The first Christmas parties of the season have begun. Every year it seems like they come sooner and sooner, along with the music and decor. I was happy to see that some stores put their foot down about finishing Thanksgiving before decking the halls. You can’t fight it though, the season is now upon us.

If you are having parties, going to parties or just sitting quietly in your living room, there will most likely be alcohol involved. Whether you are setting up the bar for guests or taking something to a friend, you will be in the market for drinks of some sort. I don’t often do shopping tips (other than not buying processed food) but I thought I would make an exception for these holidays.

Wine is usually first on the list. My suggestion is that you make a little effort and find a really good store. My second suggestion is not to spend much money per bottle. Go to a big wine store with lots of selection. You are more likely to find interesting wines at affordable prices. Look for interesting varietals (the types of grapes used) and try to stay away from the big producers. Wine tastes better when made in smaller lots.

Beer is also a staple. I actually suggest spending a little more on beer and finding local brews. Almost every town and city in the United States now has at least one micro brewery. Again, small lots make for better beer. You might have to go to the brewery and buy it in big jugs as smaller makers tend not to bottle. They often sell these vessels and have reuse or return policies.

Champagne is certainly a favorite. Most people are not too fussy about a glass or two of bubbly. As with wine, shop at a larger wine store and look for a bargain. You may need some help with this one. There are sparklers from around the world that are very good and also affordable but if you don’t drink them on a regular basis it’s hard to know which are the good ones. The exception is if you are having a quiet New Years Eve with your significant other. If you have the cash then splurge. A couple glasses of France’s finest is a really nice treat.

Booze is audience specific. Most of my friends don’t bother with the stuff but I have a few that have a thirst for the hard stuff. Remember, booze gets people drunk quick. Big punch bowls packing big punches are to be avoided, unless you have another big punch bowl at the front door collecting everyone’s keys. If you are going to have some hard stuff, get what you know your friends and family like. I have one friend that really enjoys manhattans and a few others who love to get the evening started with a martini. Remember, if you make one you will most likely have to make more than one. “I’ll have what he’s having” will echo throughout the night. The smart thing to do if you are making cocktails is to put a time limit on it and put the supplies away. This is especially important if you have a long dinner party. Have a cocktail then move on to wine with dinner.

Remember, everything in moderation including moderation.


  • 2 Oz. Good Rye Whiskey
  • 1 Oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 2-3 Shakes Angostura Bitters


  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Long Spoon
  1. Fill cocktail shaker with ice. 
  2. Pour whiskey, vermouth and bitters over.
  3. Stir really well.
  4. Strain into cocktail glass.

The traditional garnish is a maraschino cherry but I find them disgusting.


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