Now I’m going to get straight to the point… Christmas is a time for enjoying a drink. On Christmas Day we’re whipping out the bucks fizz with breakfast and by 10pm we’re rummaging around for cranberry juice to make a round of Cosmopolitans. So in the spirit (yep, I went there) of ‘eat, drink and be merry’ I thought I’d do the hard job of sampling a few drinks that you can enjoy throughout the festive period.
We’ll start with the perfect accompaniment to wrapping all your loved ones’ presents… gin. A dash of gin in a big glass of tonic along with some choice garnishes makes any occasion all the more special!
I love the taste of Cooper King’s Berry and Basil Gin Liqueur with a light tonic, and being a liqueur it is only 25% volume compared to the standard 40%, meaning you can have a couple of glasses while remaining of sound mind to complete the task in hand. Cooper King also has a selection of Dry London gins and a wonderful herb gin which goes beautifully with a stick of rosemary and orange slices.
I also tried some of 58Gin’s flavours. This is a brand that has the environment at the forefront of its production, from using wonky apples rejected by supermarkets to their eco friendly packaging and recycled glass bottles. And the gin tastes good too! I enjoyed their slowly distilled London dry gin over some raspberries, blackberries, cranberries and crushed ice, perfect for curling up by the warm fire and watching Miracle on 34th street for the 5th time this week.
Next we’ll think about Christmas eve and the perfect drink to enjoy once the house is quiet. The kids are in bed, the streets are silent as everyone settles down to await Mr Claus, now is the perfect time to enjoy something truly indulgent…
Rome de Bellegarde has garnered a reputation for the highest standard of excellence, specialising in limited edition collections which have been established as ‘the most expensive cognac in the world’. Stored in new casks for 3-5 years, it is then matured in traditional oak barrels for as many as 30 years, resulting in a richness and complexity rarely found anywhere else in the world. The smell as I opened the bottle took me straight back to visiting Cognac a few years ago, the woody, earthy smell mixed with vanilla producing a scent that makes me feel all warm inside.
Rome De Bellegarde Xo Limited Edition tastes like luxury itself: refined, bold, exciting and so delicious that you savour every mouthful. At £3,000 a bottle you’ll be savouring every drop, but it is Christmas, so if you’re going to indulge, you might as well do it properly…
Now for that first drink on Christmas Day, and what better than a glass of fizz?
Some people claim they don’t like champagne or prosecco but I think their minds could be changed with The Wine Society’s Bellini case. Containing a bottle of the Society’s signature prosecco, which on its own is dry, light and refreshing with citrus and apple aromas, the set comes with two bottles of nectars to create thirst quenching cocktails to get the day off to a great start.
I tried the Van Nahmen white peach nectar first and was delighted by the slightly sweet flavour of the peach mixed in with the bubbles. But my surprise favourite was the rhubarb nectar, a refreshingly bitter sweet combination that is incredibly moreish. The perfect bubbly to celebrate the best day of the year.
We now come to the most important part of the day… Christmas Dinner. No other meal throughout the year is more hotly anticipated than this quintessentially British feast. It would therefore be rude not to pair it with an equally special wine and for these we turn to a big business, Knightsbridge stalwart Harvey Nichols and a deserving small business, online wine company Perfect Cellar, who believes great wines should be an affordable luxury made accessible to everyone.
I made a roast dinner to just make sure these wines went well with the flavours (I say that but really I just wanted an excuse to make pigs in blankets a month before Christmas). For the main I thought the Harvey Nichols Bordeaux Supérieur 2018; rich, powerful and fruity, this award winning wine (which is also vegan and sustainably produced) goes perfectly with the vast combination of flavours in a roast. Or from Perfect Cellar the Bénédicte Jonchère Grand Réserve Brut Champagne NV; soft and plump, it has a real nutty character with a balanced and fruity finish and the creamy citrusy finish of English lemon posset, perfect the balance the richness of the roasties and cranberry sauce.
