Raise a Glass of Bubbly, with Extra Fruit, for New Years!
I think it’s no secret, I love a Nice Glass of Wine. In fact, at one point I noticed that almost all of the photos of me on Facebook depicted me holding a glass, and I promise that it is because the snaps are taken at festive moments, not because I always have a glass of wine in my hand. Honestly. But this time of year, we all have parties and dinners to attend, and to be honest, alcohol has its downsides. In moderation, it can be a healthy thing, and the current science shows that a little drinking prolongs life. Maybe it’s because we relax and loosen up a little, and bond with the people around us.
It’s that moderation thing that seems to get people in trouble.
So, you have a few options, when it comes to drinking in a healthy way. Because it’s so easy to quaff a tasty drink quickly, I like to make mine weak. A personal favorite is to mix my wines, which are relatively low alcohol to begin with, with fruit. It’s a healthy way to have each glass contain less alcohol, as well as keep you busy eating the wine-soaked fruit. Have a few bites of cracker or some nuts in between, and you will keep the consumption down.
A great side benefit of this kind of mixing is that you can start with a relatively inexpensive wine, too. No need to go to that $50 bottle of champagne when you are making a sparkling cocktail. A $10 bottle of Prosecco will be fine.
A classic combo like the bellini is a common theme at my house. You can make a fruit puree, like the peach puree of the original bellini recipe. It’s easy, and I have made bellinis with everything from rhubarb to mango, whatever is in season. Just peel it and chunk it and put it in a pan with some sweetener, organic sugar is easiest, agave, works, too. Frozen fruit will do in a pinch. Boil and stir until the fruit is soft, then puree. Adjust with a squeeze of lemon or more sweet, if needed, and there you go. I’ve also made purees of raw fruit, when its really good.
Not up for that? Put a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds, raspberries, halved grapes, or sweet pitted fresh cherries in each glass and top with prosecco or cava. Add some juice to make it sweeter and more fruity-Apple cider and minced apples make a great spritzer, topped with sparkling wine. The bonus with small berries and pomegranate seeds is that the bubbles from the sparkling wine make them float up and then drop, making your drink lively and pretty.
For a great red wine version of the same idea, go for sangria, or mulled cider and wine. Sangria is basically red or white wine, with lots of chopped oranges, lemons and whatever else suits your fancy, cut with some ginger ale or club soda. Most recipes call for some liquor, but just leave that out. I know it’s kind of a summer drink, but why not? Add pears and apples for a wintry feel. Mulled cider and wine is perfect for the season, with spices, hot cider and just enough red wine to give it a little character. Leave it on the stove long enough, and the alcohol may well evaporate, anyway!
All of these drinks have official recipes somewhere, just google. Just ignore that part where you are supposed to add some liqueur to the mix. It not only adds alcohol and sugar, but usually tastes unnatural. These fresh drinks taste like wine and real fruit, no fake flavors. Stay away from adding shots of strong spirits, when you make something tasty and fruity, or people may not realize that they are guzzling hard liquor until it is too late.
Of course, you can use sparkling cider or de-alcoholized wines, too. Sober people deserve interesting cocktails, and you may just want to alternate non-alcohlic drnks with your occasional alcoholic one. I like to set this up with some flexibility, It’s easy to have sparkling cider right next too the prosecco, and just have your pitcher of fruit puree to add to the glass.
Bellini for Lightweights
Puree ripe mango, kiwi, or raspberries with sweetener, or cook some frozen fruit with sweetener and puree.
Mix 1/3 of a glass of fruit and 2/3 prosecco or cava. If you are a real lightweight, go for half and half.
Stir carefully, it will foam up and out of the glass. I often find it is best to use a large-bowl glass, like a cabernet glass, so you have room to stir and bubble. You will get more aroma that way, too.
For a crowd, you can also mix it in a pitcher.
Basic Sangria with Variations
If citrus isn’t your thing, try it with Pears and apples floating in the wine, or those expensive imported bing cherries at the market, with cherry juice instead of orange.
Serves about 4
1 Bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rioja reds, Zinfandel, Shiraz)
2 Oranges, juiced
1 Lemon cut into wedges
1 Orange cut into wedges
2 Tbsp sugar or agave, to taste
2 Cups ginger ale or club soda