A popular trend that I am particularly passionate about is pairing cocktails and beer with food instead of the traditional wine pairings. Specialty drinks are becoming very popular, and they provide a great opportunity to add a festive touch to your holiday table (for the adults, of course).
Last year, for dessert, I served individual apple pies and paired the course with barrel-aged apple pie bourbon. This year, I'm serving chocolate pudding cake with orange crème anglaise. I will be pairing this with coffee-infused tequila with orange zest and an ice cube made of cream, which will slowly melt into the tequila. This is a unique twist on a traditional White Russian. The orange flavors tie the dessert and cocktail together.
A simple festive cocktail you can try at home is to heat apple cider then pour it into a mug containing a cinnamon stick. Top with spiced rum. The heat from the cider amplifies the aromas of all the ingredients. My family likes to enjoy this drink while the kids toast marshmallows around the fire pit.
Limoncello, an Italian liqueur, is great to serve before or after your holiday meal because it is a digestif (aids in digestion). I like to mix it with champagne to add a lightness and crispness to the drink. In the past I have paired this with homemade ricotta crostini as a light appetizer. In addition to liquor, hard ciders are also simple pairings that reflect the flavors of fall and winter. Now you can find aged hard ciders at various price and quality points.
I love hosting holiday meals for my family, not because of my passion for cooking, but for the opportunity to bring everyone together. My favorite part about the holidays is spending hours with my family gathered around the table sharing in the season.