The presents are wrapped, the turkey is ordered, the house is decorated and the in-laws are on their way, but what about the drinks? Tempted to buy some blue curaçao or crème de menthe, just in case one guest demands an obscure, lurid looking cocktail? Belvoir Fruit Farms has joined forces with drinks expert Joanna Simon to help you develop the ideal Christmas Cabinet to keep all your guests happy while avoiding being left with a cupboard full of sickly liqueurs come Twelfth Night!
Joanna Simon explains: “It may sound counter-intuitive, but your Christmas drinks cabinet should be personal. If you try to make it please everyone, you’ll end up with a) optional paralysis each time you face the sea of esoteric bottles, b) a welter of weird drinks at the end of the festivities, and c) you can never, anyway, guard against someone asking for hemp-seed vodka or wasabi gin. That said, there’s no point in stocking up on all your personal favourites unless they’re made for each other.”
Here is Joanna’s hit list.
- Gin – fashionable, brilliant in cocktails, a classic simple reviver with tonic or Belvoir Elderflower Pressé.
- Vodka – a more neutral base than gin, so it can be dressed up any number of ways, as simply or as elaborately as you like. If you’re a fan of ginger, try vodka and Belvoir Ginger Beer with a squeeze of lime.
- Whisky or whiskey – it doesn’t have to be Scotch: consider ringing the changes with Irish, Japanese, bourbon or rye.
- Sparkling white wine – Champagne, Prosecco, Saumur, or whatever suits your taste and budget. Try adding a Belvoir cordial such as Elderflower, or Blueberry & Blackcurrant, or Spiced Apple & Ginger, instead of crème de cassis.
- Dry white vermouth – not on everyone’s must-have list, but if you make cocktails this is the most flexible vermouth. You can always add a dash of elderflower cordial to sweeten it.
- Belvoir Elderflower Cordial – for an endless array of cocktails and mocktails, or just with soda or sparkling water for drivers, children, or pregnant women.
- Orange liqueur – it doesn’t have to be orange if you have another favourite, but orange liqueurs are versatile and popular.
- Aromatic bitters – in many ways it doesn’t matter too much which one you choose, but I find peach or Angostura the most useful (and they’re also good in cooking, if you want to use up the bottle).
- Sloe gin – no, not essential, but I always have it in at Christmas. Top up with Belvoir Elderflower Pressé or Cox Apple Pressé for a refreshing long drink.
- Rum, white or dark, or Tequila, or Cognac (or other brandy) – again, only essential if it’s your favoured drink or that of a guest, or you know you want it for cocktails.
It may seem obvious, but you can’t have too much ice. Stock up on lemons and limes for fresh juice, peel, wedges and slices – you’ll need more than you think.
Remember garnishes: keep them simple, fresh and natural – cinnamon sticks, lemon grass, cranberries as well as the more obvious citrus fruits, mint and cucumber (yes, mint and cucumber even in winter).
Now you’ve got the perfect Christmas Drinks Cabinet, you can indulge in these two delicious Cocktails developed by Joanna:
- 2 fresh mint leaves, plus a small sprig to garnish
- 25ml sloe gin
- 25ml vodka
- 5ml (1 teaspoon) fresh lime juice
- 5ml (1 teaspoon) Belvoir Elderflower Cordial
- 50ml Belvoir Cox Apple Pressé
- Twist of lime peel
- Glass: Highball
- Put four cubes of ice (or to taste) in the glass
- Add two of the mint leaves
- Then all the liquids, ending with the Cox Apple Pressé.
- Garnish with the mint sprig and twist of lime peel
- Add another teaspoon of elderflower cordial if you want it sweeter.