There’s an entirely new kind of magic fueling this holiday season – creative ways to connect with family and friends over Zoom. The ingenuity comes as little surprise given the beautiful adaptability of what “together” has become under COVID restrictions.
While we are missing many of the pleasures of the season by not being able to gather in person, with some imagination and a lot of love, we can make spirits bright while keeping one another safe.
Bring joy to your world
For loved ones within driving distance, add a personal drop-off to the virtual event. Start with an online invitation using one of the many websites out there. I like Paperless Post (paperlesspost.com) for its modern versions of festive designs. Once you’ve created and sent your invite, load your sleigh with goodies and head out to local friends and family with a pre-Zoom drop-off.
Host a wine tasting event by delivering a basket of mini wines and simple snacks to your virtual guests. Sparkling wine often comes in what is called a “split.” The 187ml bottles of bubbly hold a quarter bottle of wine. Red and white wines are available in half-bottle size, 375ml. A lighthearted tasting kit that includes unexpected and casual snacks to pair with the wines would be oh-so-fun. For instance, create a set that includes:
• 187ml bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut paired with a bag of truffle potato chips or truffle popcorn (recipe on my blog at sheepishsommelier.blogspot.com)
• 375ml bottle of Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc paired with salt-and-vinegar potato chips
• 375ml bottle of Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Cheez-It crackers
For a warmer delivery, look to the German tradition of mulled wine. Make a batch using Silke Kluss’ trusted recipe, then leave a thermos of the spiced-perfectly-for-the-season wine at friends’ doorsteps along with a Dresden Stollen. The traditional Christmas cake is available locally at Draeger’s Market in Los Altos and Ava’s Downtown Market in Mountain View. Suggest your guests visit Xmas Deluxe’s Facebook page for the Happy Holiday playlist to play in the background while you enjoy the warming treats and chat online.
Kluss, a Los Gatos resident and proprietor of Xmas Deluxe (xmasdeluxe.com), is a true Christmas master. The recipe she and her friends use for Gluhwein is the best mulled wine I’ve ever tasted. She admits that the addition of rum is not necessary but very good.
• 1 liter good red wine
• 1 piece whole star anise
• 2 whole cinnamon sticks
• 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
• Pinch nutmeg
• 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons rum
Add all ingredients to large pot and bring to simmer. Mixture can be refrigerated for a few days and then reheated to serve.
Deck the neighborhood
Unleash your inner mixologist by hosting a cocktail soiree featuring a seasonal drink that guests will separately prepare but drink as one online.
For inspiration, head over to Boozephreaks (boozephreaks.com). Founder Blake Tucker, aka Dr. Inkwell, is one of the most original and fun adult beverage gurus out there.
“I don’t want you to drink more, I want you to drink well,” Tucker said.
Tucker, who also serves as the beverage director at Taste Catering and Events, suggests a recipe that takes advantage of the culinary skills many of us have gained during our months of sheltering in place.
“Since we’re all getting a little more use out of our kitchen these days, I thought I’d share a recipe that needs a little prep,” he said. “The recipe highlights holiday flavors, appeals to varied palates and is a perfect marriage of old-world charm with new-world panache.”
• 1/2 ounce spiced pear syrup (recipe follows)
• 1-2 barspoons 2:1 honey syrup (2 parts honey, 1 part water)
• 2 ounces blended scotch (I suggest Compass Box Great King Artist Blend)
• 1 dash Angostura bitters
Add ingredients to iced old-fashioned glass. Stir well. Garnish with star anise pod.
Spiced Pear Syrup
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 overripe pear
• 1 tablespoon fresh sliced ginger
• 1 small piece cinnamon bark
• 1 clove
Slice pear into cubes and simmer in sugar water 20 minutes. Mash or use immersion blender to puree, then add spices and simmer 5 minutes more. Remove from heat. Once cool, add 1 tablespoon vodka and bottle.
“I love mixing pear and scotch, but the pear syrup is fantastic on vanilla ice cream, too,” Tucker said. “Someone once joked I should go by Dr. Eatwell!”
Regardless of the type of virtual fete you throw, amp up the merry by setting your device in front of your tree or other decorated area of your home. Suggest guests wear their ugly sweaters or challenge everyone to a holiday “dad joke” competition. And don’t forget to raise glasses in a toast. We’ve grown much, lost much, saved much and loved much this year. These are all things worth acknowledging as we let the lights of the holiday season shine brightly in our homes.
Christine Moore is a Mountain View resident. You can find her blog at sheepishsommelier.blogspot.com