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The bubbling question: What's the best wine to bring to a holiday party?

Sommelier André Hueston Mack has some ideas for your holiday party beverages.
Liz Clayman
Sommelier André Hueston Mack has some ideas for your holiday party beverages.

Updated December 18, 2022 at 8:19 AM ET

'Tis the season for holiday parties and dinners. If you're accepting an invitation, what can you bring to keep things merry?

André Hueston Mack has some ideas. He's a certified sommelier in wine, distilled beverages, and even cigar service and the host of the World of Wine video serieson the Bon Appétit network. Mack joined NPR's Michel Martin on All Things Considered to talk beverages for everyone this time of year: wine, cocktails and nonalcoholic drinks, too.

So, the first party conundrum: What's a good go-to wine to take along?

"You can't go wrong with bubbles," he says. But it doesn't have to be champagne.

A cava or prosecco are great sparkling alternatives, Mack says. "I always tell people the larger the bottle, the better."

And with seasonal dishes lining holiday dinner tables, Mack says pinot noir is a safe varietal to bring to your gatherings. The medium bodied wine fits in well with the "cornucopia of flavors," Mack says.

When picking a wine, Mack says it's OK to ignore the traditional 0-100 rating system used by those who get paid to drink.

On his show, Mack's ratings often have a little more personality. When rating one bottle of wine, he used a combination of emojis: a cowboy hat, a lightning bolt and a strawberry.

"A common way to communicate now is emojis," he says. "And so why not do that with wine?" He says we've siloed the wine experience to a ratings system using artificial numbers when wine drinking is an emotional experience.

Shake up your classic cocktails

Mack says at his dinner table, they usually like to start with a light cocktail. Gin and tonics are a favorite, though he sometimes likes to give the classics a twist.

With gin and tonics, Mack adds a tonic syrup "to really kind of give it more depth and flavor. It's one way to change that classic."

Another favorite of his is the Negroni, "but we just replace the gin with mezcal. So we kind of give this like this kind of smokiness to it and just riffs on the classics."

The TV host, wine connoisseur, and restaurateur also launched his own "Rye & Sons" whiskey, which he recommends drinking neat or with a few ice cubes. But "a glass with our rye whiskey with a touch of soda water is great," Mack says.

The Scotch whisky maker Johnnie Walker a few years ago introduced "André Mack's Wine Cask Sour," a specialty blended Scotch whisky. Mack adds simple syrup, lemon juice, a pour of pinot noir, and garnishes with a lemon wedge.

But if mixing red wine and spirits isn't your thing this holiday season, Mack says the traditional season's favorites are always a hit.

Like rompope, a Mexican variation of eggnog served at this time of year.

At Mack's home, "we do eggnog and we spike it with rum. And that's always fun as we decorate the tree," he says.

Don't forget the mocktails

For those who don't consume alcohol, Mack says nonalcoholic drinks can be just as fun and interesting. It's easy to keep a stockpile of nonalcoholic beers and wine for just the occasion.

Mack mentions a fondness for vinegar-based wine proxies, as his growing food and beverage empire launches a collaboration with an existing maker.

He says, this holiday season, check your guest list twice and make sure those not drinking or "sober curious" can be included in the holiday tidings.

Going the extra step for all your guests is his "favorite part of all of it," he says. "It's like, oh, wait a minute, we have something for you," no matter what's in your cup.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Gabriel J. Sánchez
Gabriel J. Sánchez is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. Sánchez identifies stories, books guests, and produces what you hear on air. Sánchez also directs All Things Considered on Saturdays and Sundays.