Tis the season for eggnog, cocktails and hot cocoa. With summer now a distant memory and December slowly setting in, we’re officially gearing up for all things winter and warming. Our afterwork and weekend tipple choice, changes from the obligatory Aperol Spritz and G&T, to winter warmers such as hot cider and mulled wine.
It’s time to get in the party spirit with festive fizz, classic cocktails and Christmas punch – bottoms up!
On the top of everyone’s festive drinks menu and probably one of the first alcoholic drinks people consume on Christmas Day, is fizz. Whether your go-to is Champagne, Cava, Crémant or Prosecco, we’ve got the ultimate selection to suit all tastes. Our Champagne of choice has to be Duval-Leroy Brut Réserve NV; a Champagne of beautiful refinement and elegance, with flavours of dark chocolate, cinnamon and roasted yellow figs… sublime!
If you sway more towards Prosecco, then opt for 8Cento Prosecco Millesimato 2017. This is perhaps the best value vintage Prosecco around, displaying classic ripe melon, peach and pear aromas.
When it comes to Christmas dinner, what is the first thing that springs to mind? Turkey? Well of course… Christmas would not be Christmas without turkey. It’s been a traditional favourite in the UK and the US since as far back as the 16th century, although it was the Victorians who really cemented its place at the festive lunch table.
With turkey in mind, let’s have a look at what white and red wine we’d recommend to match. Turkey is not a powerful flavoured meat so you need to go for wines that will compliment this flavour and that won’t be too overpowering – either a full-bodied medium white wine or a medium-bodied red. Tannins are a no no with turkey. Abad San Salvador Bierzo Godello 2015 would be our choice of white and Pierre Maiziere Nuits Saint Georges 2014 for the red.
The mighty mains of Christmas doesn’t begin and end with turkey. Lamb is a definite contender, and is best served alongside a bottle of red. The Penley Estate Gryphon Bordeaux Blend 2016 would be the ideal match. White wine with lamb isn’t your usual combination but it doesn’t mean it’s a no go; try a bottle of Laurent Habrard Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2016… delightful!
Sweet wine and Port have to make an appearance around the Christmas table at some point, especially Port. Port and Christmas is one of the greatest things and Cálem 10 Years Old Tawny definitely deserves a seat at the table. Winner of this year’s IWC best in class trophy, Cálem 10 Years Old Tawny is a wine of supreme sophistication, laden with flavours of dried red fruits and gentle spice.
Château Haut-Mayne Sauternes 2015 is the classic sweet wine for the festive season. Made from 100% botryised Sémillon, this has all the typical ripe pineapple, mango and honeyed vanilla notes you would expect from the home of the world’s greatest dessert wines.
If you’re not a huge fan of sweet wine and Port, then you should try The Norfolk Nog – a unique blend of the finest English Whisky Co. Single Malt Whisky and cream, creating a luxurious liqueur full of flavour and perfect served over ice. Or how about The Norfolk PX? The best way to describe this is liquid Christmas pudding in a bottle… enough said!
Beer can’t go unmentioned, especially at this time of the year. The king of all seasonal beers is the winter beer; brewed stronger, richer and more full bodied – bringing with it a far more diverse selection of offerings than any other seasonal beer. It’s a beer lovers dream.
Septem 8th Day India Pale Ale is top on our list – a fresh, unpasteurized beer, characterised by its impressive aromas of tangerine, citrus and lychee. Closely followed by Coedo Beniaka, an imperial amber brewed from roasted Kintoki sweet potatoes, and Hite Ice Point. In South Korea, where Hite originates, it is traditionally served as a J-Beer (Somaek), which is soju mixed with beer. The most popular ratio is 30% Jinro Soju to 70% Hite (maybe save this one until after Christmas dinner!).
Now for the cocktails…
You can sip a Martini any day of the week, but there is something particularly pleasurable about a cocktail designed for a particular time of year. This could simply mean updating your favourite cocktail recipes, by switching your choice of spirit or by adding in flavours of Christmas – such as allspice, cinnamon and clove. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a selection of cocktail recipes designed to beat those winter blues…
60ml Rhum J.M V.O
15ml Shrubb J.M
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Stir and garnish with orange zest… simples!
50ml Whiskey Thief
25ml Contratto Americano Rosso
2 dashes of Bonpland Chocolate & Mace Flower Bitters
Stir and strain into a chilled coupette glass.
Mulled Gin n Juice
1 x bottle of Bobby’s Dry Gin
1 x litre Cloudy apple juice
200g Demerara sugar
6 x Cinnamon sticks
10 x Cloves
2 x Oranges
1 x Lemon
4 x Star anise
Good pinch of nutmeg
Cut the citrus into wheels or chunks, depending on preference. Heat up all the ingredients in a pan or tea urn, stir to dissolve the sugar, and then leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Serve in punch glasses with a piece of orange and a grating of nutmeg to garnish.
Note: if the mix is to be kept warm for an extended time, the spices should be removed once you are happy with the flavour, otherwise it will become astringent.
45ml L.N.Mattei Cap Corse Rouge
45ml François Voyer Cognac Terres de Grande Champagne
5ml Cartron Cacao Blanc
A dash of Absinthe
Stir and strain into a chilled coupette and garnish with an orange twist.
10 x Dried cloves
300ml Pisco 1615 Italia
150ml Freshly squeezed pineapple juice
75ml Freshly squeezed orange juice
75ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
75ml Sugar syrup
75ml Nicolo & Paradis Brut NV
Muddle the cloves in the base of a shaker. Add the next 5 ingredients, shake with ice and strain into a jug. Finally, serve in a coupe glass and top with Champagne. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.
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