Don't Forget Your Holiday Beverage

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The holiday season is a time for family gatherings, food...and drink. But sometimes the standard holiday drinks can a little uninspiring. Wine expert Callie Crossley offers host Michel Martin some ideas on upgrading holiday beverages.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Did the late rapper Tupac Shakur write one of the 100 best African-American poems? Renowned poet Nikki Giovanni thinks so and she will tell us why in just a few minutes.

But, first, we're still in holiday mode. We just talked about putting a multicultural menu together without making a mess. But then we thought, the winter holidays just aren't complete without a warm beverage. But sometimes the standard holiday drinks can be a little ho hum. So to get some ideas on how to upgrade our holiday beverages, we've called on Callie Crossley. She's the author of the wine blog, The Crushed Grape Report. She's also the host of "The Callie Crossley Show," a public radio program in Boston on WBGH. And she's with us once again. Welcome back, Callie, happy holidays.

Ms. CALLIE CROSSLEY (Host, "The Callie Crossley Show"): Hello. I'm glad to be back.

MARTIN: Now, I have three drinks in front of me. And our mixologist is producer Argin Hutchins. He's here with me to kind of get the party started. They look and smell delicious. But let me just ask you first, what makes a holiday drink a holiday drink? Is it something sweet and desserty? Is it something hot and spiced? What do you think characterizes a holiday beverage?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Some part of it is how it looks. So, you want a holiday drink that looks like the holiday, I think. But the other part of it is one that captures the feel of the holiday. So when you think about the holiday, you think warm, you think cozy and you want to have that kind of emotion, if you will, around your holiday drink.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: And now that we've gotten that out of the way, I can't wait to get to these drinks. OK, here we go. All right, let me try this one. Mm, wow. It's like dessert in a cup.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Isn't it?

MARTIN: Mm. So, what's the first thing you've created for us?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Well, that would be warm eggnog. Now, a lot of people are going to say, warm eggnog? I've only had it cold, and that's probably right. But in a saucepan, when you warm it up slowly, and you add the alcohol, because these are all adult beverages, it really takes on a whole other flavor. And it's a sipping drink. You're not rushing to drink it. It's the whole point of it is to slow down a moment, sip it, enjoy it. And if you're with friends, enjoy being with them as you're sipping it. The important thing to know, when any of these warm drinks with alcohol, is you must not boil them. If you boil them you've ruined them.

MARTIN: The second drink, this looks great and Argin's going to doctor it up for me and you'll recognize this.

(Soundbite of whipped cream spraying)

MARTIN: Thank you. He's adding a little whipped cream.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CROSSLEY: Excellent.

MARTIN: I bet you can imagine what this one is. It's clearly a form of hot chocolate. And I'm told that this one has a surprise, so I'm going to have a little sip and then you can tell me what it is. Hold on a minute. Mm. Wow.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Isn't that yummy?

MARTIN: It is. Well, what's - there's a kick to it, but I can't figure out what it is.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Peppermint schnapps.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CROSSLEY: And peppermint schnapps are a flavored liquor. It has that pepperminty taste to it and it really works well with hot chocolate.

MARTIN: Now, how would you serve this? This is not your Starbucks hot chocolate with peppermint. This is something on a different level. No disrespect, Starbucks, you know I love it. But this is not that.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Well, of course, the staple of any holiday entertaining is open house. So it's a great open house drink because you can make a lot of it. You can warm it up, not boil it. And you can serve it either in mugs or as other kinds of decorative glassware. So it's a wonderful thing to do. Or just after a day of being out and about, this is a, you know, heavy shopping - all of that, you want to come in and just relax. I personally sip it on my couch looking at my fireplace underneath the snuggie.

MARTIN: And the other thing that might be fun here too is you could keep the hot chocolate warm and then if you had a mixed crowd of both kids and adults, you could offer an adult version and the kids could be, you know, have their version. You could just add a little something.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Absolutely.

MARTIN: At the end of the process.

Ms. CROSSLEY: That's the best way to go.

MARTIN: So, there's no confusion here about it.

Ms. CROSSLEY: No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Because these are adult beverages. Thank you.

All right, let's move to number three. And this is a pretty one. Let's see, our mixologist Argin Hutchins is doing something here. And whatever he's doing, it's pretty. It's got that holiday red and it looks festive.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Michel, not only does this drink look festive, the name of it is festive. It's called Poinsettia, after the plant.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CROSSLEY: That is so ubiquitous during this holiday time.

MARTIN: We're going to get that sound of the - that says holiday. Here it is.

(Soundbite of bottle popping)

MARTIN: That's your sparkling wine...

Ms. CROSSLEY: There you go.

MARTIN: ...being uncorked. And I think he did a masterful job with it, too.

Ms. CROSSLEY: I do, too.

MARTIN: Okay, he's having a little pour. Here it is.

(Soundbite of drink being poured)

MARTIN: Very pretty. That's enough.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Sorry. All right. I'm going to...

Ms. CROSSLEY: Oh, this is delicious.

MARTIN: All right. Here it is. Mm. Mm. This is delicious.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Isn't it good? Isn't that good?

MARTIN: This is wonderful.

Ms. CROSSLEY: And you add a little Cointreau to it, too, which is triple sec, which has a kind of bitter orange taste to it, an ounce of orange juice and a little bit of a lime twist so that you have that whole red and green thing going on.

MARTIN: Now, I think - I'm not used to a cold drink in the winter, but this is very festive. How would you serve this?

Ms. CROSSLEY: First of all, sparkling wine and champagne are really the universal drink, so they go with most anything that you're preparing. So that makes it so easy for any host to serve.

MARTIN: And the other thing is there's a nice astringency to this that I think will appeal to a number of palates. Because one of the criticisms that I often hear of holiday drinks is that they're too sweet.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Exactly.

MARTIN: Of course, that's never a problem for me. I feel that Sprite is a wonderful holiday beverage.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But for people who think that's something too sweet, this is a very -this seems like a very good choice.

Well, Callie, thank you so much for sharing your - opening up your holiday beverage cookbook for us. And do you mind if I ask: What will you be serving for your holiday meal?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Well, I'm doing the warm eggnog thing, and I refuse to get engaged in the other ongoing controversy, which is Kentucky Bourbon versus rum versus Kahlua. I am kind of a rum and Bourbon and maybe a little bit of brandy girl. Try them all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Together?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Yeah, some - you know, you can have, you know, a half a cup of rum and then a quarter cup of brandy. Rum is a little tad bit sweeter, so that blends nicely with your eggnog. And when it's warm, I'm telling you, there's nothing like it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Take the keys. We'll be taking your keys.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Oh, yeah. I'm at home now. I'm at home doing this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Okay. All right. My thanks to mixologist Argin Hutchins for assisting us with this segment.

Callie Crossley is the author of the wine blog The Crushed Grape Report. If any of these recipes appeal to you, she will have recipes on her site, and we will link to it on our site. Go to npr.org, go to the Program page, then click on TELL ME MORE, and we'll link to that. And Callie Crossley is also the host of THE CALLIE CROSSLEY SHOW, which is on member station WGBH in Boston.

Callie, Happy Holidays to you, and thank you so much.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Happy Holidays to you, too, Michel.

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