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You don't need Martha Stewart's stock options to have options: 'Tis the season when cold streets are empty but warm hearts are full, so what better time to throw a get-together? It's been cold enough even I didn't want to go much further than the liquor store; but thanks to my girlfriend administering a heavy regiment of insomnia, "Good Morning America" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," we'll talk party planning.

When planning a party first decide whether it will be classy or sassy. For the classy, there's little better than mulled wine. So purchase a nice inexpensive red (Zinfandel works well) and proceed.

There are different camps on how to prepare mulled wine, but here's my way. Combine three cups water and one-cup sugar in a stainless steel pot. Collect two to five cinnamon sticks with a one-inch chunk of shaved lemon peel and either cloves or allspice depending on your palate, wrap in cheesecloth and dip in the sugar-water. Boil 10 minutes. Add one bottle wine and bring to coffee temperature, but not a boil. Top with one-fourth cup brandy. Remove the cheesecloth and serve.

For the sassy, how better to warm the cockles of someone's heart than by searing their esophagus; and what better way than Bacardi 151, Puerto Rico's flammable rum. It could explode, in so many ways, but it also makes you forget the cold. So here's how to feel like you're in the islands, or at least sailing away.

Combine one cup 151, one-half cup Myers's dark rum, one-fourth cup Malibu rum, two-and-a-half cups each pineapple and orange juice (no pulp), one-fourth cup lime juice and three tablespoons Grenadine and stir. Garnish with a couple tablespoons of Grand Marnier, fruit juice ice cubes and rum-soaked orange slices and cherries. Just tell guests to pace themselves, or the party will move to a porcelain bowl of a less festive kind.

'Tis the [5] Season(s): If you're willing to travel to bring friends together, might I suggest the Five Seasons Brewing Company. Nestled in Roswell Road's Prado shopping center just within the cusp of the Perimeter, this (micro)brewpub offers an eclectic, erratic food menu, however, their five beer selections are all hand-crafted beauties. Whether in the mood for a Bavarian lager, British pale ale or an Irish stout, they can provide chewy, nutty malt to hoppy, chocolatey roast. But the current draw for me is the Delirium Dubbel, a Belgian Abbey-style brew that's malty but dry, low in bitterness. Sweet -- more like wine than the syrupy character of a lambic -- this russet brew is a crisp, creamy snifter full of aromatic alcohols. Yum.

So keep warm 'til next week, when we recount some of 2003's most memorable events.

Keep one RedEye open. And send all comments, questions, observations and invitations to redeye@creativeloafing.com.

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