Holiday Booze Guide- What to Serve, What to Gift
By Jennifer Shanteau
I swear, yesterday I was sunning myself on my balcony and woke up to Thanksgiving. Yes, the holidays, whether you love them, or dread them with every fiber of your soul, are indeed, upon us. That means you need booze…..either for celebrating, or drowning your sorrows. To help ease the burden of the eternal lists of things to do, and people to buy for, I’m going to set you up with some suggestions for your booze loving friends and family, and give you the gift of just one last thing you have to think about, by presenting you with a holiday booze guide. You’re welcome. Of course, all of this researching various festive beverage options was very time consuming and difficult, but anything for my readers!
Let’s start with the obvious…..wine. If you’re hosting, you have to offer it. If you’re a guest, and have any manners whatsoever, you’ll be bringing it to your gathering. However, if you’re coming to my place, any alcoholic beverage will do, as long as its quality. Yes, I will judge your boxed wine. I know, wine can be very intimidating. Have you ever seen the documentary “SOMM”? Wow. You can never know everything about wine…..ever. So, why expect that of yourself? Just relax, continue reading this holiday booze guide, choose a bottle, and drink up….enough said. To calm your fears, I did go through the trouble of laying down my liver in order to come up with some suggestions, to lighten your load. I know, so self-sacrificing of me. Here are just a few wines that I have recently downed, um, ah, I mean sampled, and added to my own personal holiday booze guide.
The Cline wine family from Contra Costa County in my blessed Sonoma California has two quite amazing reds to choose from. One little tip….when you find a wine you like, take note of the type of grape and location of the vineyard. With just this little bit of information, you can find similar wines you may also enjoy. I like Cline’s 2015 Ancient Vines Zinfandel and their Vintage 2015 Red Blend. This is the type of wine you take one sip of and wonder how expensive the bottle was. The great thing is that they retail for around only $14.99 each. This is a huge bang for your buck! You can impress your hostess without emptying your wallet. Both wines are similar in taste, the blend being a touch lighter. You can definitely tell they are from the same vineyard and the same year without having to be a sommelier. The first word that comes to mind when describing them is “smooth”. I tasted blackberries, strawberries, and vanilla mostly. These delightful wines were full and velvety.
Another producer to consider is Santa Margherita from Trentino-Alto Adige Italy. I typically don’t like Chianti or Pinot Grigio, and could not believe I enjoyed both of these. Their 2013 Chianti Classico Riserva went quite well with the steak I was eating. Chianti tends to be very tannic for me, so I tend not to buy it. However, when paired with the right food, which is really how wine is meant to be consumed anyway, it changes everything. I can also see pairing this with game or anything barbecued.
The biggest shock to me was that I loved their 2016 Pinot Grigio…..I mean, loved! If you know me, you know I am not a Pinot Grigio fan. I usually find them to be too watery, too acidic. I just never, ever like them. This is by far the best Pinot Grigio I’ve ever had. There are literally only two others that I can tolerate, but don’t love. This one I adore! Pinot Grigios from Alto Adige Italy are now on my list of favorite wines. I have been converted! I still have the empty bottle. I’m trying to figure out how to remove the label intact, so I will never again be without this precious liquid. After tasting it, I texted my Pinot Grigio loving sister at once, demanding she run out immediately and procure this for herself. I tasted crisp apple. It was medium bodied with a smooth finish. I see this working well with salads, fish or eggs….great for a brunch.
Let’s not forget the sparking wine. I mean, you can’t ring in the New Year without at least a glass of something bubbly, whether it be sparkling wine, champagne or prosecco. These are perfect to use for your Christmas or New Years Day brunch Mimosas or Bellini’s, too. Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava from Penedes Spain is a good one to choose. It’s even been awarded, “Value Brand of the Year” by “Wine & Spirits” Magazine. It retails for under ten dollars, but tastes more expensive……enough said.
Of course, once you’ve poured wine for everyone, how are you going to keep everyone’s glass straight? This holiday booze guide wouldn’t be complete without wine charms, of course! Not those boring bead charms that everyone is sick of. These are interesting. Choose from a box of Hobby Charms, (painting, traveling, cooking, reading, gardening, or photography), the perfect ice breaker for a gathering of friends who don’t know each other that well yet, or a box of stunning Swarovski Crystal charms from Bliss Home. These could also be a great gift, and they’re a steal retailing around $22.
