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Holiday glitz and glam by the glass

December 15, 2011 by Andrea Godfreyson, Registered Dietitian

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Food is often the focus of holiday events. The beverages we use to wash down all of these offerings often receive less attention but the usual suspects of pop, punches, juice, rich coffee mixtures and alcoholic drinks can contribute dearly to our, bottom line, if you will.

Personally, my priorities are with food. Instead of getting lots of sugar and fat from my drinks, I look for beverage options that are delicious and don't fill me up so I can revisit that shrimp cocktail. I love mixing an exciting beverage for a guest as it is a lovely way to show care and attention and seems to please even the most discerning relative or friend.

It also distracts them from the fact that they are crammed into my tiny studio apartment, where the temperature has hit record highs with the four burners and oven all maxed out, and supper is nowhere near ready.

Here are some simple ideas for amazing holiday beverages:

The Bright Idea The Pay Off
Make pureed berry ice cubes Blending frozen berries and freezing them in ice cube trays (you can even buy the fancy shaped ones) adds holiday colour and glitz to a beverage. Not to mention flavour as it melts!
Use club soda or sparkling mineral water instead of tonic water or pop Carbonation jazzes up beverages. Drinks like pop and tonic water offer a lot of extra sugar but club soda and sparkling mineral water offer the jazz factor without any sugar at all (tonic has about the same amount of sugar as regular pop).
Showcase the beverage in a pretty glass Using champagne flutes, wine glasses or martini glasses make a beverage seem even lovelier than it already is.
Garnish, garnish, garnish! For that special touch of flavour and glam, use a sprig of rosemary, a cinnamon stick, a few frozen berries or some pomegranate seeds to top off a beverage.
Use light eggnog or mix regular eggnog with some skim milk garnished with nutmeg You get the same eggnog taste as the original with less sugar and fat. Add a cinnamon stick garnish for a twist.
Have a latte (I like mine with skim milk) with a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg or chocolate on top Unless you feel like drinking your dessert, skip the mocha, caramel, crème brulee and whipped cream option on specialty coffees. It cuts the sugar and fat and you still get a hot delicious treat that warms you from the inside out. If you are getting your coffee at a shop, and really need a hit of sweet, ask for your coffee "half sweet" to at least curb the sugar a bit.
Have a pitcher of cucumber water in the fridge for unexpected guests For a seriously refreshing drink, fill a pitcher with water, add a whole sliced cucumber and 3-4 mint sprigs and let the flavour infuse for 24 hours. If you need to drink it right away, just squeeze the cucumber slices in your hands before adding to release their flavour.
Muddle (gently squish with the back of a spoon) a few cucumber slices with a lime wedge and a mint sprig in a glass, fill with ice and top with club soda A refreshing beverage to soothe your belly or rehydrate after a hard day of elbowing your way through the mall. Try it garnished with a stalk of lemon grass.
Try a pomegranate fizz An easy way to spread holiday cheer: pour ½ cup of 100% pure pomegranate juice into a tall glass over ice, top with club soda and garnish with a couple of twists of fresh orange. You can also try freezing cranberries in ice cube trays topped with water for some cute festive cubes. Or, go for the cool two tone cube: fill the trays ½ way with orange juice and then after they freeze, fill the rest of the way with pureed berries.
The good news: having 2 of these drinks still fits with the recommendations of having a maximum of 1 cup of juice per day (1/2 cup per day for children).

Planning great holiday beverages is well worth the effort. These suggestions also work as fun fancy drinks for kids (skip the coffee) that make them feel special and help get us out of the "there is pop in the fridge for the kids" rut.

And let's not forget the host. There is nothing better than enjoying one of these tall special drinks with my tired feet up on the couch after the guests have left and the whirlwind has subsided. Maybe I'll clean up in the morning…

What are your go-to special holiday beverages?

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Comments (1)

CarysAdams3

Posted on Thursday December 15, 2011 a 8:40pm

I used to make cranberry with gingerale. Now, I've switched to cranberry and club soda. I still get the fizz, it tastes just as good and you're right...there's isn't as much sugar. My kids can even have it. It looks so festiva in a glass.

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