Cocktail Advent 31: Holiday Sparkler


We made it! It’s the end of 2014 and, frankly, it couldn’t come soon enough.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of good things that happened in 2014 and I don’t want to dismiss them but there were also a lot of sucky things that happened, friends we lost, and the struggles that went into making the good things happen. It’s been a rough year not just for me but for many of my friends and, well, we’re all hoping for a better time of things in 2015!

So with that in mind, I present to you the final cocktail in our Advent series…

Image via Ruffino Prosecco

Image via Ruffino Prosecco

Ruffino Holiday Sparkler

Gather together to celebrate tradition and the holiday season with the Ruffino Holiday Sparker. This cocktail includes autumn flavors of apple cider, cranberry, citrus and maple syrup, making it an easy-to-make, but still complex cocktail for your festive fete.

  • 3 oz. Ruffino Prosecco DOC
  • 3/4 oz. apple cider
  • 3/4 oz. cranberry juice
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup
  • Squeeze of 1 lemon wedge

Add ingredients directly to a mixing glass with ice and stir briefly.  Strain into a chilled champagne flute that has been rimmed w/ cinnamon sugar. Garnish with a mint leaf floating on top.

As we raise our glasses tonight and watch the ball drop, or otherwise count down the seconds until the new year begins, I wish you all well. I thank you for being a part of my 2014 (even the sucky parts) as it all combines to make us stronger and better for the future. May you have a brilliant 2015 and seize every moment of promise for the gift it is!


***This recipe was submitted by a representative of Ruffino Prosecco, I am not affiliated with the brand nor was I compensated for this post. As always, we encourage responsible refreshment and the use of the Designated Driver. No drunken monkeys, please!***

Meet the Sparklings: Prosecco



Have you ever idly wondered what the difference is between Champagne and Prosecco? It’s not an uncommon questions but I’ll bet it’s one seldom followed-up on because by the time you’ve popped the cork and had a few sips you’ve probably moved on to other great questions of the day.

Like where you put the strawberries.

Prosecco is very much like Champagne in that they are both regionally distinct names–the Prosecco region in Italy (Veneto–which, if you were/are a “Real Housewives of New York” viewer you may giggle at the remembrance of when that name came up*) would be akin to the Champagne region in France. They each use a particular grape (for Prosecco it is the Glena grape, whereas Champagne is usually a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), and double ferment the wine to produce the lovely, bubbly finish. The fermentation, though, is where the biggest difference comes into play.

Whereas Champagne undergoes first a barrel fermentation followed by a bottle fermentation, Prosecco uses the Charmat style of double fermentation, both cycles of which take place in stainless steel vats. As I understand it, this is a faster process and perhaps one of the reasons Prosecco remains more readily available and priced lower than it’s French contemporary.

Prosecco can be either dry or sweet and my research shows that the label should tell you what level of sweetness the bottle contains. The bottle I happened to have on hand, the above-pictured Cupcake Vineyards variety, does not make this distinction that I can find, but by taste I can tell that it is of the more widely-available Brut or Extra Brut (extra dry) variety.

This particular Prosecco (and, yes, for the curious, the California brand does import this from the proper region in Italy, so it really is Prosecco, is very pale in color and, according to their tasting notes, smells of peach and melon with flavor influences of lemon and brioche. Actually, I get more toast from the nose (though if I really inhale I can get the peach, too, still not so much the melon) but can definitely taste the citrus notes. They suggest serving it with prosciutto-wrapped melon (I could go for that), a rich cheese like Gorgonzola (again, no complaints here), or a fettucine alfredo (okay, this one I’m not as thrilled by for some reason). At around or under, depending on your store, $10 a bottle you could drink far worse.


*Romona’s fondness for Pinot Grigio got her into creating her own brand produced in Veneto which she pronounced ve-NET-toh. Countess Luann corrected her by explaining it was pronounced VEH-ne-toh or some such and then roasted her in the interview voice-over about how stupid a person must be not to know how to pronounce the name of the region your wine was being produced in. Oh, Countess… As a child I remember reading words and understanding their meaning clearly enough (context clues!) but having only read them, didn’t know I was saying them wrong in my head. The word annihilation comes to mind, in particular. (What? I had found a copy of Alas, Babylon at the used bookstore and I was maybe 10 or so. You can imagine that annihilate hadn’t come up on the spelling tests, yet.) Also, I stopped watching after Alex left the show so I have no idea what hijinks the women are getting up to these days.

Meet the Sparklings: Brut



Today begins another Meet the Wines series here at Sips & Shots (and shared with our friends at Circle of Food)! We’ve done the whites, reds, and roses, so that means the celebratory sparklings are the only logical next step!


Yesterday may have been Talk Like a Pirate Day but I was not drinking rum. Nay! I was sipping some Champagne–or should I say Crémant. What is Crémant and what does it have to do with this, our first installment of sparkling wine?

I’m so glad you asked.

You know how sparkling wines not produced in Champagne, France, cannot be called Champagne? (They used to be allowed to use the little-c champagne under certain circumstances, but now that’s not even the case.) It’s not just in other countries, but even in France this rule holds true. So what about the sparkling wines made in the Champagne style from other regions–those are called Crémant. And according to the wine guy who filled me in on this the other evening, Crémant affords (pun intended) the buyer an excellent wine without the name-brand price-hike.

