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How to make your cocktails the life of the party

(BPT) - This time of year, homes across the country are bustling with friends and family celebrating the holidays with festive foods and drinks. Dairy products like butter, milk, cheese...

(BPT) - This time of year, homes across the country are bustling with friends and family celebrating the holidays with festive foods and drinks. Dairy products like butter, milk, cheese and cream are standard ingredients in celebratory dishes, but one area where dairy can play a starring role is often overlooked - the cocktail glass. Instead of just offering wine or beer, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) has put together cocktail tips and tricks for making every gathering a happy hour at home.

1. Cheers to dairy. Served hot or cold, milky alcoholic beverages are delicious on a hot day or in the cold of winter. Cocktails made with milk can range from the classics like a White Russian to the more unusual Mardi Gras favorite Milk Punch, a somewhat lighter version of egg nog. Make sure to choose flavors and spices that complement the foods you're serving.

2. Look in the fridge. Chances are you already have everything you need to create a special cocktail or host a happy hour at home. Now is the time to use up the leftover craft beers from last week's game, that nice bottle of brandy you received as a gift and the California milk and cream you have in your fridge.

3. Apples to apples. Apples are one of those foods that everyone seems to love and that familiar apple flavor seems most welcome in the cooler, cozier months. Why not combine the iconic apple pie with a trend that is on the rise: hard ciders. With the influx of craft beer drinkers, hard ciders are coming into their own. Try creating a Belgian Hot Apple Pie Cocktail (see recipe) and wow your friends and family with your bartending skills. This cocktail takes the beloved flavor of apple pie and lights it on fire, literally.

4. Drink your dessert. It's easy to create delicious drinkable desserts for the over-21 crowd with just a few ingredients you likely already have on hand. A few scoops of Real California vanilla ice cream, milk, a flavored Irish cream liqueur and a shot of whiskey mixed in the blender will make even non-Irish eyes smile. Try chocolate vodka, peanut butter, milk and ice cream for an adult version of a peanut butter cup. Minty Moochas are a chocolate treat featuring coffee liqueur, peppermint schnapps, semisweet chocolate, milk and whipped cream.

5. Mix it up. Classic cocktails are making a comeback so mix up your own. Classic egg nog is a fun drink that can be served as either an adult or nonalcoholic beverage and is easily flavored to fit the festivities - from pumpkin pie spice to peppermint extract. If you are looking for a classic recipe, try a Wild's Cooked Egg Holiday Eggnog with a splash of dark rum or bourbon, crafted by Chef Andy Wild on behalf of the CMAB.

Whenever serving alcohol in your home, make sure there's a designated driver to ensure everyone makes it home safely. Look for the Real California Milk and Cheese seals to guarantee you're getting products made with 100 percent California milk. To make the irresistible drinks mentioned above and to check out other great recipes, visit RealCaliforniaMilk.com, or search for Real California Milk on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Belgian Hot Apple Pie Cocktail
Yield: 1 serving

1 large scoop Real California vanilla ice cream
1 ounce apple brandy
12 ounces Belgian apple beer

Place ice cream in a large glass. Pour brandy into a small glass. Carefully touch a lighted match to surface of brandy to ignite it. When flames die down, pour brandy over ice cream and fill glass with beer. Serve with a spoon and a straw.

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