Hosting a Thanksgiving gathering is an elaborate, sometimes stressful process. Preparing and coordinating everything can take the timing and precision required of a Cirque du Soleil aerialist – with all the whats, how muches, whens and the who-can’t-eat-glutens-under-any-circumstances. If you’ve thought this through, there are already wines chosen to enjoy with the main meal from first to last course. However, what to serve when guests arrive and gather? Depending on how many people are invited (and subsequently show up) and how things are going in the kitchen, it may not be possible to shake or stir a cocktail for every person who comes through the door.
Let them help themselves from a selection of the home bar like it’s just any other day? Open a few of the obviously “lesser” wines to pass around? Just thrust a beer in their hands while you dash back into the kitchen to identify the source of all that smoke billowing from the oven?
No, silly. You make a sparkling punch!
Nothing could be easier, welcoming and impressive as having a bowl of something delicious from which guests can partake. It comes together in a pinch, is easily adaptable in size and ingredients, and everyone is satisfied till they sit down to the main meal. This leaves you plenty of time to tend to important matters, like how to portion the rest of the butternut squash soup now that most of it has somehow sprayed onto the kitchen ceiling in the blending process.
Use small rocks glasses, flutes, punch glasses or tea cups to serve. This recipe should satisfy around 10 guests with at least 2 – 3 decent servings each.
The Welcome Distraction (a.k.a. Late Autumn Spiced Sparkling Punch)
2 750 ml bottles sparkling wine such as Prosecco, Cava, Crémant de Bourgogne or NV American sparkler such as Gruet Brut. Our pick is Enza Prosecco NV, a medalist in the 2013 NY International Wine Competition.
375 ml Bourbon. (Of course, the most obvious pick would be Wild Turkey!)
78 ml (about ⅓ cup) Pie Spiced Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
Sliced seasonal citrus such as oranges, tangerines, clementines and/or kumquats (mix it up or use only one kind.)
Recommended: Freeze small bowl or coffee mug of water overnight to make a giant ice dome, which will keep the drink chilled, but impart less water into it as it sits out than regular ice. Large ice spheres or cubes would also work.
Add all the liquids into a punch bowl and give it a good stir. Add sliced fruit. Grate the nutmeg. Just before guests arrive, add the ice. Ladle away!
Pie Spiced Simple Syrup
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Granulated or Demerara Sugar
3 Cinnamon Sticks
5 Dried Allspice Berries
3 Cardamom Pods
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. On medium heat, bring to just the point of bubbling. Lower heat and simmer uncovered until sugar dissolves and mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 15 – 20 minutes. Strain and let cool. Keeps in refrigerator for about 1 week.
Wishing you a kitchen disaster-free and happy Thanksgiving!
Amanda Schuster is the Senior Editor in Chief of Alcohol Professor and the author of NEW YORK COCKTAILs available from Cider Mill Press. Certified sommelier, former retail spirits and wine buyer - she likes to think of herself as "bi-spiritual." Please don't ever offer her a Pickleback. Complete bio here.