9 Hunting Camp Cocktails for the Holidays

From simple recipes to over-the-top combinations, these drinks are sure to become a favorite at your camp this season

bartender behind a counter.
The author behind his bar at home where he has a collection of over 200 whiskeys and other spirits.Matt Wettish

A cocktail, by definition, is “an alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or several spirits mixed with other ingredients.” But to me, they are so much more. They add to wonderful dinners, special celebrations, and of course, are a staple at hunting camps everywhere. Each spirit has its own character that can be terrific by itself or elevated with the addition of different flavors. Whether it be other spirits, fruit juices, spices, or sodas, the possibilities are endless.

The following collection of cocktails comes from all types of hunters; from those found at small family deer camps to some who explore and hunt around the world. They run the gamut from simple mix-'em-n-slug-'em-back combos to well thought out, balanced libations that will light up your tastebuds. No one of these is necessarily better than the other, and they all have their place on a coaster after a long day in the woods.

1. Maple Manhattan

The Maple Manhattan cocktail.
The Maple Manhattan.Matt Wettish

I’m going to start with a twist on an old favorite. The Maple Manhattan is a whiskey-forward cocktail with a small amount of maple syrup to add a slightly-sweet richness to the drink without overpowering it. Although you can add more syrup if you’d like, it’s meant more to complement the spice of the rye whiskey.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Taconic rye
  • ¾ oz Sweet vermouth
  • ¼-½ oz Taconic Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Cherry

Instructions: Stir (never shake) ingredients at room temperature, then add ice to chill. Strain into a rocks glass with ice, and add the cherry.

2. The Hunt Master’s Tea

The Hunt Master’s Tea cocktail.
The Hunt Master’s Tea served over ice.Matt Wettish

This drink might look like an ordinary cup of tea, but unlike one found at tea time, it has a healthy serving of Jagermeister. What some don’t realize is that Jagermeister means “master of the hunt” in German, and the liqueur has long been associated with hunting. The Hunt Master’s Tea is a rich cocktail with tons of spice and a little sweetness from the honey. It can be served hot or cold over ice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Jagermeister
  • 2 oz Black tea
  • 1 oz Lemon juice
  • Lemon zest
  • ½ oz Honey

Instructions: Brew the black tea. Add honey, and stir until dissolved. Add Jagermeister and lemon zest, and pour into a mug or a glass over ice.

3. Deer Camp Old Fashioned

Deer Camp Old Fashion cocktail.
Deer Camp Old Fashioned.Matt Wettish

I’m not sure where this drink originated, but when I asked outdoor writer and world-traveled hunter, Tim Herald for his favorite hunting camp cocktail, he pulled this combo out without hesitation. Herald appreciates all things whiskey, and so do I, but to be honest I was slightly hesitant about this one. It includes saffron, a spice that makes me think of rice well before my mind turns to a cocktail. But I have to say that after tasting it, it ended up being one of my favorites from this list.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ oz Wathen’s Single Barrel bourbon
  • ½ oz apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 pinch saffron or turmeric
  • Orange twist
  • Cherry

Instructions: Muddle the orange zest, brown sugar, and cider in a cocktail shaker or glass. Add bourbon and cider, and stir. Strain into a rocks glass with ice. Add a cherry and orange twist.

4. Not Your Father’s Root Beer Float

Not Your Father’s Root Beer Float.
Not Your Father’s Root Beer Float.Matt Wettish

This one is more of a dessert cocktail, but if you’re not careful, it will sneak up on you. It’s a throwback to the root beer floats you might have had as a kid—just kicked up a notch. Made from an alcoholic root beer and a bourbon cream, it goes down like the drink we all remember, but it’ll quickly remind you that it’s meant for adults.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of Not Your Father’s Root Beer
  • 1-2 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream
  • Whipped Cream

Instructions: Pour bourbon cream over ice in the bottom of a glass, then add Not Your Father’s Root Beer slowly to maintain separation. Top with whipped cream.

