Three sensational wine cocktails to celebrate the holiday season

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In case you haven't noticed, 2010 is most definitely going to go down as the Year of the Cocktail. Seems like dozens of swanky, speakeasy-type establishments (complete with throwback-era barkeeps) opened their doors in and around Denver this year, proffering edgy concoctions designed to entice even the pickiest drinker. So isn't it only appropriate that the oenophiles among us ring in the holidays with wine-fueled refreshments as well?

Read on for three of the season's sparkling best.

St-Germain Cocktail: This bubbly-laced bevvie is famous for being the once-unknown, now-ubiquitous elderflower liqueur producer's signature cocktail; the bone-dry sparkling wine serves as a perfect foil for the delicate, floral flavors of the St-Germain. You can also opt to make the true Champagne-lover's version of the drink (also known as the Swirl Girl) and skip the sparkling water. (Why dilute perfectly good alcohol?) Don't be tempted to skip the citrus-peel garnish; it adds a fantastically exotic burst of flavor to the drink.

Ingredients:

2 parts Brut Champagne or dry sparkling Wine
1 ½ parts St-Germain
2 parts sparkling water or club soda

Method

Fill a tall Collins glass with ice. Add Champagne first, then St-Germain, then club soda. Stir completely (St-Germain is heavier than wine, so it will settle to the bottom unless mixed thoroughly). Garnish with a lemon twist.

The Hot Frenchman: If you love sangria, then this is the holiday wine cocktail for you. Any red wine will do, but as with choosing a wine for cooking, make sure it's one you'd actually enjoy drinking even if it weren't doctored up with GrandMa. Warning: These toddy-like little delights go down ridiculously quickly, so you might want to take caution (and advise your friends) and avoid passing out before you've opened all of your presents.

Ingredients:

4 ounces good-quality red wine
3/4 ounce orange liqueur like Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 ounce orange juice
1/4 ounce lemon juice
1 twist orange peel
1 twist lemon peel

Method

Combine all ingredients in a heat-resistant glass or cup; microwave on high for one minute or until hot; stir, add twists of lemon and orange peel, and serve.

The Corpse Reviver #2: This is the penultimate wine cocktail, so don't let the somewhat melodramatic name put you off. Instead, think of this as the perfect way to regroup after an anxiety-inducing trip to any shopping mall this month. If you've never tried Cocchi Americano, the absolutely addictive white wine aperitivo from Italy's Asti region, prepare to be figuratively (if not literally) intoxicated by its complex, herb-infused, bitter grapefruit-y orange aroma and flavor. P.S.: For a truly heavenly twist on the St-Germain cocktail, just add a splash of Cocchi -- and that just might be all you ask for for Christmas this year.

Ingredients:

3/4 ounce good quality gin
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce Cocchi Americano
1 tablespoon absinthe

Method

Combine ingredients over ice, shake vigorously and strain into cocktail coupe or pony glass. A garnish is unnecessary, but different recipes call for either a twist of lemon or a real maraschino cherry.


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