The Best Holiday Drinks

Pop open some bubbly, grab a local cider or consider pairing beer with an elegant holiday dinner
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

One of the first things that comes to mind when we think holiday celebrations is popping open some bubbly.

For good reason; it is essentially a party in a bottle. Sparkling wines come from across the globe, but why not celebrate with the real deal, with those from the Champagne region of France. We’ve got a unique resource in town in the form of Fat Cork (Lower Queen Anne, 111 W John St.; 206.257.1730;, fatcork.com), which sources only grower-produced (vineyard-to-bottle producers) wines. And lest you think the mere mention of capital “C” Champagne means a C-note or more, most of Fat Cork’s bottles are in the $48–$80 range and can go up to $159. This month, it’s offering free tastings and retail hours five times, events that are monthly occurrences during the rest of the year. (The business is otherwise wholesale, and has a robust wine club.)

Champagne is a natural for pre-dinner sipping. But it’s also a surprisingly food-friendly wine worth pouring throughout the meal. Brut and extra-brut bottles are among the driest in style, and will complementary the widest range of dishes. And in general, younger Champagnes tend to have perky, bright characters; with age, they often take on a creamier, richer character while never losing the crisp acidity. A very approachable option at Fat Cork is the Cuvée Brut Tradition Premier Cru Champagne from Pascal Redon ($49), versatile for both aperitif and mealtime, with good acidity and light minerality.  And don’t let the fruity-looking color of rosé Champagne fool you. With that color comes some of the tannic structure associated with red wines, so these options can be phenomenal with food. One such Champagne is the Rosé de Saignée Premier Cru from Jean Baillette-Prudhomme ($62), a lush dinnertime Champagne for this season.

Local Ciders

Consider the escalation of interest in all things cider.

No longer just a novel change of pace now and then, cider—and we’re talking about sparkling hard (i.e., alcoholic) cider—is coming into its own as a choice beverage. With a few dozen cider makers in the state now, we have loads of local options. And many of them are made in a dry style—some bone dry—which goes a long way to make them great partners with food. Among those worth checking out are a couple from Finnriver Cidery (finnriver.com) on the Olympic Peninsula. The Finnriver artisan sparkling cider ($22.99/750 ml) is made in the méthode champenoise (Champagne style, extra-dry with lovely bubbles), and Finnriver’s special cranberry rosehip seasonal cider ($9.99/500 ml) has bright tartness that would be ideal with roasted turkey and other meats, and carries a lovely crimson hue. From Vashon Island, Dragon’s Head Cider (dragonsheadcider.com) produces its traditional cider ($17/750 ml) with more than 20 classic English and French cider apple varieties, creating a medium-bodied cider with earthy-spicy character and light astringency, ideal with celebration foods.

Beer and Food Pairings

Beer also pairs well with elegant holiday dinners. The Beer Junction (West Seattle, 4511 California Ave. SW; 206.938.2337; thebeerjunction.com) has not only many hundreds of beers to choose from, but an owner—Morgan Herzog—who’s a cicerone (certified beer professional) versed in the fine art of enjoying beer. Herzog delivers some solid pairing points:

Brown ales or dark lagers pair well with turkey or pork, with Schooner Exact King Street brown ale ($3.99), one among local options that, with its hop-forward flavor, is an especially good complement to rich sauces.

For gamier meats or even a standing rib roast, Herzog recommends a Belgian dubbel; one local version is Sound Brewery Dubbel Entendre ($7.49) from Poulsbo, a dark beer that has toasty, malty flavor but with a dry, spicy finish.

If you’re serving extra-rich side dishes like buttery mashed potatoes or baked sweet potatoes, the light hoppiness and roasted malt of porters will balance well with those flavors.

Herzog calls saison beers “the go-to for food pairing. They have high carbonation to scrub the palate, usually finish fairly dry and often have herbal flavors that pair well with many dishes.” He recommends Portland-based Upright Brewing’s Five ($9.99). Some selections are available in large-format, 22-ounce or 750-ml bottles. With bottles, you can provide your guests a range of options. Though if you have a particularly large group or want to commit to just one or two options, larger growlers can be a good way to go.

Find these beverages at better grocery and liquor stores, or bottle shops such as Full Throttle Bottles (Georgetown, 5909 Airport Way S; 206.763.2079; fullthrottlebottles.com), Pete’s Wine Shop (Eastlake, 58 E Lynn St.; 206.322.2660; peteswineshop.com) or Bottleworks (Wallingford, 1710 N 45th St.; 206.633.2437; bottleworksbeerstore.blogspot.com)