2017-12-13 / Featured / Taste

Simmer and fizz: Wine cocktails for the holidays


Holiday libations are fantastic. The season lends itself to a little extra pizzazz, whether it’s a steaming spiked beverage for a cozy night in, or a drink that sparkles like twinkle lights at a holiday get-together. Two of my favorites – hot mulled wine and sparking pomegranate champagne – fall in line perfectly. The origin of mulled wine dates back to the Romans, who sipped it throughout the cold winter months. As the Romans advanced through Europe, the love of hot mulled wine came with them. The practice took root strongest in England, where it was adopted as tradition during the holidays.

Mulled wine is simply wine with sugar and spices. Chefs, entertainers and bartenders alike have argued for generations as to the proper recipe, and believe me, there are thousands. The only hard and fast rule is don’t ever boil the wine, only ever simmer, as boiling will cook out the alcohol – which is obviously the best part.

Hot mulled wine

Yields 4-5 servings
1 bottle red wine (No need to
purchase something expensive.
Stick with a sturdy merlot, cabernet or
¼ cup brandy
Juice and zest of 1 large

orange (The zest is just the
colored part of the peel.
Using a zester or fine grater,
grate off the top layer of
peel, stopping as soon as
you see the white pith.)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon whole
1 Tablespoon whole
1 whole star anise
Just a pinch of crushed red
pepper (optional)
4 cinnamon sticks
¼ cup sugar (Feel free
to add more if you
prefer sweeter mulled wine.)

Hot mulled wine garnished with cinnamon sticks JENNY McQUEENHot mulled wine garnished with cinnamon sticks JENNY McQUEENCombine all ingredients in a large pot, cover and set on medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, at least until the sugar is dissolved. As long as you don’t let it come to a boil, you can leave it on the stove for a while. The flavors intensify the longer it mulls in the pot. You can also make this in a slow cooker, set to low. Just make sure to start it a couple hours before you want to serve it, as slow cookers take a while to get going.

When you are ready to serve, make sure you strain out all the spices using a fine mesh strainer. You can do this all at once, or cup by cup if people are drinking at different times.

Serve in a mug and enjoy!

Pomegranate champagne cocktail JENNY McQUEENPomegranate champagne cocktail JENNY McQUEENIf you’re not in the mood for a hot drink, a champagne cocktail might be up your alley. I’m using the term “champagne” loosely; true Champagne can only be made in the Champagne region of France. It has strict fermentation and import guidelines and is expensive. Fortunately, several other places in the world make sparkling wine that is, for all intents and purposes, identical to true Champagne. For this recipe, we’ll be using a brut (i.e., very dry) sparkling wine, to balance the sweetness of the pomegranate liquor. In the language of sparkling wines, “brut” is drier than those specified “extra dry,” “extra sec,” or “sec.”

Pomegranate champagne cocktail

3 oz brut sparkling white wine (No need
to buy the expensive stuff here.)
1 oz pomegranate liquor (You can

find this in the cordials section of the
liquor store.)
1 lime slice
Fill your champagne flute with sparkling
wine first, followed by the liquor – this will
prevent bubbling over. Add your lime on
top and cheers!

With all the decorating, gift-wrapping and cooking the holidays entail, often the drinks can be an afterthought to an evening of entertaining. And while there’s no shame in just popping open a bottle of wine, a few extra steps can make that wine a memorable experience. Grab a mug of hot mulled wine and admire the lights outside in the frosty air. Or toast to a new year with an old friend and sip a champagne cocktail while reminiscing of past adventures. ¦

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