A dinner is only as good as what you pair with it, some may say. And while wine has traditionally been the beverage of choice, craft beer, cider and spirits now are finding a place at the table.
As you look to prepare your holiday menu, serve festive drinks at a party, or select a special bottle for someone on your gift list, find inspiration here.
Situated among the Great Lakes, Michigan is ideally suited for growing grapes. Even as the first snow falls and the temperatures drop, a new opportunity arises for harvesting frozen fruit to craft a unique libation called “ice wine.” The process is risky and time consuming, but the rewards are sweet — like 42 Ice Wine from Fenn Valley Vineyards (fennvalley.com) in Fennville. Available in a 375ml “split” bottle, the nose and taste is of ripe peaches, mangos, apricots, raisins and a hint of honey.
The pine-esque aroma and flavor of juniper makes gin an appropriate liquor to celebrate the holiday spirit, and several are crafted in Michigan — including Bilberry Black Hearts Organic Gin from Journeyman Distillery (journeymandistillery.com) in Three Oaks. Often referred to as a “black-heart” in 19th century England, this hard-to-grow berry is a cousin to the huckleberry and blueberry. Bilberry joins juniper and seven other botanicals in this small-batch gin that finishes with a touch of black licorice.
Dexter-based North Peak Beer Co. (northpeakbeer.com) celebrates the enchanting lore of the Northern Magical Wood Elf with Blitzen Festivus Ale. Reminiscent of savory holiday cakes, this beer offers flavors of raisin, currant and berry notes, along with a hint of citrus and subtle spiciness. Forgo the glass of milk this year and treat Santa to a bottle of Blitzen with his gingerbread or sugar cookies.
Warm yourself from the inside out with Winterruption Farmhouse Hard Cider from J.K.’s Scrumpy (organicscrumpy.com). This lightly spiced organic cider is blended with ethically traded cinnamon, vanilla and a drop of syrup from the old maple trees on the family’s Flushing farm. Serve this flavorful, slightly effervescent cider chilled or heated, with a few cloves and cinnamon sticks for added flair.
Whether you’re looking to welcome guests as they arrive or toast them at the end of the evening, bubbles are the way to go. Suttons Bay’s Larry Mawby is regarded as the premier sparkling winemaker in Michigan, with a vast portfolio under L. Mawby and M. Lawrence brands (lmawby.com). From brut to semi-dry to sweet, there’s something to please any palate, such as the crisp, tropical Green, the full-bodied Conservancy or the smooth, jazzy Fizz.
— Tai Alexander, Michigan BLUE Magazine.
For more on Michigan craft beverages:
Michigan Wine Council:
Michigan Craft Distillers Association:
Michigan Cider Association: