Feeling Festive?

Feeling Festive? Holiday Cocktails that Stir the Soul

For a holiday celebration, or at any time of the year, sometimes it is a cocktail that is called for to fill your glass.

Benson has a number of suggestions on this front thanks to our creative spirits clients — and we’ve added ideas for wine cocktails, too!

Keep it Simple: Pour Over Ice & Serve – Veuve du Vernay Ice Rosé SRP: $14.99
A quick and easy cocktail, this wine was crafted to be enjoyed over ice so pour away and enjoy! The Ice Rosé is slightly sweet with red fruit aromas to match its pink hue. From the bottle to the glass, this wine epitomizes a fun, flirty Parisian lifestyle. Enjoy on its own or in a more complex cocktail like the High-Altitude Airmail and Sparkling Vodka Gimlet, created by Beautiful Booze.

Spiced Pear Old Fashioned. PC: Nicolas Paris

Spiced Pear Old Fashioned

Feeling Festive
St. George Spirits Pear Brandy SRP: $40 and St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur SRP: $35
Pear brandy has been St. George’s flagship spirit since 1982. It is made from the most aromatic dry-farmed, organic Bartlett pears to be found, and about 30 pounds of fruit are packed into every 750ml bottle! The pear liqueur is both elegant and earthy, with all of the complexity of perfectly ripe Bartlett pear. Cinnamon and clove add a warm touch of spice.

Try these in a cocktail for the holidays, find recipes here and here. Pro tip – give the Spiced Pear Old Fashioned a whirl, featuring the Spice Pear Liqueur and St. George Spirits Breaking & Entering American Whiskey.

Ballervadier

Whiskey cocktails to warm you up
The Ballervardier is equal parts Baller Single Malt Whiskey SRP: $50, Bruto Americano SRP: $30, and Dolin Sweet Vermouth. Baller is “a California take on the Japanese spin on Scotch whisky” and Bruto Americano brings a bracing dose of bitterness, a bright pop of citrus, and intriguing sylvan notes inspired by St. George’s master distiller Lance Winter’s formative experiences growing up in California in the 1970s.

Sage Advice

Our friends at Redwood Empire offer some Sage Advice by way of this cocktail featuring their Emerald Giant Rye SRP: $45, black walnut bitters, and muddled sage leaves.

Affogato

Affogato

 

How to Enjoy Your Coffee, Any Time of the Day or Night
St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur SRP: $30 was inspired by a love of New Orleans-style coffee, Yirgacheffe coffee beans provide bright berry and chocolate qualities complemented by chicory root.

One of the most delicious ways to enjoy it is in an Affogato. Other cocktail ideas for the liqueur here.

Morning Fog

For something with a little more caffeine kick, the team at Redwood Empire suggest Morning Fog, a delicious blend of their Pipe Dream Bourbon SRP: $45 and cold brew coffee. The salted maple whipped cream doesn’t hurt either! See this recipe and others on the product webpage.

Wallet and Crowd Pleasers

We’ve got wines to pair with Thanksgiving.  We’ve got the perfect wines and spirits to give as gifts.  And now, we have wine recommendations that please both the wallet and the crowd! 

As always, keep Benson in mind for your holiday story needs! 

What to pour for a crowd, if it is safe to gather 

Barton & Guestier Alcohol Removed Sparkling Wine  SRP: $14.99
Perfect for all ages or any designated drivers, give everyone a chance to celebrate in style. A reverse osmosis process is utilized to remove alcohol from the finished wine, made from Muscat grapes. This special process preserves aromatic and flavor components, keeping the wines’ integrity and character intact. No additional sugars or juice are added and the effervescence is adjusted before bottling for maximum pleasure. Low calorie and vegan friendly.

True Myth Chardonnay Edna Valley  SRP: $18
True Myth presents an authentic experience, which only Mother Nature can express: one of depth, wonder, and a little bit of magic. Taste and Believe. Displaying aromas of ripe pear, pineapple, tangerine and caramel, this is a classic Chardonnay from the Edna Valley in California. It is rich and creamy and bursting with tropical fruit flavors. 

Our Daily Red Blend 1.5L Bag in a Box  SRP: $17.99
This wine is certified USDA Organic, vegan, and with no detectable sulfites, making it your go-to travel companion for all occasions this year. Easy to bring to the Friendsgiving feast and will cover a lot of bases while filling a lot of glasses. 

Smith & Hook Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon  SRP: $25 

To craft this classic Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, fruit from small family owned vineyards in 5 unique sub-appellations is combined. The result is a lush, rich and expressive Cabernet Sauvignon that is full-bodied with notes of dark berry, vanilla, mocha and spice. A perfect combination for the holiday season and a big crowd pleaser!

A few wallet friendly (<$20) selections:  Buy by the bottle or the case! 

Biltmore Estate Pinot Grigio American  SRP: $15
Bearing the American Appellation designation, this Biltmore Estate Pinot Grigio was sourced from growing partners on the west coast and vinified at Biltmore Winery in Asheville, NC. Classic, refreshing, Pinot Grigio is always at home at a party. 

