The magic and sparkle of the holiday season will soon be upon us. Families will gather around tables, fires, and Christmas trees to toast the close of another year.

And while the traditional choices like red wine or fancy craft beers are always well-received, some may be looking to up the ante — and of course, we’re here to help. When it comes to libations, two of the season’s brightest stars are undoubtedly bourbon and sparkling wine. We decided to engage a little “investigative journalism” to find the Isles’ best cocktails that showcase these favorites — bubbles and bourbon. We were super fortunate to get recipes from some of the most talented and creative bartenders around. Cheers, y’all.

Alex Burroughs, Georgia Sea Grill

The dim, warm light glows in the restaurant’s piano lounge. Leather booths dot the room, offering a cozy spot for gathering with friends and family.

“Starting about two weeks before Christmas, we have larger parties for families coming out to celebrate with aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces, nephews. And we have a wide age range within the parties … even a party of four could range in age from 4 to 70,” Alex Burroughs, the Sea Grill’s bar manager, says.

It’s this “Home for the Holidays” feel that inspires the restaurant’s seasonal drink menu. Cocktails that are welcoming and familiar, yet blissfully decadent, prove the perfect blend for a return to one’s roots. Burroughs’ Bourbon Mocha, which calls for coffee liqueur, Kahlúa and white chocolate, is the perfect example.

“The white chocolate shavings look like the snow we never get to see,” he says with a laugh.

On the other end of the spectrum, the restaurant’s Christmas Sangria is a fruity, fizzy mix that’s certainly merry and bright.

“We add a little bit of seasonal flavors, like a ginger liqueur, then you have your fresh cranberry and lime to give it that red and green look,” he says. “We keep it light with a white wine like Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. Then, we add Prosecco to give it some bubbles.”

Bourbon Mocha

¾ oz bourbon of your choice

¾ oz Kahlúa liqueur

¾ oz dark chocolate liqueur

White chocolate shavings for topping

Directions

In a cocktail shaker, combine the bourbon, Kahlúa, and chocolate liquor. Mix together well and strain into a coupe glass. Top with grated white chocolate and serve

Holiday Sangria

4 to 5 oz white wine (Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc)

½ oz ginger liqueur

1 oz white cranberry juice

¼ lime and ¼ orange, squeezed (per glass)

Prosecco for topping

Directions

Combine white wine, ginger liqueur, and cranberry juice in a large pitcher and stir. Refrigerate until ready to serve. For each individual serving, drop cranberries and lime wedges into a wine glass. Then, pour in the chilled mixture over the fruit, squeeze in the lime and orange juices. Top with Prosecco.

Chase Fowler, Dorothy’s Cocktail and Oyster Bar

This holiday season will be the first for Dorothy’s, the new kid on the block when it comes to island restaurants. The location, situated just off Sea Island Road, opened its doors in April.

But considering they’re always busy with chic patrons sipping handcrafted cocktails, “the most wonderful time” of the year will certainly bring more of the same.

Beverage manager Chase Fowler says they’re always thrilled to share good times and fabulous flavors.

“We’re a craft cocktail and raw bar with an emphasis on oysters, but everything is seasonally sourced. We get our seafood, and really everything else, from as local of purveyors as possible,” Fowler says.

“Our vibe for our beverages is really about being fresh and simple but executed well. We don’t get caught up in the bells and whistles ... but we do use fresh ingredients for everything. The juices for our cocktails we make behind the bar ourselves.”

Monkey Business

2 oz bourbon

¾ oz Tempus Fugit Spirits Creme de Banana Liqueur

¼ oz Borghetti Coffee Liqueur

Maraschino cherries for garnish

Directions

Place ice in a medium mixing glass, and then pour ingredients over ice. Stir well. In a 11 oz whiskey glass, place a large square cube and pour mixture over the cube. Garnish with cherries on a cocktail pick.

Classic French 75

½ oz lemon juice (hand juiced for best results)

1 oz Ford’s Gin

½ oz simple syrup

Prosecco for topping

Fresh lemon for garnish

Directions

Take a coupe glass and chill with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine ingredients and shake well. Empty the coupe glass of ice and strain the mixture into it. Top with Prosecco. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Come Christmastime, the expansive dining room of Bennie’s Red Barn transforms into a winter wonderland. A roaring fire blazes in the fireplace and an enormous Christmas tree is situated in the center of the room.

