Create. Reveal. Evolve.

Holiday Entertaining with Eileen Crane

3 December, 2009

Domaine Carneros Logo

Carneros, CA, December 3, 2009--Every year around this time in early December, people start realizing the gift giving season is (gasp!) already here. It sneaks up every year, despite being on the calendar for the past 12 months. I'm sure journalists hear this over and over and it likely drives the subject of every gift guide: "Last Minute Gifts," "Gifts Under $20," "Gifts for the Impossible" etc... Consumers look to their trusted sources to help with the stressful task of finding the ultimate gift (nevermind that they have procrastinated.)

This year however, to supplement all the online gift guides for 2009, Domaine Carneros put together a list of recipes and tips to throw an easy holiday cocktail party. Throwing a great party can be far more satisfying than giving a mediocre gift (just because you felt you had to.)

Tips from Eileen Crane, CEO and Founding Winemaker of Domaine Carneros:

The holidays are a great excuse to host that fabulous cocktail party you’ve been envisioning all year long, but haven’t quite gotten around to yet. You know the one… with the perfect understated elegance, vintage glassware and stylish cocktails that all the guests will be talking about this season. The trouble is, there’s a lot of competition this time of year both for time and originality, so getting motivated can be difficult. I’ve found that best way to counteract holiday party over-saturation is to keep it fresh and timeless. Local, seasonal ingredients remind us that fall and winter don’t have to mean all fresh produce is in hibernation and inventive recipes mean your party doesn’t have to include mulled wine, spiced cider or egg nog.

The best part of cocktail parties is that you get to play host without having to cook an elaborate sit-down meal. Cocktail parties are all about festive drinks, spirited toasts, great bites and creating an atmosphere that makes everyone feel sexy. Madame Pompadour once said “Champagne is the only wine a woman can drink and remain beautiful” and I agree, so sparkling wine is the base of every cocktail I serve. Bubbles create instant holiday spirit and are a cheerful way to celebrate, all season long.

For instant sophistication and charm plan a variety of seasonal cocktails, offer a non-alcoholic option and serve in beautiful glasses with creative garnishes.  If needed, you can mix the base cocktail ahead of time, but never add the bubbly until your guests have arrived – this keeps your cocktails effervescent and guests always love the sound of a popping cork.

Winter Moon Cocktail

Harvest Moon
4 1/2 oz chilled Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé
1/4 oz Sonoma Sparkler Raspberry
1/2 oz *St. George Framboise Liqueur
1/4 oz *St. George Framboise Eau de Vie
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Add all ingredients except the Brut Rosé to a mixing glass and give them a quick stir to mix.  Add enough ice to fill the mixing glass to the top, shake hard for 5 seconds, and strain into a chilled martini glass.  Carefully pour the DC Brut Rosé into the glass and then very gently stir to mix.  Drop a very thin slice of persimmon on top of the drink and sprinkle with allspice/nutmeg sugar to garnish.

(Recipe courtesy of Scott Beattie, author of Artisanal Cocktails)

* Where to find St. George spirits

Golden Ginger Cocktail

Golden Ginger
4 oz Domaine Carneros Vintage Brut
One *crystallized ginger cube
2 drops Angostura Bitters
Sprig of mint

Soak crystallized ginger cube with bitters. Fill a tall flute with chilled Domaine Carneros Vintage Brut.

Top glass with a spring of fresh mint.

(Recipe courtesy of Duggan McDonnell, Cantina San Francisco)

*You can find festive crystallized ginger cubes at most specialty food stores.

For more seasonal recipes using Domaine Carneros from some of the top mixologists in California, including Scott Beattie, Duggan McDonnell and Maria Hunt, visit our cocktail recipe collection on the website.

Great appetizers should look amazing on their own, but also taste equally good.  Choose recipes that allow you prepare ahead and don’t undermine the importance of pairing your food with the cocktails offered. For a collection of recipes to pair while entertaining please visit Domaine Carneros' Food & Wine section.

The atmosphere of party matters almost as much as the cocktails (then again, if you have the perfect sparkling cocktail in hand, you may forget that the candles aren’t lit…) Add a warm glow to your party with thoughtful lighting. For table presentation, consider using natural found objects like pretty winter branches and berries or your favorite “guest” china. When else do you really get to use it?

Be courteous and try to avoid last-minute holiday invitations. At no other time of the year are people more harried and stressed. Your invitation should offer your guests a welcome break from their crazy schedules, so give them time to cement it into their calendars.

EileenCranesmHappy entertaining!

Eileen Crane,

CEO & Founding Winemaker

Domaine Carneros