The countdown's on for Christmas and then a rockin' New Year's Eve. If you're working on a shopping list for the next few weeks of parties and dinners, here's a spin on the Christmas countdown that will provide plenty of variation on ye olde spiked eggnog. We've pulled together the best new holiday spirits, some wonderful wines, and a couple European classics. Cheers to your merrier Christmas and happiest-ever New Year.
House of Mandela Wines – Timely and Sustainable Even before Nelson Mandela's passing, the February 2013 US launch of his family members' eponymous winery grabbed attention. Of all the myriad wines coming from sunny South Africa, the Mandela label garners unparalleled respect for its fair trade policies and environmentally sensitive production. With Nelson Mandela's memory glowing in everyone' hearts right now, you couldn't pick a better host gift than a Mandela wine -- whether the entry level Thembu collection or the premium Royal Reserve.
Bärenjäger Honey & Pear – Drinkable fruitcake, only better Bärenjäger and fruitcake share many characteristics (fruity, honey-sweet, European), but only one's likely to be used as a paperweight after the holidays. The bottle of delicious golden liqueur with the cute bear mascot won't last that long. There are countless cocktail recipes using Bärenjäger, but honestly, you don't need to get fancy with the new Honey & Pear expression. Pour over ice and savor as a sweet aperitif.
Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach – The cognac that's also a fruit basket It might seem like more of a summer sipper, but House of Marnier Lapostolle released this berry peachy limited edition in September. And if Santa's granting wishes, we'd prefer a bottle of it ($39.99) over a real fruit basket of the season. It's a sophisticated after-dinner spirit that tastes like a summer morning.
Smoked Maple Knob Creek – "Comfort whisky" from the heartland Maple is the perfect complement to the oaky caramel flavor of bourbon, America's homeland whiskey-designate – and we love that Knob Creek, one of the ultimate Kentucky bourbon distillers, has released one with proper Kentucky cred. (For spirits intelligentsia who wonder how the rules work: Adding maple post-maturation allows this spirit to still qualify as a bourbon.) Rich and desserty -- perfect for chilly nights by the fire.
Classic Glühwein – In plain English, that means "mulled" Students, mixologists and Dickensian carolers ladle this stuff up gleefully during the holiday season. Here's a classic mulled wine recipe from New York's most Austrian fine-dining spot, Wallsé. (If the Austrian varietal Zweigelt is too hard to find, substitute a favorite bargain-bin red.) 1 bottle of Zweigelt wine 1 orange (sliced in half with rind) 1 whole vanilla bean Zest of 1 lime Splash of port wine Cinnamon stick Spices, 1 tsp of each: Juniper berries, all spice, star anise, pink peppercorns
Directions: Place all ingredients in large pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Before serving, add honey until desired sweetness is reached (approximately 5 Tbsp for whole pot)
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