Tangent Sauvignon Blanc  Edna Valley  SRP: $17
Hailing from California’s Edna Valley, near San Luis Obispo, this Sauvignon Blanc explodes with notes of grapefruit and gooseberry. Made with coastal fruit grown just a few miles from the ocean along the Central Coast of California. Life is distinctly vibrant when you take a Tangent. 

Bread & Butter Pinot Noir  California   SRP: $14.99
Hard to wrap, but easy to give.  Based in Napa, Bread & Butter produces classically styled California wines made to be easy-going and approachable. Winemaker Linda Trotta believes good things shouldn’t be complicated. This is an undeniably juicy Pinot Noir that bursts with cherries, raspberries and a touch of cassis.  Sure to be a crowd pleaser.  Look for a new Merlot coming from Bread & Butter soon!

Hahn Appellation Series  SRP: $17.99-19.99  

The Hahn Appellation Series line-up includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and GSM wines, sourced from Arroyo Seco vineyards. While we recommend them ALL, bring a little Rhone-style to your table this holiday. The 2019 Hahn Appellation Series GSM is a red blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. Ruby red in color and boasting aromas of fresh strawberries, red cherry, a touch of white pepper, it leaves a lovely, lingering long finish. 

Serving and Entertaining Tips from the Pros

Hosting a gathering, whether large or small, is always a bit stressful. Planning for other people’s preferences and anticipating their needs takes lots of thought, especially when it comes to serving alcohol. How much is enough? What should be served? How should it be served? 

Take it from the pros and see what a few of Benson’s clients have to say about their experiences in serving at a variety of occasions. 

Pieter Ferreira, Graham Beck 

An expert in crafting South Africa’s iconic Methode Cap Classique wines for almost four decades, Graham Beck’s Cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira, knows the best ways to serve, style and preserve sparkling wine for the best experience. 

Ensure proper storage from the beginning 

It’s lovely to have a beautiful bottle of sparkling out for everyone to see, but long term this can damage the quality of the wine. Prolonged exposure to light or temperature changes affects the chemistry and the result is a spoiled wine. Make sure it’s stored in a cool, dry area that does not get direct sunlight. It’s also best to store the bottle upright instead of lying down because the cork seals much better that way and for much longer. 

Take control of the cork

Sometimes the cork has a mind of its own and people do not realize how dangerous it can be. When you remove the cage, anything can happen. It can dislodge on its own and seriously injure someone, ruining an otherwise great gathering. Make sure you place your hand over the cork immediately, while maintaining a solid hold on the bottle.  Twist the bottle rather than the cork and hold the cork as the pressure slowly forces it out with a gentle pop. When you pour it, the “beer pour” or 45-degree angle is best for retaining the bubbles and filling in one go. The Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV makes for a beautiful pour if you enjoy a bit of pink! 

Consider 375ml bottles

Demand for bottles smaller than the typical 750ml has increased, especially for small groups of people. If you want to start the gathering with a great sparkling wine as an aperitif and move to still wine for dinner, a 375ml bottle is a great option. Graham Beck sells its Graham Beck Brut NV in 375 ml bottles, and it is one of the few wines that is fermented in this smaller bottle, just like it would be in a 750ml.

 

Sharon Fenchak, Biltmore Winery 

 

Leading the Biltmore Wines team with more than 20 years of experience at the winery, Sharon Fenchak is head winemaker and vice president of winery production, overseeing a wine program which pays homage to George Vanderbilt’s legacy of hospitality. 

Pairing wines with meals 

It’s important to always have a sparkling wine on hand to open at the start of the evening or day such as the Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir, which is very versatile. A medium bodied red wine is also great to have, such as the Biltmore Estate Pinot Noir since it’s easy to drink and goes well with a variety of foods. For those white wine drinkers, the Biltmore Estate Pinot Grigio is a classic go-to and has been for many Biltmore wine lovers. If you’re eating something spicy or have guests who enjoy something a bit sweeter, the Biltmore Estate Riesling works very well. 

Wine glass charms, yay or nay?

For a gathering with multiple people, wine charms can be useful to help people identify which wine glass is theirs. Instead of giving out a glass with it already on, it’s nice to keep them out should someone want to use them, and pick one that they’ll enjoy all evening. 

The importance of temperature

It’s crucial for wine to be served at the correct temperature so that it is showcased with the best potential. White, sparkling, and rosé wines should be chilled, while reds can be served at room temperature. Of course, if you have nice crystal that is always a bonus! 

 

Linda Trotta, WX Brands

With a career spanning three decades and four continents, Linda Trotta joined the winemaking team at WX Brands in 2017 and in 2021 was named Director of North Coast Winemaking. Linda is responsible for the winemaking of all of WX’s Napa Valley wine programs, including Bread & Butter, Silver Spur, Double Lariat and a number of Napa Valley exclusive brands.

