There is one annual Christmas tradition my family just couldn't make it through the holidays without: stocking up at the liquor store.

If your brood is anything like mine, alcohol isn't just the lubricant to lift your holiday spirits, it's a necessity that makes it possible to smile while your elderly aunt asks questions like "sweetie, why aren't you married yet?"

A mulled wine and a strong constitution may be the only thing that kept a friend of mine from committing elder abuse when her grandmother declared during Christmas dinner "you've gained weight, but only around your face and neck."

Although it may not be politically correct to say that a holiday cocktail is a prerequisite at family gatherings, let's face it, sometimes it's a reality.

Thankfully, there are professionals who work tirelessly to craft perfect beverages to toast the season.

Chris Hannan, general manager of the new Charles Bar in the historic Woodward's building, puts all of the season's best flavours into his new signature cocktails, the Candy Cane Swirl and Reindeer Bite.

"I associate Christmas with red and candy canes and warmth and sweet. These cocktails incorporate all of these," he told

Plus, the candy cane martini also has a crushed candy rim, something irresistibly Christmas.

Candy Cane Swirl
Crumpled candy cane rim
1 oz Vodka
.5 oz peppermint schnapps
2 oz cranberry juice
5 oz grenadine
.5 oz lemon juice
Garnish with a small candy cane in a martini glass

Reindeer Bite
1 oz Maker's Mark
1 oz Disarrono
2 dash bitters
Splash simple syrup
Garnish with a cherry

But you don't need to go to a bar to enjoy a seasonal cocktail that elicits a sense of nostalgia and warmth while drowning out the complaints of loved ones.

For my Polish relatives, this means downing a healthy shot of ice cold vodka before dessert at Christmas dinner. For your regular Canadian family, I assume it's something like a rum and eggnog around the fire, while someone sings Christmas carols.

Several years ago, CTV News producer Carrie Stefanson introduced me to the homemade Baileys that makes a showing at her home. It combines all the warmth of whiskey with the decadence of cream and chocolate syrup. It's also perfect in a morning coffee.

She prefers to make it with more booze and less milk, but it's really up to you.

Homemade Baileys
1 cup of whiskey
1 can of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (low-fat version optional)
2 cups of half-and-half cream (or to taste)
2 TBSP chocolate syrup
Mix in blender and store in the fridge. (Expiry date coincides with expiry on the milk.)

No matter what poison you pick for your holiday occasion, one thing is certain: even if it doesn't make you perfect in the eyes of the long-lost relatives you see once a year, perhaps you'll just care a little less about living up to their expectations.