Toasting to the Holidays - Cocktail Party

December is such a tricky time for me, I would even say that I have a little bit of a "love-hate" relationship with it, I am definitely extremely emotional during it... and for so many reasons!
It is such a happy, beautiful, joyous, cozy time, everyone loves it! But for me, it is also the time when I  miss my homeland and my family the most... we all go back to our childhood during the holidays, to our roots, to our inner kid, to its happy memories, favorite traditions and customs. For me, all of it got left in Poland, and when I got here, I had to re-learn the Christmas spirit and then fill-in its blank card back again.

Slowly, over the years, the longing for what it "used to be" became less apparent, less painful, less yearning... the "what it used to be" slowly faded and the "what it is" took its place.
The older, I get the more I realize that home is where the heart is, and looking at my kids and their joyous memory making "here and now" is what this season is all about.
Living away from family for more than 15 years, made me realize that "friends are a family you get to choose" is such a true statement. We are fortunate to have some amazing people in our lives, who share these happy moments of the holiday season with us and help us create new memories.

We usually throw a few little evening cocktails and dinners to reconnect with friends, tell them how grateful we are for them and toast to another good year together. This year it will be no different. We planned one get-together with a few closest friends, and one with neighbors and coworkers.

I try to prepare a sit down meal, if the occasion is more intimate with less guests, but if there are quite a few visitors and each of them is coming at a slightly different time (cause yup, holiday time is such a busy time for EVERYONE) I try to have some appetizers and tapas style foods for all to grab. I try to make up the lack of a home-cooked dinner with a good signature drink. In the winter time, I am all about mulled wines and spicy sangrias. It is the season for rich, cinnamon and orange infused flavors, and the temperatures outside call for them to be served warm.

My favorite recipe is pretty simple:

1 750ml bottle red wine (We got Wellsley Farms Malbec exclusive to Bj's)

6 orange, sliced into rounds, plus 6 more for garnish

3 whole cloves

3 cinnamon sticks, plus 3 more for garnish

12 pieces of star anise

2 tbps pof honey

3 tbps of brandy

1/2 cups of cranberries (dried or fresh) to garnish

2 vanilla sticks


In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients. Bring to a simmer not a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer gently over low heat for 10 minutes.
Serve warm and garnish with citrus slices, cinnamon sticks. I sometimes like to sprinkle a little bit of powdered cinnamon on top for that extra spice. Cin Cin! 

 And as always, life gets busier than busy and even if we throw a party, we don't always actually have the time to prepare it! So thank goodness, we took advantage of our new BJ's membership, and in a one stop-shop got all the ingredients necessary to throw that party. Apart from all the deli items for the appetizers, we got a selection of wines from their Wellsley Farms brand, it is as much delicious as affordable. It is a win win for cin cin and voilà!

My absolute favorite this time of year is their Wellsley Farms Malbec, its musky, deep flavors if blended with cinnamon and anise taste like the holidays! It is the one I used in this recipe for the first time and I loved it, I will definitely be coming back for more, as it is not only better than some other red wines I tried in it, but also its price tag is much more attractive.

Blog post was written in partnership with BJ's Wholesale Club.


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