Christmas Groovin’ Booze & Books

To read, to listen, to drink. Such are some of the pleasures of the Advent and Christmas season, with suggestions below.

Not so silent.


You doubtless have your favorites obtained from streaming services and amplified by work-from-home demands, but here are six playlists I created on Spotify that may help.


As broad a collection of genres and styles, time periods and release dates, traditions and oddities as possible. Playing time 7 hours 16 minutes (138 songs).

Covering the waterfront of Christmas music.

Christmas Classical

Classical music for Advent and Christmas. Playing time 9 hours 42 minutes (149 songs).

Classical music for Advent and Christmas.

Christmas Motown and Soul

Christmas groove. Playing time 3 hours 30 minutes (62 songs).

Christmas groove.

Christmas Jazz

Old, new. Cool, Swing. Big band, lounge. Playing time 9 hours 32 minutes (154 songs).

Old, new. Cool, Swing. Big band, lounge.

Christmas Neo-Classical

Christmas spa music. Playing time 4 hours 36 minutes (78 songs).

Christmas spa music.

Christmas Blues

Blue Yule. Playing time 4 hours 51 minutes (56 songs).

Blue Yule.


Whatever other havoc the pandemic has caused, it has not stopped the publication of mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels. Here are some lists from reputable sources, in no particular order.

A cozy read.

Marylin Stasio of the New York Times sets out the 10 Best Crime Novels of 2020. (I enjoyed the Southern noir of Brian Panowich’s Hard Cash Valley). The Times also lists its picks for best thrillers of the year. In the Wall Street Journal, Tom Nolan identifies his favorite mysteries for 2020.

From the UK, The Guardian offers the Best Crime and Thrillers of 2020, and at the Deadgood site, 15 Authors Pick the Best Crime Novels of 2020.

Finally, don’t forget Crime Fiction Lover, a constant resource for, in the site’s words, “die hard crime and thriller fans.”

It’s not a crime novel, but A Child’s Christmas In Wales, by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, is the most remarkable Christmas story since A Christmas Carol. Here is Thomas reading the entire work, recorded in 1952. It’s about a 20-minute listen:


Onward to matters for the meaningful life here at year’s end. Here are a few cocktail suggestions—some seasonal, some not.

From our friends at Lenelle’s in Birmingham, three drinks. First, the “Christmas Tree Cocktail” . . .

. . . and then the “Breakfast Martini . . .”

. . . and finally the “Winter Waltz”:

Coffee Milk Punch

From Garden & Gun, a recipe for coffee milk punch:

2 oz. whole milk

2 oz. half-and-half

1 oz. Amaro Montenegro

1 oz. rum

1–1½ oz. cold brew coffee

1 tbsp. powdered sugar

1–2 dashes bitters

Freshly ground nutmeg, for garnish

Combine all ingredients except nutmeg in a cocktail shaker. Shake without ice for 1 minute to incorporate and emulsify the ingredients. Add ice and shake 1 minute more to chill. Strain into a double rocks or highball glass, over ice if desired. Dust with nutmeg.

Garden & Gun, “A Devilish Coffee Milk Punch” (December 2020/January 2021)

Brandy Flip
The Brandy Flip.

From one of my favorite cocktail books, The Cocktail Codex, I fixed a couple of brandy flips (actually cognac flips) last week. They were lighter and better than most eggnogs. Here is a recipe from Punch:

1 1/2 ounces brandy [or cognac]

1 whole egg 

1 ounce simple syrup (1:1, sugar:water – one cup sugar, one cup water, bring to a boil, turn heat down and allow to simmer for ten minutes; allow to cool and then refrigerate in a Mason jar)

Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg

Combine ingredients in shaking tin [a shaker] and shake long and hard to emulsify the egg. Strain into a London dock glass [or a Nick and Nora glass, which I prefer] and dust with freshly grated nutmeg.

Punch, “Brandy Flip”
The Martini. Ho, ho, ho.

If all of these are too heavy, too caloric, or too complex, one can always celebrate with the martini, the Gibson, or a rye Manhattan. And, after you fix one of these beverages, settle in with this Intoxicating History of Gin from the New Yorker.