A cocktail inspired by The Pogues' 1987 Christmas song "Fairytale of New York?" Of course, there's a recipe for that! 

For some people, it just isn't Christmas without singing or screaming along to The Pogues and Kristy MacColl's "Fairytale of New York," the popular anti-Christmas ballad that captured the rage, hope, and despair of the Irish immigrant experience.

While we have since come to acknowledge the problematic nature of some of the lyrics, the general consensus is that they are a product of the time, place, and voice of the characters portrayed in the song, and that "Fairytale of New York" should not be canceled just yet. 

This is good news because there's a cocktail inspired by the song, which you can sip as you listen to The Pogues' original song or covers like those of Christy Moore, Ed Sheeran, or, more recently, Glen Hansard and Imelda May.

The Fairytale of New York cocktail is essentially an Old Fashioned all dressed up for Christmas. We first heard about it via the delightful site Aperitif Friday, the author of which learned about it as part of a gift from a friend who read about it at Smitten Kitchen, who in turn adapted it from Dave Mitton of The Harbord Room in Toronto, via Imbibe Magazine. 

The cocktail brings delicious notes of apple, pear, cinnamon, and cloves to the classic orange, whiskey, and bitters flavors of an Old Fashioned, courtesy of a magical concoction called Winter Warmth Syrup.

To stay as true as possible to the source material, the only part of the recipe we've changed recommends using an Irish whiskey instead of bourbon or rye -- trust us, you'll be glad you did! 

Fairytale of New York Cocktail

For the "Winter Warmth" syrup:

  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup raw, demerara, or turbinado sugar (granulated works too)
  • 1/2 apple – peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/2 pear – peeled, cored, and diced
  • 12 walnuts
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, broken up
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 whole nutmeg

To make the Winter Warmer syrup, combine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally to make sure that the sugar dissolves, continuing to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Cool on the stovetop for 2 hours, then strain into a glass jar and place in the refrigerator. Will keep for up to three weeks so you can try it in other beverages, too! 

For the Fairytale of New York cocktail:

  • 1 oz Winter Warmth Syrup
  • Orange peel
  • 3 dashes of bitters (orange, walnut, or angostura will work)
  • 3 oz good Irish whiskey
  • Ice
  • Cinnamon stick

To make the cocktail, combine the Winter Warmer syrup, orange peel and bitters into a cocktail glass. Muddle the ingredients with a wooden muddler or the back of a spoon. Add Irish whiskey and the ice (we recommend one large cube if possible) and stir to combine. Use a cinnamon stick instead of a swizzle stick or cocktail straw.


*Originally published in 2019, last updated in December 2022.