Holiday Cocktailing

Thu. December 6, 2007 12:00 AM
by Feature Column

Cocktails & Christmas Cheer

At this point in the holiday season, the best part is still ahead for most of us. Gifts need to be bought, the tree needs to be trimmed, the decorations put in place, the lights lit, the cards sent and the dinner ordered. But more important than all of that, the best thing most of us have to look forward to are those few blissful hours of togetherness with family and friends that annually mark this time of year. And there's no better way to muddle through that experience than by sipping a cup of Christmas cheer.

To help you celebrate the season and survive the big day, here are four great cocktails that will melt your cares away.

Mulled Wine

Though its history can be traced back to medieval times, mulled wine is presently experiencing a bit of a renaissance. Always a classic, mulled wine has gained particular currency with the fashionable set as a leading aperitif for the holiday season in recent years. It's warm and sweet and the smell of this delectable concoction brewing is as akin to the smell of the holiday season as pine needles and fresh baked gingerbread cookies. Plus it's a snap to prepare. Here's how:

Take one bottle of moderately priced red wine (750ml), 1 ½ slice lemons, 1 sliced Valencia Orange and the juice of another (which should be strained), ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of nutmeg, cloves (to taste), Citrus Tea (to taste) ½ cup Splenda (or 1 cup sugar) and 4 cinammon sticks.

Heat red wine in a sauce pan over a very low heat (be careful never to the boil the wine as it will spoil the wine). Gently stir in the juice of one Valencia orange. Next layer into the mixture slices of lemon and orange, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.

Allow the mixture to get hot. Add ½ cup of Splenda to the mixture (or sugar) and stir gently. Pour the wine into glasses, add Citrus tea and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Now how much fun is that?

Martini St. Nicholas

Basically a Martini St. Nicholas is just a fancy name for a martini dyed to match the colors of the season. If you're like me, you get tired of all those festive cocktails because they're all a little too sweet or a little too rich to indulge in liberally. So here's the perfect solution.

Take a classic martini, color it with just a splash of food coloring and, voila… you've got a holiday cocktail dressed for the season that feels as comfortable as an old robe. Here's my fave recipe for the perfect Martini St. Nicholas.

6 Part(s) Vodka
Extra Dry Vermouth
Maraschino Cherries (optional)
Red or Green Food Coloring

Pour chilled vodka into a Martini shaker filled with ice. Using a dropper, add a few drops of food coloring until desired coloring is achieved (but don't over do it). Unscew the top of the bottle of vermouth and place it next to the Martini shaker, count to 5 and then replace the top on the bottle of vermouth. Shake vodka well and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. And there you have it… your favorite drink reborn for the holidays!

Holiday Champagne Punch

Nothing says celebration like champagne, and holiday champagne punch is an excellent way of saying "let's celebrate" without breaking the bank.

Sure we'd all like to serve Perrier-Jouet throughout our Christmas celebrations but at a time of the year when budgets are stretched and partying is liberal, it's not necessarily the most practical entertaining notion in the world, which is why champagne punch is such an excellent solution.

First of all, when making champagne punch, you can use a moderately priced champagne like Chandon, Piper-Sonoma or Korbel. This alone will cut your costs significantly.

Secondly, because champagne punch uses a number of fruit juices, it further stretches your entertaining dollar. So as not to lose the elegance of the experience of drinking champagne, I always serve champagne punch in champagne glasses with a twist of lemon or a raspberry in the flute. (Hint: People tend to drink less this way as well because champagne flutes invite one to sip rather than guzzle). Here's my favorite recipe for this seasonal treat:

Holiday entertaining can be made simple by offering a punch bowl for a beverage that guests can help themselves to. This will lighten your load to spend more time socializing. The ice ring makes this a beautiful holiday treat.

1 Bottle Dry Champage (Chandon or Piper Sonoma)
8 oz. Homemade Lemonade (unsweetened)
8 oz. Homemade Limeade (sweetened)
1 cup Cranberry Juice
1 quart Schwepp's Ginger Ale
Raspberries and Lemons for garnish

Mix ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer to carafes and chill on a bed of ice. Serve in champagne flutes with lemon twist or raspberry as garnish.

Duane's Christmastini

Finally here's a little number that I dreamed up rather by accident when a gaggle of people showed up at my house and the bar ran a bit dry. I call it a Christmastini even though it wasn't even Christmas when I made it for the first time. However as you will see from the ingredients, this drink is quite well-suited for the season.

1 oz Belvedere Vodka
½ oz Peppermint Schnapps
12 oz. Schweppes Club Soda
1 Peppermint Candy Cane (garnish, if desired)
Sprig of fresh mint

Into a tumbler filled with ice, pour vodka and peppermint schnapps. Add soda and mix and garnish with fresh mint and striped candy cane.

Raise your glasses and toast to good cheer! The season's most wonderful time is drawing near! Until next time, cheers!

Written By Duane Wells
Article provided in partnership with GayWebMonkey.com.