5. Suffering Bastard

The Suffering Bastard cocktail.
The Suffering Bastard.Matt Wettish

Just in case any of you are trying each of these as you read, here’s a hangover helper for tomorrow morning. We’re all familiar with a Bloody Mary or a Fog Cutter, but this one is fondly referred to as the Suffering Bastard. It’s the perfect name for the drink to reach for as you roll from the bunk and stumble across the room only to stub a toe and wonder, “Why did I do that... again?” It’s a light and refreshing drink with a bit of sweet spice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz Brandy
  • 1 oz Gin
  • 1 oz Fresh lime juice
  • 1 Dash Angostura bitters
  • 4 oz Chilled ginger beer
  • Orange twist and lime to garnish

Instructions: Add brandy, gin, bitters, and lime juice over ice. Stir, strain into a glass, and add ginger beer.

6. The Duck Fart

The Duck Fart cocktail shot.
The Duck Fart.Matt Wettish

My buddy Dave, from Ducks Unlimited, was once in a southern Louisiana duck camp and was offered an end-of-day kicker in the form of a shot called, of all things, the Duck Fart. Apparently, someone took it upon themselves to mix a few tasty liqueurs )after having a few tasty liqueurs), found out the combination tasted halfway decent, had a few more, and then decided to name this drink. The Duck Fart can be poured any way you want, and in any order, but we decided to take advantage of the ingredients’ density and layer them in the shot glass. It’s actually pretty good.

Ingredients:

Equal parts:

  • Kahlua
  • Baileys Irish Cream
  • Crown Royal Canadian whiskey

Instructions: If you want the same layered effect, add the ingredients to a 1-ounce shot glass in this order: Kahlua, Baileys, then Canadian whiskey.

7. KC’s Cider

KC’s Cider served cold.
KC’s Cider served cold.Matt Wettish

Spiked ciders are usually pretty simple, but before I added one to this list, I wanted to reach out to a friend of mine, Chef Kevin Cottle, for his input. Not only is Chef Cottle an avid outdoorsman, he’s also a Hell’s Kitchen finalist, so I knew his recipe would go above and beyond. Now, this isn’t just grabbing some apple cider and adding spiced rum and a cinnamon stick. It’s going to take some planning to put all of these ingredients together. About halfway through, you’ll probably start wondering if it’s going to be worth all the effort. My advice: It definitely is.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ Gallons of fresh apple cider
  • 3 Rough-chopped apples
  • 2 Rough-chopped pears
  • 1 Rough-chopped orange
  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 4 Cloves
  • 8 oz Captain Morgan spiced rum
  • 8 oz Evan Williams bourbon
  • 8 oz Grand Mariner
  • 8 oz Vodka

Instructions: Put the cinnamon sticks and cloves in a sachet, then add everything except for the alcohol together in a large pot and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 25-30 min. Take off the heat, remove sachet, and puree all of the fruit and cider. Add the alcohol, and let cool. It can be served warm or over ice.

8. The Nutty Irishman

The Nutty Irishman cocktail.
The Nutty Irishman.Matt Wettish

After a cold, wet day in the field, a warm drink (with a little something extra) really hits the spot. The Nutty Irishman is just like your favorite morning coffee except it isn’t one you’re going to want to bring to work. This easy-to-make cocktail combines the perfect blend of flavors to warm you up even after the coldest day in the woods.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of coffee
  • 1 oz Frangelico
  • 1 oz Baileys
  • 1 oz Irish whiskey
  • Whipped cream

Instructions: Add coffee to a glass or mug, then add Frangelico, Baileys, and Irish whiskey. Stir and top with whipped cream.

9. Crown Royal and…

Crown Royal cocktails.
Crown Royal and whatever you want to mix it with.Matt Wettish

I’ve avoided this entry at all costs, but I had to break down and figure out a way to pay homage to the plain and simple cocktail. It’s certainly not a mixologist’s brainchild, but this drink came up more than once when I asked other hunters about their go-to camp cocktails. Multiple people from across the country came back to me with Crown and this, Crown and that, Crown and whatever. So at this point, I give you, “Crown and...”

Ingredients:

  • Crown Royal Canadian whiskey
  • Coke, Mountain Dew, Giner Ale, and/or whatever else you’d like to add.

Instructions: Just pour however many ounces of Crown Royal you feel appropriate over some ice, then fill the rest of the glass with a soft drink of your choice. Not a tough one to master.