Panache is a word that conveys an elevated sense of style. Perhaps a bit more dramatic than the usual. That's the way to make your holiday gatherings memorable.
Each year about this time, the country's magazine articles and online blogs are full of gift and entertaining ideas, some with very cool stuff, some with Martha Stewart-ish crafts, and some downright stupid party ideas.
Like wine and animal cracker pairings.
I prefer to think of the holidays as a time to reaffirm human connections--family, friends and work colleagues--in a warm and friendly fashion. Central to all such gatherings are indulgent foods and beverages. In the season of charitable giving, we give each other permission to push the diets back a month.
Christmas celebrations are full of foods and beverages we only consume this time of year. Ginger snaps, egg nog, fruitcake, rice pudding topped with heavy cream and lingonberry jam, lace cookies, pfefferneuse, pumpkin pie, panettone, and depending on your family histories, traditional adult beverages. For my Swedish grandfather, it was the time to offer chilled aquavit.
(He couldn't have imagined that one day American craft distilleries would be re-creating the Scandinavian rye-infused liquor. That day has arrived.)
Champagne is always a good idea as a holiday party starter. Can you think of another beverage that brings more smiles than champagne? Manhattans? Pliny the Elder? Rombauer Chardonnay? When it comes to champagne, I know a couple wine groups that get together for annual caviar and champagne tastings.
Handing arriving guests a glass of grower champagne shows you value them, and it gets your party in a festive mood instantly. The sound of a popping cork is a clarion call to begin the celebration. It's a no-brainer.
Serve a platter of freshly shucked oysters alongside your champagne. Even if you're on the fence over raw oysters, washing them down with great tasting champagne is a very cool thing to do to start your party in style.
And there are sparkling wine variations. Add a splash of fruit liqueur--creme de cassis, Chambord, peach liqueur--to your bubbly to take the tart edge off.
Also, you can fill the house with delicious Christmas scents when you heat up pot of mulled wine with orange slices, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Apple toddies and hot buttered rum drinks are also fun this time of year. Do you prefer Bourbon or rum & brandy in your eggnog? Do you serve such concoctions cold or warm?
I've been capping stressful days with Giffard's incredible Menthe Pastille poured over a giant ice cube. Think of the richest, most refreshing mint candy you ever ate. Now imagine that in a glass! You could also pour a little Menthe Pastille and chocolate liqueur into your hot chocolate. It's called a Girl Scout Cookie. I first enjoyed it many winters ago in Running Springs.
When there's a chill in the air, I love coffee drinks. Irish coffee is the most famous, but a cup of coffee with a shot of Tia Maria, Frangelico, Amaretto or other nutty liqueur topped off with whipped cream are happy indulgences. If you don't make your own whipped cream, I suggest trying our Isigny Chantilly from Normandy. French whipped cream adds panache. Kool-Whip doesn't.
Perhaps the most gracious thing to do to add panache to this holiday is bringing a very cool hostess gift to each party you're invited to. Some ideas:
- Create a cheese platter and charcuterie from cheeses, chorizos, hams and patés you bought at The Wine Country.
- Bring a celebratory bottle--it can be anything from a couple favorite craft beers to a specialty whiskey or wine in a bottle bag.
- Offer a tin of butter cookies from Brittany or a box of our incredible shortbread cookies from South Carolina.
- Take a gift box of LSA flute glasses or DiVino stemware. Almost everyone could use an upgrade in their personal stemware.
Most of all, enjoy your holidays. Celebrate each day with panache.