Keep the Cocktails Easy
Whether you're like me and working through most of the holidays or simply want to relax and enjoy the true spirit of the season, it's great to have some easy but elegant and special food and drinks handy. There will likely be some planned company, some drop in company and (hopefully) some cozy nights at home with your nearest and dearest. Food and drink is a common factor that brings us all together and an easy way to add that festive feeling but the fun is lost if you feel stuck in the kitchen instead of relaxing with your people.
This year more than many others I am simplifying plans and focusing on quality time with my family and if time permits, a little downtime for myself.
My top easy entertaining tip this season? A generous stock of bubbly!
I love Champagne and sparkling wine, it elevates the moment yet all you need is to chill it and open with a POP! Sparkling wine is a fantastic aperitif and plays well with the richness of many appetizers and hors d'oeuvres. As delicious with crunchy, salty chips and dip as it is with a fancy seafood appetizer or a hot baked dip. Super simple but a little extra, perfect for a night in front of the fire or your favourite Christmas movie (mine is a toss up between National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or A Christmas Story, what are your fave Christmas movies?)
The other easy 2 ingredient holiday drink I've been loving this year is Earths Own Almond Nog with dark rum. It's so yummy on a cold blustery night! I add a dash of cardamom and nutmeg for a fragrant garnish on top and a cinnamon stir stick to finish. (I'm not vegan but this drink is!)
I first heard about the Almond Nog from Jenna of The Nourished Vibe (check out Almond Nog 3 Ways here). It is full of flavour but has less sugar and less calories so I find it more refreshing than regular eggnog and just as delicious, satisfying that craving for the traditional, creamy drink.
Do you prefer cocktails over wine? I asked some other Canadian Food Bloggers for their favourite cocktails and mocktails and their recipes are AMAZING.
Take your pick below from a delicious, not-too-sweet sangria, gorgeous refreshing cocktails with festive hits of pomegranates and limes, and richer drinks featuring espresso and maple syrup and a Cuban version of eggnog! Yum, I've tried a few of these already (in the name of research) and cannot wait to try the others over the holidays, these Canadian Food Bloggers have some wicked recipes! Here's a list of easy festive drinks with link to each.
I'm going to start out with my personal favourite when I was a kid....
The Shirley Temple as remembered by Food Meanderings. I grew up in a small town with few restaurants, thus we did not go out much (that or the fact the me and my brothers acted like brats and embarrassed our parents so they didn't love taking us out) but when they did, oh how I loved ordering a Shirley Temple. We'd go to our favourite (and only) Chinese food restaurant Dick-Y and we'd order up our drinks, me the S.T. my brothers sometimes a Roy Rogers and they'd come with the grenadine on the bottom and the orange bright on top (pour the grenadine down the side of the glass last for the layered look) and garnished with a maraschino cherry speared on a mini sword that we could poke each other with once we'd eaten the cherry. Good times lol, thanks mom and dad for braving that experience every once in a while!
If you want to make a big bowl or jug of holiday cheer, try this Holiday Punch recipe from Compelled To Cook which is equally good with or without alcohol so why not make a big pitcher or dispenser and serve the alcohol on the side-2 drinks, one recipe-easy right!
A Spanish version of punch, sangria can be made with many variations but usually includes wine and fruit. This sangria recipe from Justine Celina is everything a sangria should be; based on red wine with fruit, club soda and some naturally flavoured Aranciata (sparkling orange drink). It is not as sweet as the versions that call for orange crush (thank goodness!) but full of flavour and you make it in a pitcher so no last minute mixing once guests arrive!
Or try this delicious Cranberry Apple Cider Sangria from Flavour And Savour with ingredients from here in BC and the addition of some Triple Sec to make the fruity flavour really pop.
This is a lovely drink, usually lighter in alcohol which makes it perfect for Christmas morning or a holiday brunch. For a fun and refreshing take on the mimosa, try this recipe for Ginger Beer Mimosas from Crumb Top Baking. Again I love that there is no added sugar making this is a refreshing adult drink.
I will start with the Holiday Clementine Cranberry Cocktail from The Olive Blogger. Just like it sounds, this cranberry cocktail with no added sugar is quick, beautiful and delicious and Melissa has a great tip: Always add a garnish. It doesn't have to be elaborate, a little garnish goes a long way in making the drink festive and appealing.
Next up is a simple but exciting Spiked Apple Cider with Juniper from Brittany Stager. What sets this simple and easy classic apart is the cranberry juniper bitters-my mouth is watering!
Are you a kombucha maker or lover? If so, check out this really cool Kombucha Cocktail from Crumb Top Baking.
If you like vintage and classic, try this clean and oh-so-delicious Lime Gimlet-Perfect served in a martini glass or vintage cut crystal cocktail glass from My Kitchen Love.
And rounding out the cocktails section is possibly my new favourite-the Whiskey Maplecino from Sugar Loves Spices. Espresso, Kahlua, milk, maple syrup, I mean, need I go on?!?! The milk and espresso keep this from being cloying and the Kahlua and Canadian maple syrup amp up the richness, this is a well balanced and very delicious drink.
From Taste And Tipple is Hazelnut Eggnog made in the classic way with the addition of bourbon and hazelnut liqueur, rich, celebratory and yummy.
The next is the Cuban version, Crema de Vie from Bacon Is Magic. The Cuban version has similar flavours to a classic Nog but is a bit thicker and richer than the North American version. Ayngelina has been living in Cuba this year and has some amazing insider information that you totally need to read if a trip to Cuba is in your future!
And then there is the Dirty Chai Eggnog from Dish'n'The Kitchen. This recipe is loaded with real Chai spices and gets an extra hit from a shot of espresso and is just a really cool version of nog, a few more steps and ingredients than the rest but not too long and if you're a Chai lover, this one is for you.
Finally an easy twist on a classic-Easy Bourbon Eggnog from My Kitchen Love.
BC and Ontario make some stellar bubbly wines and most at really affordable price points. My top picks are: Stellar's Jay Mountain Brut which is dry, toasty and has a beautiful acidity (under $25), Enrico Celebration which is a bit fuller bodied making it pair nicely with charcuterie and rich hot dips (under $25), Unsworth has Cuvee De L'Ile and Charme De L'Lile as well as a sparkling rose. Their wines range from bone dry (cuvee) to slightly off dry (rose) ($25-$35) and Mt. Boucherie has one simply called Bubbles which is considered an off-dry so it's great for those who like a touch of sweetness yet it's still got refreshing acidity (under $25). This is by no means a full list and I'd be lying if I didn't admit I'll be splurging on a special bottle of Champagne or two as well. Keep a bottle of peach juice or peach puree handy and you've got a Bellini in seconds for an easy Christmas brunch drink or mix the peach juice with sparkling water for the non-alcoholic version.
There are so many delicious sparkling wines and Champagnes that I'd love to hear what your favourites are below!
So with that I say, Happy Holidays my Friends. Link up with me on Instagram or Facebook (link in sidebar) to stay in touch over the holidays or I'll see you back here in the New Year!