Celebrating the season in style

Throw the perfect holiday party


Photography by Mara Kuhn

Champagne instantly perks up a party. It has a life of its own and somehow seems to make me smile. Years ago, I threw a birthday party for a dear friend disguised as a Christmas party. Complete with a “fake” invitation for the birthday girl. There was a feast of all things chocolate, Champagne, and cheese and at some point furniture was moved out of the way to make room for an impromptu dance floor. It was one for the books! That party theme has been enjoyed many times since then and without fail, there is lots of laughter, whole face smiles and warm conversations. Maybe Champagne bubbles have magical powers?

Champagne is a sparkling wine but not all sparkling wines are Champagne. To be labeled “Champagne” it must first come from the Champagne region of France and produced so that a secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle to create carbonation. There are other rules, of course, but you get the idea.

Having said that, please don’t let the idea of Champagne make you think your menu has to be filled with things like caviar and black truffles. A recent piece in the New York Times Wine School encourages the pairing of Champagne with foods from sushi to fried chicken, pizza, and popcorn. But, of course! The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has been kicking off their festival with a Champagne and popcorn reception for over 20 years. Just a few months ago, a brilliant pair of local foodies were quite successful with a black truffle pizza.

So, let me share with you my favorite, the Champagne Cocktail. Not to be confused with a Mimosa (orange juice), Kir Royal (Chambord) or Bellini (peach puree), while they are all fine additions to any celebration, but THIS is the classic cocktail. It’s been around since Civil War times and can dress up even the most humble selections of Champagne. Ask for help at the liquor store counter if you’re unsure but know you can get a nice bottle for under $20. Choose a flute with straight sides. Drop in a sugar cube. Add a few dashes of Angostura bitters and let them soak in for just a moment. Then carefully fill the flute with your favorite bubbly. Take care not to spill too much, it bubbles quickly. Now, we didn’t talk about how to open that bottle.

So if you’re new to that task, exercise caution… no need for eye injuries or drywall damage.

Mine is a traditional south Louisiana family and we are many in number. Every other year we celebrate our “big” Christmas. This year, marks our matriarch’s 90th birthday. As one would expect, there will be a disturbingly long list of well-wishers. But even with such a large number of people there will be lots of laughter, whole face smiles and warm conversations, and of course, a few Champagne cocktails!

So take this season, and take any reason to celebrate. Celebrate birth. Celebrate a homecoming. Celebrate a loved one’s rich and full lifetime and celebrate each other.

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