Basic batches (left to right): Boulevardier, Martini, Jack Rose.
The Negroni's burlier cousin, the Boulevardier is a perfect party drink if approached with caution. (Like I said: burly.) An aperitif, a night cap and a fan favourite, perhaps its finest attribute is its stark simplicity. If you're feeling super-lavish and can't decide between bourbon or gin, mix a jug each of Boulevardiers and Negronis (one 750 ml bottle each of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth). Just don't forget to label them.
- 1½ 750 ml bottles of
- bourbon (your party,
- your choice)
- 1 750 ml bottle Campari
- 1 750 ml bottle sweet
Dump bottles into a large serving vessel flanked by a large bucket of ice and some orange zest or wedges. Take a seat and prop up feet. Request that someone fetch you a cocktail.
What's a celebration without the strong possibility of martinis? Definitely not a soirée I'd want to attend. Luckily, one of the world's most classic party drinks is also insanely easy to mix and individualize. Do yourself a favour and construct a martini station - your biggest responsibility will be swatting snacky fingers away from the bowls of cocktail onions, olives and citrus painstakingly laid out as garnish.
- 1 bottle of dry gin like Broker's (LCBO 605162, $27.95/750 ml)
- 5-6 ounces dry vermouth like Dolin (LCBO 370858, $14.35/750 ml)
Dump booze into jug along with a few dashes of orange bitters (or keep bitters on the side for guests to figure out). Add large chunk of ice. Stir. Slurp.
Don't balk at the Jack Rose just because it's the most involved of all of the above. What it demands in a little labour, it makes up for with serious bragging rights. What's that beautiful rosy colour, you ask? Oh, that's just my top secret, hyper-artisanal house-made grenadine. Note: this recipe calls for applejack, but Calvados is a lot easier to find.
- 1 bottle Calvados Boulard Pays d'Auge (LCBO 296228, $49.95/750 ml)
- 10 ounces fresh lemon juice
- 7 ounces bespoke grenadine
For the grenadine: dissolve 1 part white sugar in 1 part POM juice overnight, stirring occasionally.
Combine ingredients in a punch bowl with a brick of ice and float apple slices on top. Resign yourself to barely lifting a finger for the rest of the night.
Basic batches (left to right): Toronto, Canchánchara.
Our city's Manhattanish variation isn't for everyone, but those in the know will love you for being so damn classy about your cocktail offerings. Bonus etiquette points: Fernet's minty bite will freshen up your guests' breath.
- 1 bottle Lot No. 40 Rye (LCBO 382861, $39.95/750 ml)
- 1.5 ounces Fernet-Branca (Vintages 220145, $22.55/500 ml)
- 1.5 simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
Combine ingredients in carafe, vase, watering can or anything else that happens to be relatively clean and empty. Add a generous hunk of ice. Lemon or orange zest is optional. Leaving Fernet out for shots is non-negotiable.
Exotic sounding and stupid-easy to pre-mix, the Canchánchara is Cuba's first cocktail. (That's how the story goes, anyway.) A tasty trio of light rum, fresh lime juice and honey, it's like a daiquiri meets the Bee's Knees. The most effort you'll have to put into this cocktail is preparing a honey syrup, a herculean task that will take you roughly five minutes.
- 1 bottle Havana Club Anejo
- 3 Anos (LCBO 337667, $25.75/750 ml)
- 9 ounces fresh lime juice (I like a highly complex mixture of lemon and lime juices)
- 9 ounces honey syrup
For the honey syrup: In a saucepan, dissolve 2 parts honey in 1 part water. Let cool.
Combine ingredients in bowl, pitcher, bucket or mini keg and stir or agitate. Garnish with lemon wheels. Kick back and enjoy as the times get good and festive.
Bottles MAKE THE BASH
Stock your bar with these select items and let the guests do the rest.
(Left to right) Megalomaniac Narcissist Riesling 2015, Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Carte Blanche Blanc De Blanc 2011, Howe Sound Lager, Rumchata, Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Monesterio De Las Vinas Crianza Carinena.
1. Megalomaniac Narcissist Riesling 2015 Rating: NNNN
A dazzling pick-me-up riesling to start, fill and finish your holiday jam. Because ultimately you're a narcissist who wants nothing - not even hosting - to come between you and your not-so-inner hedonist.
Price $17.95/750 ml
Availability Vintages 67587
2. Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Carte Blanche Blanc De Blanc 2011 Rating: NNNN
Why Gone are the days when guests rolled their eyes at Ontario wines. This brisk and beautiful Ontario bubbly made from hand-picked, estate-grown Chardonnay will impress even the snobbiest reveller. Hand everyone a glass of Carte Blanche as they walk in the door and consider your hosting duties accomplished.
Price $44.95/750 ml
Availability Vintages 315200
3. Howe Sound Lager Rating: NNNN
Why Any host, however lazy, should keep a handful of beverages on hand for emergency parties, and a crisp, tasty lager is one of them. Howe Sound's small cans mean that you can cram more of them into the cooler at the self-serve station, but if you'd prefer to serve tall boys, spring for Side Launch Mountain Lager (LCBO 459115, $2.80/473 ml).
Price $14/6 x 355 ml
Availability LCBO 387597
4. Rumchata Rating: NNNN
Why This is basically the only time of year when it's acceptable to drink cream liqueurs, so take full advantage. A horchata-inspired blend of rum, cream, cinnamon, rice and a truckload of sugar, this just might become your party's sleeper hit. Keep cinnamon stir sticks by the bottle because you're so thoughtful.
Price $28.45/750 ml (on sale until November 27)
Availability LCBO 380865
5. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Rating: NNNN
Why Sometimes the holidays call for a particularly stiff drink, and this barrel-proof bourbon is as tasty as it gets, especially considering the ongoing bourbon drought. They call it rare for a reason: this whiskey is in high demand. If this golden turkey's nowhere to be found, spring for two bottles of the original and batch up a generous jug of old-fashioneds.
Price $59.95/750 ml
Availability LCBO 455329
6. Monesterio De Las Vinas Crianza Carinena Rating: NNNN
Why Affordable and tremendously drinkable, this large-format blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Syrah is any host's dream. Get faux fancy and low-key hospitable by pouring a couple of bottles into carafes or decanters and scattering them around the room.
Price $19.95/1,500 ml
Availability LCBO 393090
(Left to right) The Deveron 12 Year Old, St. Bernardus Mixed Pack, Joiy Riesling.
7. The Deveron 12 Year Old Rating: NNN
Why If the golden era of entertaining taught us anything, it's this: always, always keep a scotch on the sideboard. Hailing from the seaside Macduff Distillery in the Scottish Highlands, this honey-, biscuit- and tangerine-tinged dram is a crowd pleaser. Its new frosted blue bottle only ups its seasonal appeal.
Price $64.95/750 ml
Availability LCBO 435941
8. St. Bernardus Mixed Pack Rating: NNNN
No one can call you anything but gracious and tasteful when there's an assortment of fine Belgian ales at your holiday fête. The Wit should please even casual beer drinkers, while the superb Abt 12 (based on the original recipe for the Westvleteren Abt, arguably the most famous Trappist quadrupel) will earn you brownie points with beer intelligentsia.
Price $20.95/6 x 330 ml
Availability LCBO 385476
9. Joiy Riesling Rating: NNN
With branding this pretty, there's no need to pull out the stemware. Just stick a festive straw in the neck of these petite bottles of sprightly, off-dry bubbly and bask in the glory of playing the perfect low-intervention host. Joiy to the world indeed.
Price $19.95/4 x 250 ml
Availability LCBO 424036
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