Jeanne Benedict's Holiday Cocktails

Pinot Grigio Limoncello Spritzer

Recipe by


3 oz. Oak Leaf Pinot Grigio Wine

3 oz. Sparkling Water

Splash lemon syrup

Lemon Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 whole lemon cut into slices


Prepare lemon syrup first -- stir together sugar, water, and lemon pieces in a medium saucepan, and cook over high heat until puree has dissolved and mixture just boils; about 3 to 5 minutes. Cool completely and refrigerate in a wide mouth jar or covered measuring cup until ready to serve. Remove lemon slices and transfer to a cruet. Lemon syrup can be made the day before it will be used.

Add Oak Leaf Pinot Grigio and sparkling water into a tall glass or large wine glass with ice. Finish it off with a splash of lemon syrup and enjoy!

Mulled Merlot Wine Cocktail with Spice Rim Bar

Recipe by


1 bottle Oak Leaf Merlot (750 ml)

Juice of 10 Navel oranges

1/2 cup sugar


Combine ingredients in a large pot and heat until warm. Keep wine on medium-low on the stove for guests to serve themselves with a ladle or transfer to a round chafing dish and place on the buffet.

Traditionally mulled wine is warmed with spices, but to give guests the choice of their favorite flavors, the spice blends are offered in small dishes on the side so guests can dip the moistened rim of their glass into the blend of their choice as listed below.

Spice Blends for Rim Bar

Gingerbread Rim

1 tablespoon ground ginger + 1 tablespoon each brown and granulated sugar

Cinnamon Toast Rim

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Holiday Nutmeg Rim

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Classic Mulled Wine Blend Rim

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Baked Alaska Cupcakes

Recipe by


8 chocolate cupcakes (baked in foil cups for best results)

1 pint mint chocolate chip ice cream OR chocolate covered ice cream bon bons

4 egg whites

1/2 cup granulated sugar


Using a spoon, scoop out a ping-pong ball size of cake from the center of the cupcakes. (Make sure you don't scrape the bottom of the cupcake.) Fill the holes with mint chocolate chip ice cream or bons bons. Line a baking sheet with foil and put the cupcakes on it; freeze for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 500F and center the rack in your oven. Whip egg whites on high speed in a dry, clean bowl until they start to stiffen. Gradually add sugar, while beating constantly, until the egg whites are very stiff and you can form peaks when you dip the beaters into them and pull away. (May seem obvious, but many awesome cooks I've met have never made meringue.)

Remove cupcakes from freezer and dollop meringue on top of each cupcake making sure to seal around the edges of the ice cream holes, thus insulating the ice cream. Smooth and swirl the meringue as you apply it, as opposed to pointy tips, which burn easily in the oven. (Tip: Keep the foil baking cups on during this process as it helps keep the cupcake and ice cream cold. Then, remove the foil prior to baking the meringue.) Place the baking sheet with the cupcakes in the oven for 2 minutes until the meringue browns.

Remove the cupcakes from the oven and serve immediately! Or place Guests can eat these fire and ice delectables with their hands in traditional cupcake style, but plated with a spoon if a great way to go as well!

Makes 8 cupcakes

Christmas Tree Crudite


2 heads green cabbage (1 small and 1 large)

2 bamboo skewers cut in half

1 box toothpicks

Green floral wire (1 paddle wheel of @22-gauge wire)

Wire cutters

Small star-shaped cookie cutter

2-3 big bunches of kale, rinsed

1 head purple kale

1-2 heads broccoli, rinsed

1-2 heads cauliflower, rinsed

1 bag baby carrots, rinsed

1 carton cherry tomatoes, rinsed

1 large yellow pepper, rinsed


To make tree base structure, trim the bottom (stem end) of the large cabbage a bit so it will rest level and place it on your serving platter. (I like to use a cake stand). Slice off a bit of the top part of the cabbage so you have a flat surface on which to place the smaller cabbage.

Insert bamboo skewers into the top of the base cabbage. Trim off a little of the rounded end (not the stem end) on the smaller cabbage so it is flat. Place the smaller cabbage, cut side down, on to the base cabbage and on to the skewers so they are secured to each other. The stem end of the smaller cabbage should be at the top of the tree base.

Check out the shape of your tree and trim the sides starting at the top going down to the base to give it more of a conical form. You only have to do this a little and mostly at the top. I usually start building up the tree with kale and veggies and then trim where necessary.

Using wire cutters, cut green floral wire into 40 (1-inch long) pieces and 20 (2-inch long) pieces. Bend wire pieces into a hair-pin shape.

Start building a vertical row of tree "leaves" using kale stems. I find it easiest to make the middle garland that winds up the tree and build additional rows of vegetables and kale above and below the main garland so all rows appear even. (TIP: If you have trouble visualizing the natural line of garland up a tree take a ribbon and let it wind once around the tree from top to bottom as a general guide.)

Begin at the tree base, placing the kale's leafy side pointing down and stem side pointing up; break off excess stem. Insert the bended floral wire to discreetly anchor the kale in place. Overlap the leafy end of the kale as you place another stem up the tree and secure it with the floral wire.

After you have one kale row, add a row of veggies. Cut veggies with stems, such as broccoli and cauliflower, close to the floret and insert a toothpick into the end. Insert the toothpick into the cabbage base just above the kale garland. Use larger florets at the base and smaller ones at the tree top. It may be necessary to break toothpicks in half so they don't poke out of the top of the veggie.

For carrots, simply insert a toothpick into the end and then into the tree. Carrots are the most difficult veggie to work with. Toward the tree top, you may have to cut carrots in half so they look right and are along the same plane as the lower carrots.

For cherry tomatoes, insert the toothpick into the cabbage base first and then put the tomatoes on the toothpicks, otherwise you may squish them (I have sqaushed many a tomato!).

Continue building rows of kale and vegetables up the tree. Tear off piece of purple kale and slip them above the rows of veggies like I did for a colorful accent. Place kale around the bottom of the tree to fill it out.

Remember, you are making an edible work of art so you will be trimming the cabbage, adjusting kale, and possibly cutting more floral wire pieces to suit your work in progress. Your end result will be unique, beautiful, and a creative centerpiece that your guests will admire.

Cut the yellow pepper in half lengthwise and remove the stem and seeds. Flatten it out, cut side down, and use a star-shaped coolie cutter to make the tree's star. Insert a toothpick into the top of the tree and slide the star on top as a festive finishing touch.

Place a bowl of your favorite dip next to the tree for guests to enjoy. I've found that most people love to look at this tree and view it as décor although the intent is for them to pull the vegetables off the tree and eat them. A variety of vegetables around the base of the tree on your large platter is a good idea if you wish to use the Christmas Tree Crudite' as décor only. Also, prepare extra vegetables with toothpicks to replace those that guests have eaten during the party when the tree is looking sparse.

General Tips

During the tree building process step back and "eyeball" the tree shape from all angles to make sure you are making a nice, even cone shape. Trim kale or adjust vegetables as necessary.

To make this tree a day in advance, store your tree wrapped in moist paper towels and plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until serving.