The Drinks Blogger NI

12 Drinks of Christmas

by Emma Haughian, brand manager, United Wines

With the Christmas celebrations already in full flight, we tend to all say ‘oh it just gets earlier every year’ but, as members of the hospitality industry, who are we to complain?

As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy for festivities to begin as soon as possible! Why not? I love this time of year; it’s a chance to get into the festive spirit and enjoy valuable time with friends and family.

Whether you’re warming up customers who visit your bar, or preparing tasty drinks at home for Aunty Ann and Uncle Paul for their annual visit, these 12 drinks of Christmas are sure to keep the holidays, and your guests, buzzing.

1) Let’s start with bubbles; if ever there was a time to pop open your favourite Champagne, Christmas is it (well maybe roll out the cheap stuff for Aunty Ann and Uncle Paul, sure they won’t mind).
Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill Brut 2008 is described as Champagne with a rich nose with notes of white flowers and freshly baked brioche, dried fruits and toasted almonds and hazelnuts, and a hint of orange zest.
For me, this will be the perfect Christmas morning drink. Who am I kidding? I will be running around lifting ripped up wrapping paper and prepping the turkey but I can always dream!
In the words of Sir Winston Churchill: “My tastes are simple, I am easily satisfied with the best”. So I will be saving and savouring this one for a time when I can have peace to enjoy it.

Using all of my WSET level 2 knowledge, I recommend the below wines to pair with your Christmas dinner:

2) For starters we will be going with the old faithful smoked salmon and prawns, and Freixenet Prosecco is the perfect accompaniment; clean and fresh on the palate with tonnes of ripe lemon, green apple and grapefruit.

3) Tannin is the enemy and acidity is your friend when it comes to Christmas turkey with all the trimmings. Too much tannin will overpower the meat and your taste buds and acidity can help to balance the range of flavours on the Christmas dinner table. Therefore, Pinot Noir is the perfect pairing as it has a fresh, light palette and red berry notes. I recommend Carmen Pinot Noir. It is complex and balanced, has great character with hints of coffee and nutmeg or Joseph Drouhin ‘La Foret’ Bourgogne Pinot Noir which is pleasant, fruity and refreshing, with light tannins and great elegance.

4) If you go against the traditional turkey dinner and chose beef or lamb, a good pairing choice would be Shiraz and McGuigan Handmade Shiraz or the popular McGuigan Black Label Shiraz would be a great choice as it over delivers on quality.

5) Christmas is all about tradition and port is synonymous with this time of year and steeped in history. I recommend Taylors 10 Year Old as it is an exceptionally fine old tawny blend, aged for an average of 10 years in oak casks. Elegant and smooth, combining delicate wood notes and rich mellow fruit, it is bottled for immediate drinking. Serve this after Christmas dinner with soft cheeses such as brie. It would also make the perfect gift for Uncle Paul as it comes in a beautiful presentation box.

6) Orchard Thieves Mulled Wine
Time, I think, for something warming. Few alcoholic drinks are served hot for the straightforward reason that much of the all-important alcohol can evaporate – the angel’s share, as the distillers call it, can be all of it. But one drink, or class of drinks, is by definition consumed this way – mulled cider, wine or ale.
This recipe uses Orchard Thieves (our favourite) as the base and I can assure you that when heated together, the smell will fill your house (or bar/restaurant) with the most glorious smell that will give you all the Christmas feels.

Recipe (enough to host a large party):
Makes 4 Litres (20 x 200ml cups)
– 8 x 500ml Orchard Thieves Cider
– 6 x Sachets of Mulled spice mix (6x3g) (can be bought in most supermarkets)
– 8 x Teaspoons of sugar
Stir well, bring to the boil and simmer (Sachets can be removed if the spice has reached desired intensity). Garnish with a squeeze of orange, and a clove studded orange slice.

7) Cream liquor is also a Christmas drinks cabinet essential. O’Neill’s Country Cream is a blend of the freshest Irish Cream from Co Tipperary with natural flavours to create a delicious Irish Country Cream Liqueur. Enjoy it straight, over ice, in coffee or with your favourite dessert.

8) Another trend showing no sign of slowing down is that of coffee based cocktails. The Pogues Single Malt Irish Whiskey is the perfect companion to coffee, in the conventional Irish Coffee, and really shines in this variation in the ever popular espresso martini.
The nutty notes of the whiskey shine through for a luxurious after dinner drink.

Recipe:
50ml The Pogues Single Malt Irish Whiskey
15ml Frangelico
35ml espresso*
15ml salted caramel syrup
25ml double cream
Shake & strain into martini coupe or vintage teacup, garnish with grated chocolate.
*If you don’t have access to fresh espresso, most brands now offer a good instant espresso you can make at home, or you can use chilled ready to drink coffee, now readily available.

9) With gin still very much top of many’s a Christmas list, a twist on the classic Tom Collins is a refreshing alternative to the G and T. Whitley Neill’s Blackberry gin adds an appropriately festive feel; however, the beauty of the Collins is you can substitute in your favourite variant.

Recipe:
50ml Whitley Neill Blackberry Gin
25ml lemon juice
15ml sugar syrup
Top with soda
Stir and serve over ice with a slice of lemon and some berries.’

10) Let’s not forget about beer. Birra Moretti is a great beer to enjoy with food, especially Italian food. You know that time inbetween Christmas and New Year when no one knows what day it is and we can no longer look at another turkey sandwich? This is the perfect beer for those pizza nights out or in with friends – salute (diet starts in January)!

11) No Christmas drinks list would be complete without a Hot Toddy and I just love the story behind this one from Muff. The recipe was inspired by owner Laura Bonner’s grandfather; there is an illustration of him on the back of the Muff Gin and Vodka bottles. Philip made his poitin using brandyball sweets, so they made a Christmas cocktail using brandyball syrup in honour of him known as Granda McClenaghan’s Hot Toddy.

Recipe:
35ml Muff gin
15ml Brandy Ball Syrup
2/3 dashes of Angostura bitters
Topped with hot water & garnished with orange and cloves.

12) In my house there is always a coin toss to decide who is the designated driver but now there are great zero alcohol options which make the family karaoke nights that little bit more bearable.
When I tried Heineken 0.0 alongside the original beer, I could not tell them apart, which is a testament to the immense amount of research, effort and resources Heineken put into crafting what it – and many consumers around the world – consider the best available alcohol-free lager.

After all of the over indulgence of Christmas, I also know that it will be my drink of choice for dry January… but let’s not talk about that now there are too many festive celebrations to look forward to!
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year! Cheers.

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