Linda says there is no need to overthink which wines to serve at your next gathering when you can trust they are made to be simply enjoyed. The classically styled Bread & Butter Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are consistent crowd pleasers. She just recommends buying a few bottles of each because they are usually gone before you know it. 

 

Dave Smith, St. George Spirits 

Named one of the mad scientists of American whiskey by GQ magazine, Dave Smith (master distiller for St. George Spirits) distills spirits with the intention of sharing. 

Spirits storage, what works 

Relative to wine, follow loosely similar rules with spirits storage. However, store spirit bottles upright as you don’t want it to be in contact with the cork the way wine should be. Spirits are inherently higher proof than wine and the alcohol is strong enough to slowly degrade the cork, unlike wine which helps to preserve the seal of the cork. Skip the fridge or freezer and keep spirits in a cool temperature stable spot out of the sunlight. 

Upgrade your garnish game

Garnish can make a great cocktail more memorable both aromatically as well as visually; it’s essentially the invitation to the drink. Rule one for garnish is to have things on hand that can keep for a while. Brandied cherries, olives and cocktail onions are all simple garnishes to keep in the pantry as essential for emergency cocktail opportunities when there’s no time to go to the store. 

Should there be time to go to the store, citrus is the go-to as it’s garnish 101. Also, fresh herbs are ideal, even better would be to have an herb garden with mint, basil and lemongrass. It’s important to match the aroma of the garnish to the cocktail so that it’s in harmony with the drink and adds another note to the song. 

On the spot cocktails to impress

Well-executed classics are great, which means starting with great spirits, like Baller Single Malt Whiskey and St. George All-Purpose Vodka, and adding select mixers along with great ice and glassware. Be precise with your proportions. 

Pre-batched cocktails are also a great way to share a drink with friends as the prep work can largely be done before anyone arrives. In fact, some drinks are better if they’ve been batched a few days or weeks in advance, though this only works with cocktail recipes that don’t require fresh ingredients. The recipes need to be spirit-forward to work. Dave says, “We usually have a Manhattan as well as a negroni pre-bottled at my house so that we can stir over ice, pour into a glass, add garnish and get back to sharing time together.” 

 

Sparkling Wines for Anytime

Sparkling Wines for Anytime

Sparkling wines are great for any occasion — holidays, weddings, or even on a Tuesday night in! 

Here are some sparkling wines your readers will want to have on hand to add something to any moment. They transform the mundane into the celebratory, and they also make ideal gifts.  

Veuve du Vernay Ice Rosé NV SRP $14.99
Ranked #1 by IMPACT Hot Prospect Brand Award for Imported Wines from 2017-2019, Veuve du Vernay is the leading French sparkling wine brand in the U.S. and shows no sign of slowing down. Crafted to be enjoyed over ice, Ice Rosé is slightly sweet with red fruit aromas to match its sparkling pink hue. It’s an ideal and unexpected cocktail for celebrating the New Year. From the bottle to the glass this wine epitomizes a fun, flirty Parisian lifestyle.

Bread & Butter Extra Dry DOC Prosecco SRP: $15.99
Made to be simply enjoyed, this graceful, everyday Prosecco was created by winemaker Linda Trotta who worked with a 90-year-old, family-owned winery near Venice, Italy. The result is a delicately perfumed wine with notes of floral and ripe fruit, bright acidity, and a complement of creamy mouthfeel and layers of soft bubbles that persist through to the long, elegant finish. Packaged in an elegant gold and black label, this beauty is ready to party.

Steenberg Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc NV SRP $18
Created from grapes from the oldest registered farm in South Africa, the Steenberg Vineyards Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc is a testament to the strengths of the storied Constantia wine region. Traditional method fermentation adds another fun and fresh level to this wine; aromas of passion fruit and lime give it a fruity nose while the palate is light and smooth.

Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2015 SRP: $30
An exceptional example of Cap Classique wine, the fruit was hand selected, and hand harvested from Graham Beck’s specific Chardonnay Clonal block on their Robertson Estate. This wine is elegant and impressive, a real treat for any meal and a total steal at this price for this quality of traditional method sparkler!  Another great option is the Graham Beck Brut NV for just $20.

Biltmore Blanc de Blancs SRP $35
Crafted with Chardonnay grapes sourced from the west coast and using the traditional methode champenoise, the Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs is a classic bottle of bubbly for any occasion. It can stand alone as a wine to toast or to pair with lightly dressed seafood and greens. Up your hospitality game to Vanderbilt level by sharing this with your close circle.

Balletto Brut Rosé 2014 SRP $42
This sparkling Brut Rosé comes from Balletto Vineyards, one of the few family-owned estate wineries in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. It’s delicate, pretty and delicious. The soft, coral-hued color sets the stage, and the tiny, persistent bubbles confirm that this is a serious sparkler.

Let us know how we can help you identify the best sparkling wine option for your stories.
Contact liebler@bensonmarketing.com to hear more about what we have in our portfolio.