Since 1954, the family-owned restaurant has been the backdrop of countless families’ holiday celebrations.

“We have families who have been coming here every year for decades. Christmas Eve is our busiest night and we have reservations that start the year before,” Zangla says with a smile. “We have Santa Claus and do photos by the tree.”

As a fourth generation establishment, Bennie’s is well-known for its time-honored steak and seafood dishes. Zangla says that they also serve up some classic cocktails. Two of those are the must have mimosa and treasured Old Fashioned.

“You know, some people say you make an Old Fashioned with bourbon … but traditionally it’s whiskey (which is distilled differently). Of course, we can do it with whichever they prefer. It’s just a favorite Southern drink,” he says. “It’s great for people who like a good whiskey or bourbon.”

Matthew Zangla, Bennie’s Red Barn

Come Christmastime, the expansive dining room of Bennie’s Red Barn transforms into a winter wonderland. A roaring fire blazes in the fireplace and an enormous Christmas tree is situated in the center of the room.

Since 1954, the family-owned restaurant has been the backdrop of countless families’ holiday celebrations.

“We have families who have been coming here every year for decades. Christmas Eve is our busiest night and we have reservations that start the year before,” Zangla says with a smile. “We have Santa Claus and do photos by the tree.”

As a fourth generation establishment, Bennie’s is well-known for its time-honored steak and seafood dishes. Zangla says that they also serve up some classic cocktails. Two of those are the must have mimosa and treasured Old Fashioned.

“You know, some people say you make an Old Fashioned with bourbon … but traditionally it’s whiskey (which is distilled differently). Of course, we can do it with whichever they prefer. It’s just a favorite Southern drink,” he says. “It’s great for people who like a good whiskey or bourbon.”

Bennie’s Old

Fashioned

3 oz bourbon (or whiskey if one wants to be traditional)

3 dashes of bitters

1 pack of sugar

Two cherries

Orange twist for garnish

Ice

Directions

In a cocktail shaker, combine the bourbon, bitters, and sugar. Shake well. In a 6 oz cocktail glass, muddle the cherries then fill with ice. Pour the bourbon mixture over the ice and garnish with an orange twist.

Classic Mimosa

Bottle of champagne or sparkling wine

Jug of orange juice

Orange slice for garnish

Directions

In a champagne flute, fill ⅔ of the glass with the bubbly then top with orange juice. Garnish with an orange wedge.

Erin Madray, ECHO at the King and Prince

The historic King and Prince Hotel has been a draw for families since opening its doors as a resort in 1941. The holidays there have always proven magical. The lobby boasts a huge Christmas tree, and for years gingerbread houses could be found on display. In the hotel’s restaurants, families fill tables to enjoy the King and Prince’s annual Thanksgiving feast in November. During December, patrons gather to enjoy drinks around the oceanfront bar or expansive fireplace.

And for those seeking a sweet libation to go along with the merriment, Erin Madray suggests trying the Pecan Milk Punch.

“Two holiday treats came to mind when curating this cocktail: The Southern staple — pecan pie — and the chilled, creaminess of eggnog. Together, these flavors offer a decadent richness to accompany the warmth of the bourbon,” she says.

“The Pecan Milk Punch is delicious enough to be ordered as an after-dinner dessert at ECHO but refreshing enough to be enjoyed on the resort’s pool deck on a mild winter day.”

But for those looking for something lighter, Madray recommends ECHO’s version of the ever-popular French 75.

“Champagne and celebrations go hand in hand, which is why the French 75 is a staple on the ECHO menu. Whether you’re toasting to the New Year or to a recent accomplishment in our dining room, this cocktail fits the bill with its bubbly finish,” she says.

“You’ll find the French 75 is both refreshing and smooth with just a little bit of luxe.”

ECHO’s 75

½ oz lemon juice

¼ simple syrup

1 oz Highclere Castle Gin

4 oz Champagne or Prosecco

Lemon for garnish

Directions

Add gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and shake. Strain into a champagne flute then top with bubbly.

Pecan Milk Punch

For the simple syrup:

1 ¼ cups water

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup pecans

Directions for the syrup

Bring water to a boil. Stir in brown sugar and pecans. Turn down to the lowest setting and simmer for 25

minutes. Let cool, then fine strain out the pecans.

Directions for the punch

Mix the syrup, bourbon, and ice cream in a blender until smooth. Top with candied pecans and a sprinkle of nutmeg.