It’s that crazy yet wonderful time of year when friends and loved ones gather to create memorable moments. Here are some wine and spirit-gifting ideas, plus a couple festive recipes that will ease you through the holidays.
For a personalized gift, put together a wine basket with some accoutrements. For example, a delicious bottle of a fizzy Italian Lambrusco from quality producers such as Rinaldini together with a selection of cheese, olives, paté, compote and a baguette from your local bakery.
To take someone’s cocktail bar to the next level, pick up a selection of tools of the trade. Then add a hand-written recipe as well as all the ingredients to make a festive and retro cocktail, such as the decadent Champagne cocktail Kir Royale, the festive Mimosa, or my new après ski favourite the Verte Chaud, for a most delicious and decadent adult hot chocolate!
Personalize your gift basket with a book, candle, music or gift card to one their favourite stops, then infuse your home with holiday aromatics before your guests arrive with a mulled wine simmering in the kitchen. Simply blend a bottle of a juicy red wine such as Garnacha or unoaked Tempranillo with your own spices — or better yet, pick up Edmonton’s own Zinterbrown’s Original Mulling Spice pack. And of course my favourite gift, a bottle of Champagne with salty, buttery popcorn or a package of the Piper’s chips from Maven & Grace (fair warning, they are addictively delicious).
And for stellar stocking stuffers, purchase tickets for a dinner or cooking class at the popular Kitchen By Brad (kitchenbybrad.ca) or for a premium wine tasting fundraiser such as For the Love of Wine on Feb. 1 — all the proceeds from this event go to support the Kids Kottage Foundation, Edmonton’s only 24-hour emergency children’s shelter. Early-bird pricing is available now until the end of December at tickets.kidskottage.org/for-the-love-of-wine.
Of course, a gift card from your favourite wine shop is also a terrific idea. It gives the lucky recipient the choice as well as the shopping experience. Enjoy the recipes and remember, quality ingredients make a world of difference!
1/2 oz. crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur)
Henriot Blanc de Blanc Champagne ($105) or another Blanc de Blanc such as Pierre Peters ($75) or Larmandier ($65)
Zinck Cremant D’Alsace ($25) or Langlois Chateau Brut ($28)
Put the crème de cassis in a flute and top with Champagne.
Tip: You could substitute the crème de cassis with Chambord (raspberry liqueur) for a Chambord Royale.
3 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice (substitutions — blood oranges, grapefruit)
1/4 oz. Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Chambord
2-3 oz. Ruggeri Giall’Oro Prosecco ($28) or Wolfberger Cremant D’Alsace Brut (25)
Top the orange juice and Cointreau with sparkling wine, garnish with a slice of orange. Flutes are traditionally used but any fancy glass would be fun.
2 oz. Green Chartreuse
3 tbsp Duchess Blend Hot Chocolate
1 3/4 cup milk (whole preferably)
Homemade marshmallows from Duchess Bakery or wet cream (partially whipped cream).
Build in your favourite warmed mug by adding the Chartreuse to prepared hot chocolate. Top with marshmallows or wet cream.
MULLED WINE (serves 6-8)
750 ml bottle of red wine (under $20 unoaked reds such as the Pacheco Roble, El Casetero Garnacha or Luparia La Inocencia)
1 peeled orange, sliced in rounds
1 package of Zinter Brown Original Mulling Spice — available at specialty shops and online at zinterbrown.net/product/original-mulling-spice
OR… make your own spice mix
Orange zest to taste (use a vegetable peeler for larger pieces)
1/4 cup of your favourite brandy, Cognac, Calvados or even a Ruby Port
8 whole cloves
1/3 cup sugar (honey and maple syrup make great options)
Slice of fresh ginger, lemon, grate of nutmeg, star anise and cardamom to taste.
Bring all ingredients almost to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, keep warm for hours on low stovetop or in a crockpot and ladle out into a heatproof glass using an orange or lemon slice to garnish.
Wine selections are available at select Alberta shops. Log onto liquorconnect.com to check availability and give them a call to verify.
Juanita Roos opened Color de Vino, a fine wine and spirits store, with her family in 2014. She has traveled to wine regions around the world and completed the prestigious WSET Diploma from London, England, the prerequisite for the Master of Wine program. Send your questions about wine to firstname.lastname@example.org.