For the dessert I chose Bollinger Special Cuvée 007 Limited Edition Champagne NV which is biscuity and toasty on the nose. The Special Cuvée suggests notes of toffee, orange peel, pear and hazelnut which I think is a match made in heaven with Christmas pudding. Or the Lombardi Cuvée Anthèse Brut Rosé Champagne NV an impressive wine that was awarded 91 Points by Wine Spectator and you can really taste why. It’s bright, refreshing and fruity with a taste and texture of pomegranate, ably supported by a crisp acidity. This would go better with a cheese platter or indulgent chocolate yule log. It is worth nothing both champagnes from Perfect Cellar are available in a gift set of 3 different bottles which also saves on buying them separately.
Now we’ve reached that part of the day where everyone’s food has settled, the Fortnum & Mason’s box of chocolates is being passed around and everyone wants something with a little more kick to make the game of charades more entertaining.
Welcome Jose Cuervo tequila to the party and prepare some frozen cocktails to really wow your guests. There’s many on their website you can try but my favourites were the Cinnamon Apple Margarita and the Frozen Cuervo Margarita using Jose Cuervo Especial Silver and Island Spice using Jose Cuervo Especial Gold (yes don’t worry I did plenty of research on this one to find my favourites!). I would recommend you make these in large batches so you do not become a bartender for the whole evening.
And for those who like their drinks without a lot of fuss, give them a cold glass of Jose Cuervo 1800 Tequila Blanco Silver, this is a smooth, slightly spicy Tequila, with a hint of vanilla and a mellow finish. Delicious.
Now it would be unfair to ignore those among us who have chosen not to drink alcohol, so thankfully there is a wonderful product I have discovered from Butler and Brewer that lets you look and feel like you’re part of the festivities.
At under 5 calories per serving and with no added sweeteners, their tonic enhancers are the perfect addition to any kind of tonic. I really liked the Elderflower, Cucumber and Apple flavour (which went really well with the herb gin from Cooper King) but I was blown away by the Rasberry, Basil and Lime flavour which really are the perfect combination of flavours. It brings a light, fruity taste to the tonic without feeling too overpowering.
They also work really well with plain gin and tonic so if you have a guest who insists on 3 different garnishes and only flavoured tonics, then these are perfect to have in your arsenal.
And if you’re still standing by this point I recommend having something to eat before bed, so how about a mince pie or brownie from award winning online cake shop Jack and Beyond?
Delivering fresh cakes throughout the UK, Jack and Beyond’s cakes are a taste sensation that remind you of your grandma’s baking as a child. Huge slices of decadent milk chocolate brownies are packaged beautifully along with Red Velvet brownies that I never knew I needed in my life until now. Their fist-sized mince pies are filled to the brim with deliciously spiced mincemeat and surrounded by sweet, flaky pastry that are a true taste of the season. Truly delicious bakes and a great way to support a small business. Also great with a nightcap sip of Baileys if you can stomach it . . .
Now it’s time to drink a pint of water, take off your makeup and find the spare bed sheets for the sofa bed for Uncle Ken…
Now we come to Boxing Day, a more relaxed affair where perhaps those who couldn’t make Christmas Day pop in to say hello (as long as they are in your bubble of course!)
Settle them into their seats with a Scotch, or perhaps present them with the gift of a Smokehead Skull Gift Tin, which includes the Smokehead core range in miniature bottles. For sitting by the fire while laughing about all the times we’ve missed together this year I’d recommend the Smokehead Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, with immense smoke and notes of sea salt and spice, this is a vigorous whisky that stands out from the crowd.
Or perhaps if you have a loved one who knows their single malts from their bourbon, the gift of a membership to The Scotch Malt Whiskey Society would be a more practical gift that they can enjoy throughout the year? They’d have access to exclusive Members’ Rooms, partner bar discounts, colourful tasting events, whisky education and a monthly members magazine.
So cheers to a wonderful Christmas!
Please remember to drink responsibly.