Perfect Pairs December/January 2018-19

Negroni. Photo by Carly Cornejo.

It’s that time of year when you are entertaining colleagues, neighbors and relatives—at the office, at home or in the family cabin near the ski resort. You can always open some bottles of wine, but what about serving elegant holiday party food with cocktails instead?

“Bourbon and whiskey cocktails pair perfectly with the winter season—they provide a warmth and depth of flavor that warms you up after coming off the mountain,” says Kyle Carnine, restaurant manager at Manzanita, located at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. “Batching cocktails is also one of the easiest ways to make hosting stress-free. For an interactive element, create a garnish station with a variety of fresh ingredients for guests to add to their drink—fresh rosemary, lime wheels, seasonal fruit, onion or edible flowers.”

The Manzanita bartenders offer a weekly Sunday class, 3–4 p.m., called the Art of Mixology, where you can learn to make three specialty cocktails, using fresh herbs and seasonal ingredients, then pair them with appetizers. In an ideal world, you will take this festive class in early December, and be ready to re-create the recipes for a party of your own, just in time for—say—New Year’s Eve. But even if you can’t make the class, Carnine has some suggestions for pairings that work.

Cheese Plate

Cheese Plate with Negroni

The salt and fat content of the cheese complement the bitter Negroni; try harder cheeses like pecorino.

Negroni Ingredients: 1/4 ounce gin, 1 ounce Carpano Antica formula vermouth, 1/4 ounce Campari, 1 fresh orange slice.

Elk Meatball with Alpine Glow

The warmth of the scotch and cinnamon pair well with the rich flavor of the meatball (which can be made with lamb or beef instead).

Alpine Glow Ingredients: Muddled citrus, 1/4 ounce of lemon juice, 1 ounce cinnamon simple syrup, 1.5 ounces Dewar’s Scotch whiskey, Laphroaig rinse/wash.

Devils on Horseback and Huckleberry Old Fashioned

Devils on Horseback (bacon-wrapped dates) and Huckleberry Old Fashioned

The rich and smoky flavor of the bacon works well with a touch of sweetness from the huckleberry.

Huckleberry Old Fashioned Ingredients: 1 tablespoon of huckleberry jam, dash of raw sugar, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, plus more to taste, 1 orange peel, 2 ounces good-quality rye or bourbon, 1 brandied cherry.