I am such a fan of the after-dinner drink. Sure, you've had your bubbly to start, and your red wine with the meal, but hopefully you've saved a little room for a digestif, a hot tipple to round off the meal and smooth your way into the evening.
For our small, swanky Thanksgiving menu, I knew I wanted just such a drink, leaving something warm in guests' hands as they lingered around the table, talking into the evening. And the right book fell into my lap the moment I needed it. Here is the winter cocktail you're waiting for: A hot cranberry punch from Maria del Mar Sacasa, author of Winter Cocktails.
This drink is sweet, herbal, and a little spicy around the edges. It's made of cranberries simmered with honey and a bottle of the driest inexpensive Riesling you can find. Sage leaves give it a tonic aroma, and Benedictine — a classic liqueur with notes of sweet herbs and citrus — rounds it out. As you can see, the color is gorgeous.
I served it in small cups for sipping slowly at the end of the meal. After dessert, it's a wonderful way to extend your time at the table.
But it's not just a digestif; I'm thinking about making this as a nightcap in the dark winter months. Its bright color and strong, hot sweetness would be very welcome in February, don't you think?
Place peppercorns in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add cranberries, honey, and 1 cup Riesling and simmer over medium heat until thick and syrupy and some of the liquid has evaporated, about 7 minutes.
Smash cranberries with a fork. Add the remaining wine and sage, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain the mixture, smashing the cranberries once more, then discard solids. (At this point the strained mixture can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
To serve, add the Benedictine liqueur and warm over low heat until steaming. Serve in warm cups.