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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 12/17/2010

Spirits: The best cocktails to party by

By Jason Wilson

blog-spirits-party.jpgThis week, I encouraged people to step up and take charge of the drinks they serve at their cocktail parties. Still, I understand that as the size of a party grows, the more difficult it is to have handcrafted drinks for guests. That's why I usually recommend two types of drinks for bigger parties -- punch or a wine-based cocktail. Punch, which I wrote about last month, is obvious: Guests can ladle it themselves. Wine cocktails work well, because you can offer both the cocktail itself, or just a glass of wine for those who don't do cocktails. Besides the sparkling wine cocktails I suggested this week -- the Ostend Fizz Royale, the Purple Fizz Royale and the Bitter French -- here are eight more ideas for relatively straightforward party drinks:

Here are three easy, wine-based cocktails:

Brasserie Lebbe. One of my favorite champagne cocktails. Serve this at brunch instead of the dreaded mimosa.
Tuscan Sangria. Everyone loves Tuscany, right? Everyone loves sangria, right? Well, here's a heartier version of the summer favorite that everyone will love.
Black Velvet. Doesn't get any easier than this. Dark beer, check. Sparkling wine, check. This is from my lazy bartending manifesto from a couple years ago, where you can look for more E-Z ideas.

Here are my top five favorite punch recipes from our archives:

Hans Punch Up. I love using different eau de vie as an ingredient, and pear brandy fills the role as the prime spirit here, in this recipe by Adam Bernbach of Proof and Estadio. This is unique and people have loved this at every party where I've served it.
Thieves Punch. I just served this at the Food/Travel section's annual holiday party, and it seemed to be a hit. It's a strong one, with an odd mix of cachaca, port, lime juice and bitters, but after a few sips people were literally singing Christmas carols — though I have to admit that at the direction of our deputy Travel editor, we do this every year, cocktails or not.
Santa Maria. I've served this tequila punch for years for big parties, often in lieu of banging out margaritas. It's a classic. Note: This recipe ran before falernum was commercially available; now look for John D Taylor's Velvet Falernum.
Pisco Punch. I love pisco, and have raved a lot about it over the past couple years, especially the new premium brands now available. Here's a great way to use it.
Honey Spiced Punch. I love what cachaca does in punch, and here is no exception.
Wilson is the author of "Boozehound" (Ten Speed, 2010). He can be reached at Follow him at

By Jason Wilson  | December 17, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Spirits  | Tags:  Jason Wilson, cocktails, holiday, spirits  
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