Wine & Spirits: Easy Holiday Sips with Cointreau

and offer no-fuss libations party guests can even mix themselves.

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Photos and recipes courtesy Cointreau

Ingredients including fresh berries, citrus, herbs and sparkling water allow you to mix up refreshing libations for your holiday cocktail party. Photo courtesy of Cointreau.

Ingredients including fresh berries, citrus, herbs and sparkling water allow you to create refreshing libations for your holiday cocktail party.

Last week, I was invited to participate in a Virtual Holiday Soirée organized by Cointreau. This webinar-based class for the media was designed to suggest a few easy, approachable cocktails to serve at holiday cocktail parties and other events. A few days after I RSVPed, I received a large package in the mail that included all of the tools and ingredients I would need to take part in the class: fresh produce and herbs, glassware, bar tools, seltzer, apple cider and of course, a bottle of Cointreau. I was surprised to see, however, that no base spirits (gin, vodka, Tequila, etc.) were included.

This kit arrived to help mix up cocktails during the Virtual Holiday Soiree. Photo courtesy of Cointreau.

This kit arrived to help mix cocktails during the Virtual Holiday Soiree.

Now, I’ve always thought of Cointreau as a secondary cocktail ingredient, added to cocktails (like the Margarita) to provide sweetness and an orange flavor. But the hosts of this class — cocktail and spirits expert Kyle Ford, and self-proclaimed “Queen of Burlesque” Dita Von Teese — spoke of the virtues of using Cointreau as the base spirit in a drink. (It is, as they pointed out, 80 proof.)

When balanced with citrus and topped with sparkling water or a juice, Cointreau renders libations that are low-ish in alcohol (which makes them great for aperitifs), quick to mix (with three ingredients, not counting garnish or muddled fruit, and no shaker required), and easy for guests to replenish themselves (meaning that hosts can actually enjoy their own party.)

We started with the Cointreau Rickey — a simple combination of Cointreau, lime juice and seltzer. Now, living in Washington, D.C. where the Rickey originated, I will submit that using Cointreau in lieu of gin or Bourbon strays from the original recipe a bit. But I found this to be (as the original) simple and refreshing. You can make it as is, but it would also be great with a little muddled rosemary, basil or mint, or a squeeze and a garnish of a more exotic citrus fruit like yuzu or Meyer lemon.

Cointreau Rickey
2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Fresh lime juice
¾ oz. Club soda or seltzer
Orange peel and a lime twist, for garnish

Add ice to a Collins glass. Add the Cointreau, lime juice and seltzer, and stir gently. Garnish with the orange peel and a lime twist.

Next up was the Cointreau Berry Rickey (the best of the bunch, according to my husband and me). By simply muddling some fresh berries and mint in the bottom of the glass, you add great flavor and a gorgeous color to a simple Rickey.

Cointreau Berry Rickey
2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Fresh lime juice
2 Blackberries
2 Raspberries
5 Mint leaves
3-4 oz. Club soda or seltzer
Raspberry and blackberry on a pick and a mint sprig, for garnish

Muddle the berries and mint in the bottom of a Collins glass. Add ice, Cointreau, lime juice and seltzer, and stir gently. Garnish with the fruit and the mint.

 

Cointreau's Apple Crisp gives a nod to fall ingredients. Photo courtesy of Cointreau.

Cointreau’s Apple Crisp gives a nod to fall ingredients.

The third sip gave a nod to fall flavors. While I enjoyed the nutmeg and apple cider, I couldn’t help but think that this one would have benefited from a shot of dark rum and/or a splash of ginger beer for a fizzy kick:

Cointreau Apple Crisp
2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Fresh lime juice
3 oz. Fresh apple cider
Pinch of nutmeg
Apple slice, for garnish

Add ice to a Collins glass. Add the Cointreau, lime juice, apple cider and nutmeg, and stir gently. Garnish with the apple slice.

Kyle Ford and Dita Von Teese gave participants tips for Cointreau-based holiday cocktails. Photo courtesy of Cointreau.

Kyle Ford and Dita Von Teese gave participants tips for Cointreau-based holiday cocktails.

Dita loves to throw parties, so she also provided some additional tips for holiday entertaining:

  • Create a signature cocktail to add a personal touch for your guests. (The Cointreau Rickey works well as it only has three ingredients.)
  • Set up a Cointreau Rickey bar for guests with Cointreau, lime juice, soda water and a variety of fresh fruit and herbs to muddle. Dita loves to use ingredients like fig, apple, rosemary, sage and thyme.
  • Pay attention to lighting. Use scented candles that suit the season and dimmer switches where possible.
  • Pre-batch your cocktails and serve them in beautiful carafes (don’t add sparkling wine or sparkling water until ready to serve.)
  • Don’t be afraid to use mixed or mismatched barware or glassware. Dita finds vintage glassware at flea markets. She says it’s a great way for guests to identify their glasses because each one is different.
  • Keep the food and drinks simple. “That’s the key to having a good party that doesn’t make you feel frazzled,” she said.

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.

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