Recipe Redo: Sandra Lee’s Holiday Cocktail

11/14/2013 at 11:55 AM ET

Alie & Georgia Sandra Lee Holiday Cocktail Maple Bourbon Cider
Courtesy Alie & Georgia

Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark, a.k.a. Alie & Georgia, host Cooking Channel food-travel series Tripping Out with Alie & Georgia. Visit PEOPLE.com every Thursday for their playful spins on celebrity recipes, cocktails, entertaining ideas—and, of course, lots of laughs!

Bourbon. Maple. Seltzer. What’s not to love about Sandra Lee's Holiday Cocktail? Well, in a word: seltzer.

Sandy, you know we love you. We love the choice of bourbon for the winter: The American whiskey is aged in charred oak barrels and has sweet, smoky notes that are perfect for the time of year when chimneys puff and scarves come out. We love the maple, which takes the edge off the whiskey. But the three-ounce float of seltzer—blah. All fizz, no flavor.

We figured we had some Lee-way in terms of tinkering around with another ingredient or two.

So we swapped out Sandra’ seltzer for a float of hard cider, adding the tart tang of apples to the comforting warmth of the bourbon and maple. While we were at it, we politely asked vanilla to take a hike in favor of Angostura bitters, a staple no home bar should be without. Think of the little elixir—made from roots and spices—akin to the finishing salt on a good dish. Just a little dash makes any cocktail taste sophisticated and balanced. Cocktails need bitters like a sandwich needs mustard. Like shoes need socks.

So there you have it. Sandy’s sipper just got a little more jazzy. Oh, and did we mention that the hard cider adds a little more kick (read: booze) to the drink? Garnish with an orange peel for a pretty look and a citrusy aroma and you’re good to go. And by “go,” we mean “stay in.”

Alie & Georgia’s Maple Bourbon Cider

1½ oz. bourbon
½ tsp. maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
6 oz. hard apple cider (sub Martinelli’s for lower alcohol content)
Orange rind for garnish

In a shaker filled with ice, shake first three ingredients, strain into a tall glass filled with ice, top with cider and drop in an orange rind. Toast to toasty fireplaces, good friends, and stiff(er) drinks.

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