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!***

Holiday Hooch 2014: a Gifting Guide

Tuesday Revews-Day

Oh it is that time again, folks. Time to answer the question of what to give who and when. I’ve said it before and I’ll very likely say it again, wine makes a fabulous gift both for close friends and casual acquaintances (providing they drink, of course). Now, we all have favorites that we like to share, but just in case you’re looking for something different to try, here are a few bottles I’ve recently had the opportunity to sample.



[yellow tail] is always a good wine for its price point and the Big Bold Red is a a good, solid table wine. Flavors of rich fruits and a bit of spice make this a very easy-drinking wine that will pair well with most rich, hearty meals and was especially tasty with grilled steak the other night.

The Calling was a new brand to me but hails from the Alexander Valley in California. We’re not usually Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers, but we paired The Calling’s Cab Sauv with baked ziti and it blended perfectly. So if you’re heading to a big Italian-style feast for Christmas Eve, this is the bottle to bring. Their Chardonnay features fruity notes of melon, lemon, and nectarine as has been aptly described as luscious. Pair it with rich, buttery seafood dishes.

For something a bit more festive, the Eppa SupraFruta Sangria is just what you want for a casual gathering of friends, tapas optional. Super-fruits are still very in right now, so would  make a great gift for the wine drinker who likes to infuse even cocktail hour with a dose of power-foods. The red sangria includes pomegranate, blueberry, blood orange, and acai juices, while the white includes mangosteen, peach, mango, and blood orange again. It also features certified-organic grapes, which explains why I saw it prominently displayed at our local Whole Foods.

And for the countdown to 2014, a little bubbly would not go amiss. While French Champagne is still highly regarded, Prosecco is a wonderful alternative (as we’ve already discussed). The Enza Prosecco pictured would be wonderful for toasts at midnight while carrying you through to mimosa’s in the morning to start the year off right. They say eating 12 grapes is an old Italian tradition for predicting which months will be sweet–I wonder how that counts if you drink them?


So maybe you’ve got friends who are more cocktail-oriented than wine. While I would suggest a bottle of Velvet Cinn for those friends, sometimes you want something other than a bottle to gift. In that case, I have two books that might just fill that need.

From the same pen that brought us Savory Pies, Greg Henry has now turned the sweet cocktail trend on its ear and compiled and created 100 savory cocktails recipes that run the gamut from sour to umami and all points in between. In fact, that’s exactly how the book is organized, with cocktails that share tingling taste-buds buddying up in the pages. A pleasure to read, Henry’s Savory Cocktails features plenty of newsy notes throughout the book and, as befitting a professional photographer, gorgeous photos of the cocktails as well.

Fashionable Cocktails

On the other end of the spectrum is The Fashionable Cocktail, 200 recipes compiled by Australian fashion journalist Jane Rocca and accompanied by the delightful watercolor illustrations of Neryl Walker. If you’re expecting cocktails inspired by fashion icons and wardrobe staples, you’re shopping in the wrong store. Instead, Rocca categorizes the cocktails she’s collected from bars in Melbourne, Syndey, and New York City bartenders by the type of girl most likely to drink them. Chapters include The Vintage Girl, The Luxe Label Girl, and The Hipster Girl, to name just a few.

Bottom line? As long as the gift comes from the heart, it will always be in good taste.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!


I received the above-mentioned books and bottles for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.


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.

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!