to help aid in an elephant's digestion. But beyond all that, it's pretty adorable to watch.

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5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree
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What’s the environmentally safest way to dispose of your Christmas tree? It’s hard to say. Grown, managed, transported, and recycled efficiently, a real Christmas tree’s environmental impact should be near neutral. Unfortunately, not all Christmas tree plantations are equal in their environmental impact.

The most eco-friendly way is to leave the tree in the ground, where it belongs, so you never have to dispose of it. But then you don't have a Christmas tree in your house to bring festive cheer. One thing you can do is be environmentally smart when it comes to the tree's disposal. After this festive season, why not try one of these eco-friendly methods.

1. CHIP IT.

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a big wood-chipper, you may be able to chip the entire tree. Wood-chip is great as a decorative landscaping material. But if you really want to do great things for the environment (and if you have access to a lot of Christmas trees), you could make a bioreactor to denitrify water. Nitrates are put on farms across the world to help increase crop output, but a considerable amount is washed away into lakes and rivers where it’s disastrous for fish and potentially toxic for people. A wood chip bioreactor encourages the growth of bacteria that break down the nitrates in the drainage water, reducing the amount that gets into the water supply. It's not a simple project, however. To make one, you have to dig a big trench, get the water to flow through said trench, and fill it with wood chips. More info can be found here [PDF].

2. CRAFT IT.


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If your tree hasn’t yet let go of its needles—and you haven’t yet let go of Christmas, get crafty with it. Cut off small branches and bind them around a circle of wire to make an attractive wreath. This looks even better if some of the cones are still attached. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could set up an essential oil extractor to get a supercharged Christmas scent. If you are already distilling alcohol, you have everything you need (here's how to do it). With a little less effort and equipment, you can make a weaker liquid called hydrosol, which is a fragrant condensate water containing water-soluble parts of the needles.

3. STICK IT.

Many legumes, such as garden peas, are thigmotropic, meaning that they respond to objects they touch, growing in coils along or up them. Needle-free Christmas tree branches have lots of twigs, texture, and knobby protrusions for peas and beans to get a grip on. This allows them to grow upwards strongly toward light. Simply stick a small tree branch in the soil next to each new shoot for a free, effective legume-climbing frame. Another advantage of this technique is that it makes grazing animals less likely to munch those tender green shoots, as they tend to avoid getting Christmas tree twigs spiked up their noses.

4. TREECYCLE IT.


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Come January, it’s cold, the festivities are over, work looms, and you’ve got too much on your mind to be thinking about dead Christmas tree horticulture or crafts. Fortunately, a simple solution is at hand: Most counties and municipalities now provide Christmas tree recycling points where you can take your tree for chipping. Some “TreeCycle” points will even exchange your tree for a bag of wood-chip or chip mulch. OK, this probably means that you’ll have to jam that Christmas tree into your car once more, but as long as you don’t have to drive too many miles out of your way, Christmas tree recycling is a quick and easy environmentally-friendly option.

5. DONATE IT.

After you’ve had your Christmas cheer, why shouldn’t fish have some fun? Several communities have programs in place where they’ll take your old Christmas tree, drill a hole in the base, tie a brick to it, and throw it in a lake. When humans create artificial lakes, they tend to be relatively featureless on the bottom for easy dredging. That’s great for us, but it means baby fish have nowhere to escape predators. Christmas trees provide a nice, temporary place for the fish to hide out and explore.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to see your Christmas tree mauled by a pride of lions, that’s OK too! Some zoos around the world take Christmas tree donations (but please remove all the tinsel first) and allow the animals to play with them.

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