While on the subject of wine…..have you noticed the alcoholic beverage of choice for yoga practioners is wine? Have you also noticed that everyone and their grandma does yoga these days? Guess what an amazing duo I have discovered? A class where you do gentle, relaxing yoga poses, while you learn about the wine you’re going to drink afterwards. Yeah! This exists. It’s called Yoga Unwined. Let me tell you, I tried this on one of those days I was so exhausted from work, that I wanted to just go home and go to bed, but instead, I tried this class, and it turned my whole evening around. The yoga is simple enough for a beginner like me, so don’t be intimidated. After the yoga session, we popped the corks on those bottles, and then had a full blown wine tasting. The creator of this dynamic duo is Morgan Perry, former wine marketer, turned yoga instructor. Tell me this isn’t an original, creative holiday present! You can buy gift cards at $30 for one class or $80 for three. This is perfect for your stressed out friends….aka all of your friends, if you live in New York where this is offered.
Speaking about stressed out, what about all the moms in your life? Being one myself, I now completely understand why so many walk around looking like the walking dead. (Sorry for mocking you all these years.) We are the people on the front lines! We need this wine the most. Mommy’s Time Out wine is here for us. Before I even took one sip of this wine, I felt appreciated and loved. Someone actually put the time and effort into making something just for us to make our day better. Kuddos! I’m a big fan! I guarantee any wine loving mom will feel the same. Isn’t that what you want for the woman who sacrificed her once hot body to drag your heavy butt around for nine months? Your mom deserves this. Mommy’s Time Out wine produces four varieties to choose from, Pinot Grigio, Moscato , a pink and a red. Incidentally, they do make a Dad’s Day Off Chianti, but whatever.
What about liquor? Am I able to move beyond my always favorite gift to receive, vodka, and present another option? Well, yes, indeed I am, and boy is it a good one…….Hennessy XO. Save this for someone you really like. It retails for around $150. This is also perfect to serve after dinner. It’s so delicious to sip….and sip…..and sip. I forgot all about vodka. I happened to be sipping this liquid from the gods right after Halloween with a plastic jack o’ lantern full of candy staring at me, and discovered this tastes delicious with Hersey’s milk chocolate, so feel free to upgrade those to some slightly fancier truffles for guests. You can have the traditional bottle engraved, or upgrade to the newly designed bottle by famed designer Marc Newson, which retails for around $360. I did say “someone you really like”.
I know, I’ve written about this next intoxicant before, but Victoria Pink Gin from Gin Lane 1751 is so good and so pretty, It’s too good to not mention when discussing gifts. Victoria Pink Gin is the result of collaboration between Bloomsbury Club and Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers in their effort to recreate Victorian Era cocktails. Quote that on your next date night! Believe it or not, this pink drink was a staple with the British Royal Navy. They used bitters to balance out a dry or sweet gin, which they drank to cure sea sickness……or so they say. Victoria Pink Gin is pre-blended and ready to sip, and the perfect holiday gift for your gin loving friend.
You didn’t think I could write an article on booze without speaking about my beloved vodka, did you? Three Olives happens to be an excellent choice and quite the value for the quality you receive. Need a unique cocktail ingredient? Bored with the plain stuff? Try the Cucumber Lime, or my favorite….Watermelon! You can serve these in a cocktail, or just on ice. They make my favorite Christmas tree ornaments!
Have the liquor, but need a mixer? How about this set from Owl’s Brew? Use these tea based mixers to make a Grapefruit Collins, a Salted Caramel Toddy, or add some Mulled Spices to your wine for a festive holiday twist. This entire set retails for only $25.
I hope this Holiday Booze Guide provided you with sufficient guidance when it comes to serving or gifting festive beverages, and alcohol related gifts for the holidays. Perhaps, you just want to buy yourself a present or two! Do it. You deserve it. You worked hard this year. I mean, I’m assuming. Happy Holidays! If all else fails, there is always booze.