Recipes for holiday cheer

Henri whips out his cocktails for the season

No one could be more thrilled than Henri that fall is in the air and that the holidays are upon us. So suddenly, it seems. The nights come early, dark and cool, cold even. The streets are littered with crinkled leaves as the hold-outs cling to treetops, waiting for the next gust of wind to set sail to them—the ginkgos electric yellow, the Chinese pistache deep red, the dogwoods that gorgeous blood-brown. Smoke wisps from chimneys, and neighbors in long coats and knit caps scuff along sidewalks and stroll pathways through the park.

And cooks eagerly anticipate, readying kitchens and pantries, their favorite season’s masterpieces: golden-brown turkeys and juicy prime ribs pulled hot from ovens, mounds of herbed stuffing, bowls of sweet potatoes and pitchers of gravy—and music, toasts and laughter, and full bellies.

This year, Colette has indicated that she wants to be in charge of the cooking. “I’ll take care of the food,” she said. “You be in charge of drink.”

Avec plaisir, ma soeur!

While I’m still fine-tuning my wine choices, I will definitely be mixing up these favorites.

Cranberry margaritas

I realize that margaritas are typically warm-weather cocktails, and in general Henri tends to avoid fruit-flavored drinks anyway. On the other hand, cranberries are not only seasonal, but their festive color also makes for a delightful presentation, and they add a distinctive flavor to the liqueur and tequila as well. I might suggest to Colette that we pair it with an appetizer of Dungeness crab, also in season. This recipe is from Bobby Flay, and though he doesn’t recommend a specific tequila, stay away from inexpensive “golds,” such as Jose Cuervo, and go with a decent 100 percent agave reposado, like Sauza Hornitos or Cazadores.


2 cups tequila

1 1/3 cups cranberry juice

1 cup Cointreau triple sec

2/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice

Combine ingredients in a large pitcher, shake with ice and strain into margarita glasses or low cocktail flutes. You can also strain into small ice-filled tumblers.


This is the classic trim-the-tree-while-singing-carols beverage, and while it’s available in all manner of premixed and prepackaged and flavor-added versions, this one, from Anna Thomas’ The Vegetarian Epicure, is the best I’ve ever tasted. It should serve a party of four but is easily doubled (or more!).


3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup milk (not reduced fat, s’il vous plaît)

1/4 cup Cognac/brandy

1/4 cup dark rum

1 small orange

1 lemon

1 cup heavy cream

grated nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick, then stir in the milk, brandy and rum. In separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold a peak, then fold them into the other mixture. Refrigerate, chilling for at least two hours.

Peel the orange and cut out the white pith from inside the peel. Slice the peel into one-inch slices, cutting as thinly possible. Grate the lemon rind.

Whip the cream until it just begins to thicken, stir into the milk-and-egg mixture and whisk several times. Stir in the lemon rind and half the orange peel. Pour the nog into large serving bowl, and sprinkle the remaining orange peel and plenty of nutmeg over the top.

And what about after dinner, when the laughter and music have faded and given way to that often uneasy late-night wistfulness as blazing fires turn to embers and winter’s deathly stillness seems too-soon imminent? Simple, really, as it should be: a snifter of Germain-Robin brandy.