Getting Punchy

I wish all holiday calendars could work like this year's configuration: long holiday weekends, with time for both pre- and post-party rest and recovery. How rare it is when we can eat and drink ourselves silly on New Year's Eve, with a bonus package of two whole days to nurse a hangover, extract that lampshade party hat and perhaps arrive at some sobering New Year's resolutions?

With the extra time to prepare and recover, we have a perfect excuse to yip it up at home rather than taking trouble out into the streets.

Today, I'll cover beverage options. Tomorrow, I'll follow up with some ideas for chow and festive snacks.

Today's Food section has gone bubbly, with a primer on concocting champagne cocktails, inspired by several Washington area mixologists. (Check out the fun interactive photo gallery, too!) Plus, wine columnist Ben Giliberti offers his picks for traditional French champagne.

At this point in the holidays, I'm looking for bargains, so I'll steer my palate toward less-expensive bubbles. I'm a big fan of Spanish Cava and usually there's a bottle of Cristalino in my fridge, which sets me back about nine bucks. (It's also quite food friendly; I love it with spicy stuff.) Other fun option is Italian Prosecco, made from the Prosecco grape, with a lightness and fruitiness that takes me far, far away from winter snow. Ask your friends at your local wine shop and they'll be able to offer something around $15. For domestic fizz, I would hit Gruet from New Mexico (about $12) or Roederer from California (about $30).

Stop mulling things over and cut to the glogg, a mulled red wine concoction with Scandinavian roots. There are tons of recipe variations for this high-octane brew; some include aquavit, the Swedish caraway-flavored liqueur, while others use brandy. Whatever you decide, the red wine gets punched up with lots of aromatics and spices -- cloves, cinnamon, orange peel -- and is served hot. By the way, say GLOOG if you want to hang with the cool kids.

Its mulled cousin (mulled means heated and sweetened, by the way) is wassail, an apple cider-based warmer upper that can be served spiked or as is. Those who like it leaded add calvados, brandy or even vodka.

Non-alcoholic options are not just a good idea, they're a must. In addition to the standard fizzy water and soft drink lineup, consider something a bit more inviting to non-boozing guests. Spruce up that fizzy water with a few splashes of pear or mango nectar (available at many supermarkets these days), garnished with a slice of fruit, a minty sprig. Or, hey! It's party time: a lemon grass stalk.

For further reading, have a look at the "Drinkology" titles by James Waller, whose style and wit is accessible to we plebes. Fun reads and useful to boot.

By kimodo |  December 28, 2005; 11:14 AM ET  | Category:  Entertaining , New Year's Celebrating , Wine and Spirits
Previous: Less Is More | Next: Whaddya Doin' New Year's Eve?


Please email us to report offensive comments.

There's nothing better than Gluehwein - the German/Austrian version of glogg - on a cold winter's day. And wandering the cobbled streets, glass mug in hand, singing carols. Over here, a porch or balcony will do nicely...or an open window. There's just nothing like spices, red wine, and cold air...

Posted by: DCCeline | December 29, 2005 11:47 AM

Sorry to be a nitpicker, but wassail most certainly must be spiked. If you don't it may be a fine mulled cider, but it is not wassail! The drink has hundreds of years of tradition and celebration surrounding it. Leaving out the booze is like celebrating new years eve in June.

Posted by: rkh | December 30, 2005 01:20 PM

Ad a few dried cherries or any other fruit to the brew and it tastes delicious. I agree, by the way, with rkh that the gluwein/grogg/gluck has to be spiked.

Posted by: rete | December 30, 2005 02:47 PM

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