Champagne with a punch

You’ve got to start thinking “festive” for the holiday season and no wine is more of a party girl than Champagne in all its forms. I love it and in general, the more expensive, the more I love it. But when you’re entertaining a crowd you need one that hits the mark in the midprice range. Recently I found a nifty sparkler. It’s from Alsace of all places where bubblies are called “cremant d’Alsace.” Gustave Lorentz makes the one I like: it’s lemony and powerfully effervescent. I like that because you can cap it if you don’t finish the bottle and it still has enough fizz for your morning-after mimosa.
At $24 or less, you can pour it at a large dinner party as an apéritif to go with gougeres, toasted almonds, salty seafood canapés, or—gasp!—Chex Party Mix. Pour the bubbly on its own or make a classic Champagne cocktail with bitters and sugar. If you don’t have a bartender simply mix in a splash of liqueur such as St. Germaine or a new pear cognac I’ve discovered that’s Swedish and incredibly sexy: Xanté.
Better yet, kick start your event with a wonderfully old fashioned Champagne punch to sip around the fire as guests gather before dinner. This recipe comes from mixologist Jonathan Pogash, the Cocktail Guru. Serve it and take years off your age without a face lift. It’s retro and that’s just the type of cocktail that all the kids are drinking these days.
Holiday Pear Punch
2 parts Xanté Pear Liqueur
1/2 part each Grand Marnier, lemon juice, Cremant d’Alsace, and cranberry-nutmeg syrup (see cook’s notes)
Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl. When ready to serve, add block ice. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and cranberries.
Cook’s notes: To make cranberry-nutmeg syrup, combine 1 cup water with 1 cup cranberries and 1 cup sugar. Heat until sugar dissolves and cranberries become soft, about 10 minutes. Strain out cranberry pieces, chill, and serve.

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