Regardless of what you call it—Crock-Pot, slow cooker, Instant Pot—that bulky set-it-and-forget-it kitchen appliance is your best friend in so many situations, holidays included. Naturally, you can make great Christmas dinners in your slow cooker, but it’s also fantastic for making big batches of warm drinks, and keeping them at the perfect temperature throughout the party, whatever the occasion.
There’s slow cooker mulled wine, of course, and mulled cider and punch, but the Crock-Pot also comes in handy for decadent hot chocolate and a bevy of brunch-ready coffee drinks, all fit to please a crowd—and sized to sustain one too. Whether you need a warm glögg or glühwine for your holiday party, spiked (or straight) hot cocoa on Christmas Day, or a copious amount of seasonal lattes for a New Year’s breakfast, the slow cooker is ideal for handling the drinks portion of your menu.
Use only the lowest heat setting so nothing scorches or boils, and while cooking dinner in your Crock-Pot will take several hours, the longer you leave your drinks warming up, the more liquid will evaporate. That said, as long you don’t start the slow cooker more than an hour or so ahead of time, you’ll be fine. Keeping the lid on helps too. If you’re making a boozy brew and worried too much alcohol will cook off, it won’t—but you can always doctor individual glasses just to be sure they’re appropriately merry and bright. In fact, offering optional liqueurs and liquor while making the slow cooker contents nonalcoholic is a good strategy for ensuring everyone gets to have a taste, and can adjust their drink to suit their personal level of holiday cheer.
Set up a self-serve station by your slow cooker with glasses or cups, cocktail napkins, a serving spoon or ladle (and a spoon rest so no one wonders where to put it), and any accompaniments, like cocktail garnishes or hot chocolate add-ins, arranged alongside. If there are a lot of optional ingredients—for instance, if you’re setting up a full hot cocoa bar—it can also be nice to make labels for the various items, and even provide helpful hints in the form of pairing suggestions, whether you write them out on a chalkboard or use index cards.
With just a little advance effort, you have a shindig-worthy drink you don’t have to babysit during the get-together, and everyone will be impressed by the literal warm welcome. We’ve divided the recipes below into three categories to make it easier to find just what you’re looking for.
Mulled Wine, Ciders, and Punch
These festive tipples will add cozy cheer to all your winter parties.
The classic blend of red wine, cinnamon, cloves, and citrus, made extra special with star anise and pomegranate seeds. Feel free to add a bit of brandy for a little more kick. Get the recipe.
Wassail is an old-school Christmas tradition, but our version is updated to appeal more to modern palates—say hello to brandy, apple and cranberry juices, fresh apples, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and brown sugar (and bye-bye to hot beer and soggy toast). Get our Slow Cooker Spiked Wassail recipe.
This recipe is for making your own fresh, spiced apple cider in the slow cooker, after which you can spike it with booze if you’re so inclined, or use it in another punch recipe—or sip it straight. Caraway seeds make an interesting addition to the usual spices. Get the recipe.
The time-tested blend of hot water, Scotch whiskey, lemon, and a bit of sugar, made in a big batch in the slow cooker and topped off with grated nutmeg, will surely cure what ails you. Get the recipe.
For something a bit richer and sweeter, hot buttered rum is in order. If you only have plain rum on hand and have a sudden urge to make this, you can always just add the spices separately, but in either case, a good dose of butter and brown sugar smooths everything out. Get the recipe.
Basically drinkable dessert, slow cooker hot chocolate will give you the warm and fuzzies for sure.
If you’re looking for an incredibly luscious cup of cocoa, try this recipe with sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk (speaking of, this is a great coconut-based vegan hot chocolate to make in the slow cooker), plus vanilla and coconut extracts, cocoa powder, and chopped dark chocolate. If you want to spike it, coconut rum seems like a natural choice. Get the recipe.
A pretty-in-pink drink that will appeal to young and old, this is made with crushed candy canes, whole milk, and white chocolate, with a dash of vanilla. You could also try slow cooker cranberry white hot chocolate or a slow cooker cinnamon white hot chocolate, but ’tis the season for peppermint. Get the recipe.
The combo of salted caramel and rich creamy chocolate can seem cliché at this point, but it’s so delicious, it’s hard to resist. This slow cooker cocoa blends semisweet and milk chocolate chips with soft caramels, milk, and heavy cream, plus sea salt and vanilla. As with pretty much any hot chocolate recipe, it’s great as-is or spiked with your booze of choice. Get the recipe.
Can’t decide between mulled wine and spiked hot chocolate? Try this red wine hot cocoa with cinnamon and nutmeg. Get the recipe.
While you could certainly add some extra warmth from mezcal or tequila, this hot chocolate does already contain spicy chile heat, in addition to cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and vanilla. If you have a kitchen torch, by all means, break it out to toast the marshmallows, but you can also broil them in the oven just before topping the cocoa. Get the recipe.
You can add peppermint flavor by spiking your hot cocoa with Schnapps or stirring in chocolate mints (or crushed candy canes like in the white hot chocolate above), but here you add peppermint extract to a blend of rich dairy and chocolate chips. Mini candy canes make a perfect garnish. Get the recipe.
Ideal for full-house breakfasts and holiday brunches, these slow cooker coffee concoctions will get you going and make you glad.
Just the thing if you’ve got leftover eggnog, and/or if you can’t enough when the season’s here. Instant coffee is convenient, but if you prefer to brew fresh for this recipe, you certainly can. You can also use homemade eggnog if you’ve got it, boozy or otherwise. Get the recipe.
The warm spices and sweetness of gingerbread, plus caffeine. No need to head out to Starbucks when you can have a big batch of these ready and waiting when you wake up. Get the recipe.
If you crowd is more into tea, this slow cooker chai is deliciously spiced and creamy, and naturally sweetened with a bit of honey. Get the recipe.
If you crave chocolate in the morning, you can make mochas in your slow cooker too. Feel free to use real chopped chocolate in place of the cocoa mix called for. Or if you’re feeling especially decadent, you could always just have some slow cooker Kahlua spiked hot chocolate for breakfast or brunch! Get the recipe.