Christmas brunch can be a civilized way to celebrate the season, not as frantic as Christmas Eve or as fraught with familial tensions as Christmas Dinner.
It's also an excellent time to break out the light but festive cocktails that can elevate brunch from a cooked breakfast to a real occasion.
Jackson Cannon, owner of The Hawthorne bar in Boston, considers Christmas brunch "the perfect time for cocktails because you've survived the present-opening chaos and the kids will be entertained for hours with all their new toys, so now the attention can be turned back to important matters, like carefully-crafted beverages."
He advises keeping the drinks light since there's heavy food and sweets in abundance. Champagne cocktails with a touch of cognac, calvados or American brandy can give you the flavor of those wintery spirits at an alcohol content that won't end your day too early.
One drink he likes is yule tide bulles (French for bubbles), which is one part cognac, one part Benedictine, one part fresh lemon juice, one part grenadine and one part cool filtered water.
You start this drink the night before, mixing everything together and then pouring it into a pitcher or bottle that is then refrigerated. When ready, stir the ingredients vigorously for a moment and pour into Champagne flutes, filling the glass halfway. Top with Champagne, prosecco or cava and garnish with a small twist of lemon on top. This basic approach will work for a number of cocktails but with these particular ingredients you get the holiday bonus of a rich poinsettia color.
At the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco, Christmas is a big deal featuring a lavish gingerbread house on display in the lobby. This year, the house is more than 20 feet high, made with 7,500 gingerbread bricks and 1,200 pounds of royal icing. It even features a room inside where children can write a letter to Santa.
Executive chef jW Foster, who is Canadian, has introduced Inniskillin icewine, a dessert wine made from grapes that have been frozen on the vine, that is made in the Niagara Peninsula winegrowing region. The wine can be served straight or mixed with vodka for an easy martini.
Some see breakfast as an all-day occasion.
Ronnie Cox, brand heritage director for The Glenrothes whisky company has come up with the speyside breakfast - 1.5 ounces Glenrothes Select Reserve, half an ounce of apple brandy, 1 ounce of cream, half an ounce of maple syrup and a dash of simple syrup, to be shaken over ice, strained into a chilled glass and garnished with freshly grated cinnamon.
It works as an after-dinner dram that "brings to mind contemplation, excellent company and relaxation - perfect for the holidays," he says.
Want to try your own Christmas cocktails? Here are two seasonal recipes.
•1 ounce vodka
•1/2 ounce triple sec
•1 ounce cranberry juice
•1 ounce cherry juice
•2 to 3 fresh raspberries
•Brut Champagne or sparkling wine
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and cherry juice. Shake, then strain into a sparkling wine flute. Drop the raspberries into the glass, then top with Champagne.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 190 calories; 0 calories from fat (0 percent of total calories); 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 10 mg sodium.
Chilly pear tree
To freeze the pears for this recipe, buy the canned pear halves in syrup, drain them, cut them into chunks, then arrange them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Freeze, then transfer to a plastic bag until needed.
Start to finish: 5 minutes
•3 canned light syrup-packed pear halves, cut into chunks and frozen
•8 ounces pear syrup (from the can)
•4 ounces vodka
•1 ounce lemon juice
•2 sprigs fresh rosemary, to garnish
In a blender, combine all ingredients except the rosemary and puree until very smooth. Serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish each glass with a rosemary sprig.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 250 calories; 0 calories from fat (0 percent of total calories); 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 31 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 3 g fiber; 130 mg sodium.