By Suzanne Corbett, STLSportsPage.com's Award Winning Travel and Food Editor

Time to toast the holidays and ring in the New Year with the proverbial cup of cheer. And while there’s nothing wrong with filling that cup, glass or mug with your favorite ballpark brew now may be the time to consider something a little more seasonal. A festive concoction intended to make the day a little merrier and the gathering sparkle.

To deliver that sparkle pop the cork on a sparkling wine or champagne and use it as a mixer to create a quick festive cocktails or punches. The sparkling wines I refer are what some call American champagnes such as those produced by Korbel Cellars; affordable sparkling wines that easily can serve double duty as a fantastic mixer in holiday drinks.

As a holiday treat to STLSportsPage readers the award winning St. Louis caterer Butler’s Pantry has provided two quick and easy drink recipes to help fill your holiday cups. In addition, Korbel Cellars has provided its famous Poinsettia recipe along with a few last minute entertaining tips and two appetizer recipes that are stress free and no fuss to make.

Fresh Cranberry Spritzer (Recipe courtesy Butler’s Pantry)
1 oz champagne or white wine (sparkling cider for non-alcoholic)
1.5 oz Cranberry Pomegranate juice
1.5 oz sprite or clear soda or your favorite sparkling water
Fresh cranberry garnish

Champagne Punch – Cranberry, Tangerine and Pomegranate

(Recipe courtesy Butler’s Pantry)

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 750-ml bottles chilled brut Champagne
1 1/2 cups white rum
1 1/4 cups pomegranate juice
1 large tangerine, thinly sliced
Pomegranate seeds
Fresh mint leaves

Bring 1/2 cup water and sugar to boil in small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Cool syrup completely.
Combine Champagne, rum, and pomegranate juice in punch bowl. Add enough syrup to sweeten to taste. Mix in tangerine slices, pomegranate seeds, and mint leaves. Add ice and serve.

Cheese and Champagne Pairings

For a new twist, forgo the traditional cheese ball and crackers in favor of a cheese-tasting platter. Choose between three to five cheeses so as to not overwhelm your guests’ palates. (Plan for each guest to eat 1 to 2 ounces of each cheese.) Serve the cheeses at room temperature, and arrange them from mildest to strongest. (You may want to pre-slice the cheese or use one knife per cheese so that the flavors do not blend.) Accompany with plain crackers or baguette slices to let the flavors of the cheese shine through.

Encourage guests to sample the cheeses with different Korbel California Champagne varietals. Aged cheeses, such as blue cheese and Gouda, pair beautifully with Sweet Rosé, while milder cheeses are wonderful with Korbel Brut.

Bacon-Wrapped Apricots
24 dried apricots
8 slices bacon, cut into thirds to make 24 pieces
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Heat oven to 375°F. Wrap each apricot with a piece of bacon. Place seam side down onto baking sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes per side. Remove from oven and brush maple syrup on each piece. Serve with toothpicks.


White Bean-and-Red Pepper Dip
1 15-oz. can cannellini, drained
1 7-oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
1 large garlic clove
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Place first six ingredients in a food processor and pulse. Slowly add olive oil into food chute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with cut-up vegetables and pita wedges.

Sparkling Poinsettia Punch
750 ml Korbel Brut (chilled)
3 cups cranberry-apple juice (chilled)
¼ cup white grape juice concentrate (thawed)
¼ cup orange liqueur
Stir together all ingredients in a 2-quart pitcher. Serve in champagne flutes.

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