Missouri Life’s wine columnist, one of only three people in the world to achieve the two highest wine degrees, shares this lovely 19th Century Punch using sparkling wine to make your holiday dinners even more festive. Your loved ones and guests deserve to drink something interesting after these pandemic years, and a happy little secret is that Missouri wines make better cocktail ingredients than California wines or Europe’s best.

Photo courtesy Doug Frost

Doug Frost, who is both a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier, is one of only three in the world to achieve both titles, which involve strict tasting and sniff tests. He lives in Kansas City, Mo.

19th Century Wine Punch Stir together:

  • 3⁄4 cup granulated sugar mixed with the peels from 4 lemons. Leave overnight, then stir into the punch, peels and all.
  • 1 750 ml bottle of Cognac VS or higher
  • 3⁄4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1⁄2 quart water
  • 1 750 ml bottle of Missouri sparkling wine

’Tis the season for entertaining, especially in this (nearly) post-pandemic era. Some of you have been partying with your peeps all along—you know who you are. The more circumspect among us are having to refamiliarize ourselves with the complicated rules of social engagement. Do I have to invite the neighbors? Will they know if I don’t? How will I explain all those cars in the driveway?

It’s generally accepted that drinking increased during the pandemic. It’s equally agreed that the average bottle price went down—quantity went up and quality often went down. But if only out of sheer gratitude for being able to hug each other again, shouldn’t we stop squeezing those hard-earned pennies? Don’t our loved ones, and even the people we merely like, deserve to drink something interesting as these holidays press upon us?

Inevitably, we must choose the wines and drinks we will serve, and there may be tension between what we think our guests want and what we personally drink. Not to hector, but a good host makes people feel comfortable and that extends to finding out what they like and then making certain to have it. Not everyone likes dry wines, just like not everyone likes sweet wines, so regardless of your personal preferences, why not have both?

Some people like red wine, and some like white, so you’re going to need to have dry and sweet versions of each unless you know precisely what your guests like. That reflects hospitality at its best. Good hosts also offer lots of non-alcoholic options, beyond just a glass of ice water, though people should always drink water if they are drinking wine.

Wine has been consumed in multiple ways throughout time. A martini is a spirit mixed with a fortified wine called vermouth. Famed cocktails like the French 75 or the New York Sour require a dose of wine. And the happy little secret about Missouri wines is that they make for far better cocktail ingredients than California wines or Europe’s best.

It has to do with the grapes we grow here. Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, Traminette, and all the rest carry more tartness than Chardonnay, Cabernet, and the like. The cruel irony is that our wines are often castigated for being sweet. They are not, but if they are, it’s that they might otherwise be unbearably tart. So, while this might make my winemaking friends seek me out for slow torture and murder, there is nothing wrong with using local wines to make fruit punch, sangria, or even mulled wine—all classic beverages that eschew the seriousness of wine snobbery and bring back the fun and festivity.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t also have some dry, non-effervescent, unadulterated wine for actual snobs like me. That’s what being a great host is: offering delicious things as a demonstration of gratitude for your friends and family, for having come through an actual pandemic, and for believing in the simple and vital act of hospitality.