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Food & Wine's executive wine editor, Ray Isle, weighs in. 

Elisabeth Sherman
October 19, 2017

Around this time of year, the pressure to throw the perfect Thanksgiving dinner celebration or Christmas party starts to mount. If you’re one of those people who has committed to hosting, you’ve probably started planning your menu, cleaning the clutter out of your house, and mentally preparing yourself to face your family. One of the key ingredients to making your holiday party goes off without a hitch? Make sure people always have a full glass.

Food & Wine has gathered together the essentials for your drinks table or bar cart at your next holiday gathering: The wine you need to have on hand, the best way to serve cocktails, and a couple more supplies that will make the night just a little bit easier. With so many different types of drinks, recipes, and types of wine out there, sifting through all your options can be a chore. Let us help you take on the task with ease, with our picks for everything you need to make your holiday drinks table the centerpiece of your party.

The drinks

Food & Wine’s executive wine editor Ray Isle says that bubbles are a must. Whatever you choose, from Prosecco to Champagne to Cava, make sure you have several bottles on hand, to lend the evening a celebratory feel.

We’ve recommended this affordable sparkling wine, a mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, for it’s “creamy and full-bodied,” flavors.

Courtesy of Wine.com

Scharffenberger Brut Excellence, $18 on wine.com

This champagne made our list of 10 top affordable champagnes for it’s “clean and bright,” taste.

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Ayala Brut Majeur, $40 on wine.com

If you’d rather serve cocktails, Isle says that you should make something that can be served in large batches, like these holiday punches or these make-ahead cocktails, perfect for holiday entertaining.

“If you have to mix each drink one at a time, you’ll spend the entire evening being a bartender rather than a host. Plus people love the idea of a special cocktail for a party,” Isle explains.

Our Boulevardier recipe, which serves eight people, is made with bourbon. Knob Creek, one of our essential bourbons for your liquor cabinet, fits perfectly in this cocktail.

Even Knob Creek’s bourbon contains a strong dose of rye, so it’s no surprise their own rye whiskey has a real bite to it. At 100 proof, it’s aggressive but pleasant, the barrel flavor robust, the spicy-fruity personality of rye shining through. $35

Try it: With ginger ale

Courtesy of Beam Suntory

Knob Creek bourbon whiskey, $20 on amazon.com

A Christmas sangria, which you can serve in a punch bowl, letting people ladle their own drinks throughout the night, works too. Food & Wine has a guide on how to pick the perfect wine for your sangria. The main takeaway, however, is that whichever wine you choose should be “inexpensive, fruity and tastes good on its own,” like a Monastrell, which has “darker fruit flavors and black peppery notes.”

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Genio Espanol Monastrell Roble, $14 on wine.com

But even if you do put together a special cocktail just for the occasion, some people will always want the basics. How can you accommodate everyone? Simple, just make sure there are bottles of both red and white wines available. 

Some people will always want white, no matter what you serve, and some people will always want red, so having both on hand is a very good idea,” says Isle.

In our holiday guide to Cabernet Sauvignon, Isle called out this one by Josh Cellars as a favorite for big holiday parties where you might need to stock up on several bottles.

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Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, $15 on wine.com

This Riesling is also among Isle’s picks for white wines you can get for a value for the holidays.

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Nine Hats Riesling, $15 on wine.com

The supplies

Once the table is stocked, you’ll need a few more supplies to serve your drinks and make them last.

A serving bowl

Courtesy of Amazon

Party Essentials 12-quart Embossed Punch Bowl, $35 on amazon.com

Reusable cups

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Tossware 14-ounce recyclable, shatterproof plastic wine cups, $12 on amazon.com

A reliable corkscrew

Courtesy of Amazon

Pulltap's Double-Hinged Waiters Corkscrew, $10 on amazon.com

Champagne bottle sealers

Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

Champagne Stopper, $17 on williams-sonoma.com

The last—and very important—item you should never forget to keep stock at your drinks table, according to Isle?

“Ice. Lots of ice.”