Creamy eggnog spiked with a jigger of rum; jewel-toned mulled wine; spicy, heartwarming apple ciderthe holiday season beckons friends and family to gather round and tip a cup to the joys of togetherness and celebration.
For that little extra sparkle this year (the one that will elevate your punchbowl to holiday stardom), three accomplished mixologists have each invented a fancy, fresh take on a traditional winter-kissed libation.
OREGON MULLED WINE
Premium fixings turn this well-heeled classic into a showstopper.
The Pacific Northwest has some wonderful micro-distilleries and a growing wine industry that can be compared to some of the best regions in the world, says Chris Dennett, owner/operator of Elements Tapas Bar & Lounge in Medford. He recommends choosing syrah from Wooldridge Creek, Abacela Estate and Del Rio and pot-distilled brandy from Portlands Clear Creek Distillery.
Serve from a punch bowl. Offer Irish coffee mugs, inviting guests to dip rims in lemon juice then in a cinnamon-sugar mixture before filling. (About three parts freshly ground cinnamon to one part sugar.)
The glass mugs illuminate the rich, deep red color of the drink, says Dennett. But be careful serving it heat makes alcohol reach the bloodstream faster, and the added brandy gives this drink a real kick.
EAU DE VIE DE POMME CIDER
Kelley Swenson, mixologist extraordinaire at Portland's Ten01, creates an apple cider cocktail featuring Eau de Vie de Pomme — a handmade, artisan-distilled apple brandy by Clear Creek Distillery in Portland. The brandy, along with a touch of citrus and spice, and the best sparkling wine available, turns this tried-and-true holiday cider into something extraordinary.
For teetotalers or sophisticated young adults, fill a separate punch bowl with half the spiced simple syrup and a dry non-alcoholic sparkling cider. "Pay close attention to their apple garnishes, making sure that your nonimbibing guest looks just as fabulous holding that drink as the others," says Swenson.
WINTRY EGGNOG BRANDY SHAKE
When concocting this rich, exotically spiced version of eggnog, chef Bob Neroni (owner of EVOO — Cannon Beach Cooking School, Catering, Specialty Foods and Wines) visualizes the end product.
"People are savvier about food and beverages these days — they're looking for the special extra effort that makes their parties sparkle," says Neroni.
To elevate his Wintry Eggnog Brandy Shake, Neroni replaces traditional nutmeg with the earthy flavor of ground coriander. He then rims classic martini glasses in cocoa powder before filling, and tops with white and dark chocolate curls.
"I love edible, functional garnishes like chocolate curls, candied orange and lemon peels and organic rose petals," he says. "They give your beverages that extra punch."