Such is the case with the Brut Prince Alexandre Crémant de Loire. While the vast majority of the sparkling wines you’ll encounter at your local wine shop or larger retailer will be brut, it’s never been a huge favorite of mine due to their burly, rough characteristics. The Prince Alexandre Crémant, on the other hand, has that necessary dryness but it isn’t as harsh or “edgy” as many brut champagnes I’ve tried in the past. The primary reason for this, according to the aforementioned wine guy, is that it is 70% Chenin Blanc, a grape known for producing “soft, light-bodied” whites, and the wine guy pointed me in it’s direction because I explained that I was not a great fan of brut-style sparklers.

The Prince Alexandre Crémant de Loire retains the crisp, fruity nose you’d expect of a brut champagne and a crisp flavor that tingles on the tip of your tongue. It is pale yellow in color and has very delicate bubbles and paired well with a vegetable risotto at dinner last night. This would be a prime candidate for pairing with fruit or cheese, I would think, and at $12.99 (current price as of this writing via ABC Fine Wine & Spirits) it’s not hard on the pocketbook for an impromptu celebration.

I still prefer a sweeter sparkling wine for my own pleasure, but if I were entertaining a mixed group, I could see myself picking up a few bottles of this one as a general crowd-pleaser.

AlcoHOLidays | Raspberry Cake Day | Raspberry Bubbles



Who comes up with these holidays? In this case it was probably someone on the Berry Board (I’m sure such a thing exists) but whatever, I’m not complaining, because not only is a good raspberry cake a thing of beauty, so is a good raspberry cocktail!

The thing about raspberry-flavored anything is that it’s all too easy for the yumminess of raspberry to go overboard and plunge straight into ick-ville. And the worst offender is possible raspberry liqueur. So today’s challenge was make a drink with raspberry liqueur, in honor of July 19th’s National Raspberry Cake Day, that avoided the overabundance of raspberry.

Now it just so happened that I also happened to have a surfeit of sparkling wine handy from another cocktail project, so it seemed like a good idea to try the raspberry take on the Kir Royale, but give it a cakey twist.

Because what makes a better cake than berries? Almonds!

Raspberry Bubbles

1/2 oz Raspberry Liqueur
1/4 oz Almond Liqueur
3-4 oz Sparkling Wine
3 Raspberries for garnish

Combine liquers in the bottom of a Champagne flute and top with chilled sparkling wine. Give a little stir with a swizzle stick and dunk a few raspberries in for good measure.

The goal was to balance out the overly-sweet tendency of the raspberry with the equally bossy almond and then smooth the whole thing out with a good dose of prosecco. Did I succeed? Why yes, yes I did, and with the hint of almond it really does taste a bit like a wedding cake with raspberry filling.

Cheers and cake!

The Cocktail To Be Named Later

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Because the name is, so far, totally eluding me.

Which is sorta weird because the names are usually what come to me first on a project like this, and help guide the rest of the components. I suppose I’m putting a wee bit of pressure on myself with this one and that’s why it’s taken me this long to get this far with the cocktail inspiration.

Enough navel gazing! What (as-yet-unnamed) cocktail will we be serving to our guests and what bit of bubbly did we decide on???

Our mystery bubbles | personal photo

Our mystery bubbles | personal photo

A mixture of pomegranate juice  and dark chocolate vodka topped off by the Barefoot Moscato Spumante Champagne!

The pomegranate is from my original cocktail, and the chocolate–well, who really says no to chocolate? Not the Road Trips! We both prefer the sweeter, dessert-y-er cocktails for general consumption, so including chocolate was a good, safe (tasty!) call. The Barefoot Moscato was the only one of the three that really let the other flavors come through, and it’s rather gentle price-point certainly doesn’t hurt.

I hadn’t intended on having such a strong base-spirit getting into the mix to compete with the wine, but my first version with Godiva liqueur didn’t go so well.

Did anyone else notice the switch Godiva made a little while back? It used to be the color and consistency of, say, Kahlua, but now it’s more a creme liqueur. And let me tell you, creme liqueurs do not like to play nice with fruit juices. There is a cocktail (well, it’s more of a shot, I think) that takes “advantage” of this sort of curdling effect so liqueurs have with other liquids (it’s called a Cement Mixer for gross and obvious reasons–ick) but it’s not very appetizing if you ask me. So my second option was a flavored vodka I had on hand and it paired surprisingly well with the champagne* and juice.

After a quick check with the venue that we could have the bartenders top off our prepared mixture of pomegranate and chocolate with the bubbly, rather than serving it all pre-mixed from a beverage dispenser as originally planned (and thus keeping as much of the effervescence as possible), we’re good to go with whatever we end up calling this.

Which leads me to our first bit of signage created for the wedding:

painting in progress | personal image

painting in progress | personal image

I used one of our engagement pictures for a reference and drew up this little framed sign with the vines reminiscent of the ones on our StD cards (they’ll keep showing up as the DIYs continue). Since I haven’t decided what size frame/mat I want to use, I decided to scan it and paint it digitally that way I can re-size it at will. (Traditional watercolors really don’t scan well, in my experience.) Not to mention digital painting let’s me get away with NOT erasing all my sketch lines–bonus!

Okay, let’s hear it! Got any suggestions for a name for this sweet and sparkly concoction? I really want to use the word Sparkler or Sparkling in the name, it’s coming up with what to pair with it that has me stumped.

*small-c, following the old rules that sparkling wines made in the style of French region of Champagne could still claim that title, even though the practice is otherwise prohibited these days; Barefoot was apparently grandfathered-in. There’s your spirited (!) trivia of the day.