I’ll let you guys in on a little secret: I’m shamelessly lazy when it comes to making cocktails at parties. I’ve never been able to figure out how some hosts are able to mix and shake drink after drink… and still have time to actually talk to their guests. Instead, I rely on a couple of go-to strategies to make my holiday party drinks feel really special with minimal work on my part. One is to make a big bowl of fruity spiked punch; the other is to setup a self-serve bubbly bar that gets the party started the moment guests walk in the door. My recommendation? Do both!
Step 1: Choose your bubbly. For a wine to truly be classified as “champagne,” it has to be from the Champagne region of France. Since these wines can be especially pricey, I usually choose great options from other regions — they may go by a different name, but they’re every bit as delicious and festive! I love sparkling wines from Italy like prosecco, so for this gathering I chose two of my faves, Berlucchi Cuvee 61 Brut and Nino Franco Rustico.Step 2: Make it pretty. Just a few small touches can make your bubbly bar a decorative focal point at the party. A metallic runner, sprigs of greenery, a few glitzy ornaments, and peonies in a deep shade of crimson transformed a shelf in my house into a glamorous bar.
Step 3: Set out the perfect pairings. Nothing beats the classic pairing of caviar and bubbly — you know why? Sparkling wine is a perfect match for salty snacks! I chose a high-low mix of potato chips with caviar — you can actually find small tins at good grocery stores that won’t break the bank. Both the Berlucchi Cuvee 61 Brut and the Nino Franco Rustico have floral and fruity notes, and their refreshing and balanced flavors offered a mouthwatering match for these snacks. Other delicious ideas? Smoked salmon bites, deviled eggs, and fig, ricotta, and almond flatbread.
Step 4: DIY the stir sticks. It’s the simplest way to make your bubbly bar feel party-ready. To make these easy stir sticks, we used hot glue to attach a glittery pom pom from the craft store to a wooden skewer. I’ve also made them by skewering sugared cranberries, and I’ve even dropped ready-to-go sticks of rock candy into flutes for the easiest possible version.
Step 5: Make fancy ice cubes. This is a bonus step that will take any bubbly bar over the top, and at this time of year, nothing beats the holiday vibe of fresh cranberries. They look fancy, but couldn’t be simpler to make: just drop a couple of fresh cranberries (or pomegranate seeds, raspberries, or rose petals) into each opening of an ice cube tray, cover with filtered water, and freeze. Fill your champagne bucket just before party time, nestle already-chilled bottles of bubbly into the ice, and get ready to pop the cork!
ps – Here’s your step-by-step guide to opening a bottle of sparkling wine!
*photos by Jessica Attie