Friday, December 2, 2011

Ten Imbibing Ideas for the Holiday Season

Looking for some inspiration for your holiday imbibing? Whoops, how did you end up here? I kid.

This is the season when nostalgia grabs everyone and the occasions to get together with family and friends fill the calendar. Entertaining family and friends can be a challenge any time of year, but with the expectations heaped on gatherings during the holidays it’s no wonder there are so many search hits for “holiday horror stories”! We all have them.

A few years ago Margot and I vacationed to Orlando with friends early in the month of November. The Disney Parks were already decorated for Christmas and after a bit of exposure to the music and decorations our conversations inevitably turned to the upcoming holidays and stories of celebrations past. Many laughs ensued! On one of the car rides to Universal Studios, also decked out for Christmas, we spotted a sign hanging above the door of a liquor store that read “Family gatherings go quicker with liquor!” The wisdom of the person who posted those words can’t be understated. Don’t believe me? Another example comes late in the move National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Clark’s father tells him that he got through the holidays with a lot of help from his friend Jack Daniels. Raise your hand if you can relate.

So get your family & friends together and drink up!

You are going to do it anyway and bringing fresh imbibing ideas to this year’s gatherings is a sure way to guarantee at least some of the conversation won’t be about whose back hurts worse or who gets the best parking spot in front of the house.

Ten Ideas for Holiday Imbibing
  1. Serve punch. And I mean a classic punch from the era that birthed it. Recipes in David Wondrich’s book Punch and in his column at Esquire Magazine are the place to go. This cognac-based holiday punch recipe, The Fatal Bowl, from 2007 is a great example of what I mean. Classic punch is not a contemporary cocktail in a bowl, something many of us know all too well…
  2. Make simple syrup for simplified cocktail construction. Straight up simple syrup is used in lots of drinks and flavored or spiced versions can help take your mixology in many exciting directions. Check out this NY Times article for cocktail ideas and a recipe for simple syrup.
  3. Use sugar and spices to create fun flavors to rim glasses with. Crush up candy canes to rim hot chocolate and spiked coffee mugs. A brown sugar and spiced rim on a Sazerac or a Manhattan takes those drinks for a holiday spin.
  4. For cocktail occasions use drink recipes that can be made ahead of time and served out of a pitcher. As the host you can end up spending so much time serving guests that you don’t have fun. Easy drinks mean more conversation! Food & Wine magazine has a slideshow and recipes for several different pitcher drinks, including several with holiday flavors.
  5. Take a trip around the world. Assemble a collection of wines and beers from different places around the world. Curiosity about new products and where they come from always creates interesting conversation.
  6. Make everything sparkle. Host a sparkling only party. Serve Champagne, sparkling wine, hard cider and beers known for considerable carbonation for an all sparkling affair. Some examples of the beers that would work in this way include Saisons, Sam Adams Infinium or the Weiss beers from Weihenstephaner.
  7. Host a blind tasting. Entertainment experts often recommend having an activity at parties to help provide a little bit of structure. Hosting a blind tasting of wines can get everyone talking about what they are smelling and tasting, and the type and origin of the drinks. Wines, beers, meads and ciders can all be tasted blind to add even more fun
  8. Drink local. The local small batch production of wines, beers, ciders, meads and spirits is increasing within communities in every region. Stock your holiday bar with products made nearby to celebrate the season. Better yet, make some of your own to share!
  9. Give a toast. Pick a drink that you are particularly excited about this season and put a short pour into all the willing glasses. Assemble your guests and thank them for joining you to celebrate the shared traditions for yet another year. This is a moment everyone will remember after the rest of the holiday crush fades.
  10. Play a holiday drinking game. This idea is for those less formal parties. Many holiday movies, especially the cartoons, are parables of good and evil. Split the assembled group up into two teams and the each team drinks when their side is mentioned by the narrator of the holiday classic you select. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is an excellent example. Are you rooting for the Whos or the Grinch?

( The holiday beer lineup from 2010. )

A few other thoughts must be stated as a public service. Don’t say I never gave you anything! 

These tips will enhance everyone’s holiday imbibing.
  1. Drink more water. Citrus infused waters taste good and hydrate well.
  2. Don’t drink and drive. It’s bad for you, bad for me and it sticks with you. Don’t do it.
  3. Drink freely, and for whatever reason, but watch the words that come out of your mouth. That’s where the real trouble is.
  4. Store leftover wine in rinsed out beer bottles with reusable stoppers. Keeping the air out will ensure you can serve the leftovers within a couple of days without a loss of drinkability.
  5. Give wine & beer as gifts. Nothing says “I completely understand” better to a host than something to drink when you’ve annoyed the shit out of them!

With the season in full gear I hope I’ve helped stir some creativity for your holiday imbibing, hosting or whatever it is you plan to do to celebrate for another year. Try something new this year and watch how it makes your holiday gatherings much more than the usual.



Last year's holiday entertaining series

Holiday Wine Advice
Holiday Pies
Holiday Beer Talk
Holiday Entertaining

1 comment:

Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table said...

Haha - I love tip #5. As a host, I sincerely appreciate any and all booze people want to offer.