A few must-haves as we prepare for the entertaining season, assembled by the consummate host, Christine Sismondo

Need a little diversion today? Sure, we all do. Boris got a majority. To get your mind off that, here’s a handy little seasonal shopping guide for things that we think would be handy to have around the house for the holidays. Good news: This is a two-part series, with ideas for prezzies coming out next week.

In case you haven’t heard, it’s no longer okay to just serve soda water as a non-alcoholic alternative at parties. Fortunately, plenty of new decent non-alcoholic alternatives exist on the market. At my most recent party, Seedlip (the world’s first zero-ABV spirit) and tonic was a hit with people just looking for a break in between drinks, so I’ll be picking up a bottle of the new flavour, Grove 42, for the winter entertaining season. I’ll also add a few bottles of Big Drop Brewery Pale Ale (LCBO 614099; $2.75) and Stout (614107)—probably the best non-alcoholic beers (well, 0.5 percent, to be precise) that have ever been made.

Best of all, Big Drop’s availability at the LCBO means that, while you’re there, you can grab a bottle of Lustau Palo Cortado Peninsula Familiar Dry Sherry (LCBO 748798; $35.95)—one of the few sherries that Adam hasn’t explained in his primer. Palo Cortado is billed as a happy accident, the result of a fino that decided to go its own way and, in the end, wound up being a little more expressive and complex, picking up some nutty and herbal notes. The perfect aperitif.  

Sorry, Bacardi, we gotta disagree here. We prefer a brandy and rye mix.

Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whisky 100 Bottled in Bond is neither new product, nor, at $49.95 (LCBO 230813) as affordable as it once was. The way I see it, though, this spicy, bold staple is still a bargain, especially since it makes a much better classic egg nog than rum. Like, miles better.

Our favourite house bubbly, Parés Baltà Brut Cava, is almost sold out at the LCBO, although we imagine it’s probably still available through private order from Noble Estates. If you just want to pick up a bottle or two, we’d like to point you in the general direction of South African fizz. There are still a few excellent Graham Beck expressions out there (they are all good) and, a boatload of Desiderius Pongrácz Brut Cap Classique Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir (LCBO 404111; $16.95).