It’s all OK. We will be just fine staying home with those who live in our own household. There’ll be other Christmases to gather together in a big way, but this is not that year. So, let’s all cosy up with a festive cocktail and virtually raise a glass to toast our friends and family. Here, some essential liquids you need in your bar cart this holiday season—everything from add-ins for your egg nog, splashes for your bubbles, the best reds for making mulled wine, fireside warmers and more. —Catherine Dunwoody
red for mulled wine. Warm up a batch of this seasonal drink, with its spicy citrus scent, for instant Christmas comfort. Also called Gluhwein, we found a recipe. Remember, the red wine you choose is important. Since we love to support B.C. businesses, Singletree Winery’s Merlot is ideal. With velvety tannins and minerality, this red takes on those bold mulling spices and a cinnamon stick very nicely indeed. $26 at either the Abbotsford or Naramata winery shop or purchase online for delivery. Well-priced Rosso di Ca’ Momi ($20), a California blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, and Petit Syrah, also holds up to those cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg mulling spices. This red is velvety and pleasant on its own, too, and at this price? Grab a couple bottles, at BC Liquor Stores.
egg nog add-ins. A creamy, good-quality egg nog deserves an elevated rum—in particular, Lemon Hart Blackpool Spiced Rum ($30), which brand ambassador Miles “Max” Vrahimis tells us is, with its all-natural spice blend, Christmas in a bottle. Adding to egg nog will “almost certainly dimensionalize it, adding a depth of flavour unlike any other with 43 per cent ABV, the alcohol lifts the heavy-bodied aromas resulting in a flavour-packed, rich, spiced rum experience.” But who says rum gets to have all the fun? If you’ve ever visited Granville Island’s Liberty Distillery, you know they do beautiful spirits, but you may not consider adding gin to your egg nog. The Liberty Distillery’s Endeavour Old Tom Gin ($48), based on recipes from back in the 1850s, is a mahogany-coloured, oaky gin with rich notes of spicy fruitcake, mint, orange blossom and mulberry. Try it in your nog. Fab in Negronis, too.
brandy by the fire. Sure, there are lovely cognacs out there, and most a special splurgy treat—but if you like to have an after-dinner snifter to swirl with something amber and deeply aromatic that’s more affordable, this quality, 10-year-old French brandy is one of the best values around. St-Remy XO ($32) will warm you from head to toe with pear and vanilla notes and a dry, oaky finish.
winter whisky. Shopping Canadian brands at Canadian retailers is a great way to support our economy. We love sipping Signal Hill Whiskey seven-year-old whisky ($42) neat, or in an Old Fashioned. Three-barrel aging results in a warming elixir of vanilla, honey and dried fruit.Additionally, there’s a whole world of high-quality Irish whiskies out there, well beyond the one or two commonly tasted brands, and Redbreast 12-year-old Single Pot Still Irish Whisky ($77) is one of the best. Silky, served straight up and beautifully balanced.
new year’s bubbles. A quieter, more reflective New Year’s Eve at home this year doesn’t mean you can’t bring in 2021 with a bubbly, sparkling toast—here’s to better days for all. Duncan, B.C.-based Blue Grouse 2017 Paula Sparkling ($35) would be nice paired with fresh oysters or cracked crab at home, yielding a nice dry fizz. Santerro Asti ($18), on the other hand, is a sweet, Italian frizzante (they had us at the bottle alone) ideal for after dinner or with dessert.
splashes for those bubbles. Sparkling wines straight up are nice, sure, but adding a splash of something takes it to straight up sexy. Add a bit of East Van’s Odd Society Crème de Cassis (a French blackcurrant liqueur; $19) to bubbles and voila! You have a Kir Royale. Here’s a fun fact: master chef Hervé Martin was once the personal chef to the Late King Leopold III of Belgium and a chef in two Michelin three-star restaurants in France and Switzerland. Hervé later moved to Vancouver where he opened The French Table, and later partnered up with Odd Society to create this cassis made with B.C.-grown blackcurrants. A bar car must. Floral splashes, too, are a delicious, fragrant way to up your bubbly game, especially by adding Giffard Violette—a smooth liqueur ($28) of infused violet flowers and a gorgeous purply-blue shade and scent.