Festive gins and cocktails at Christmas '“ an expert's guide
You've got yourÂ party garb on and the mistletoe optimistically displayed, but the importance of choosing the right drink at Christmas can't be overstated.
Juniper juice is more popular than ever, here illustrated by our "which gin best fits your personality" timely quiz and potted history of the seasonal spirit dating back to Middle Ages.
There are all manner of delicious ways to utilise it. From festive flavours to inventive concoctions, here’s what should be in your glass during the Christmas season, according to The Gin Shelf blogger Matt Burton.
Warming drinks and cocktails:
Mulled Sloe Gin: Improve upon mulled wine by simmering cloudy apple juice, lemon juice, a cinnamon stick, a dash of orange bitters, 1 orange, 3 cloves and 3 cardamom pods on the hob for 20 minutes. Pour into a glass and stir in your Sloe gin. A real winter warmer.
Burton’s Festive ‘Very Berry Bellini’: A Christmas morning tradition in the Burton household, take 1 teaspoon of Strawberry jam, 1 measure of Sloe gin and shake with ice. Strain into a flute and top up with Champagne. Garnish with raspberries or blueberries.
Gin Alexander: Forget the ‘Snow Ball’. Instead, grab a double measure of gin, a measure of single cream and half a measure of chocolate syrup. Shake with ice, strain into a fancy glass and garnish with nutmeg.
Chocolate Orange Gin & Tonic: Get down to Hotel Chocolat and grab a bottle of their Cocoa Gin. Served with a chunk of orange, this is a Chocolate Orange in a glass. At £4, their 50ml option is a great stocking filler.
Sipsmith Sloe Gin: Trust me, this one is fantastic. Sipsmith have always been creative pioneers and still believe in ‘small batch’ producing (impressive for a brand of their stature). This a rich and full bodied Sloe gin, with huge aromas of cooked cherries and strawberries, supported by tones of cinnamon and vanilla.
Those hefty dark red fruits and cassis carry through to the taste, with an initial citrus sharpness replaced by a warming, liquor like spice. It’s velvet smooth, and suggestive of an indulgent desert.
Amazing sipped neat over ice, or as part of a ‘Sloe Gin Fizz’. Alternatively, mix with Fevertree Sicilian Lemon Tonic for stunning results. Where to buy: Selected Supermarkets or www.sipsmith.com Price: Around £24
Top tip: Sipsmith’s ‘Mince Pie’ gin is also well worth a mention. But you’ll need to move quickly. Limited edition 90ml bottles (£20) have been flying off the website since November.
Sacred ‘Christmas Pudding’ gin: It sounds crazy. And it probably is. But that’s what happens when you infuse gin with an 8kg Christmas pudding.
You’ll pick up delicious scents of boozy currents and dark mulled fruits. There is a syrupy sweetness on the pallet, with suggestions of vanilla and brandy, perfectly balanced against spiced fruits, giving a warming and long lasting finish.
And it genuinely does taste of Christmas pudding, and that’s part of the fun. This gin is an absolute triumph. While garnishing with custard may seem tempting, a more traditional cinnamon stick makes for a far better G&T. I’d suggest using this in a festive Martini for best results. Where to buy: www.masterofmalt.com or www.sacredspiritscompany.com Price: Around £34.
Edinburgh Christmas Gin: Bearing gifts of Frankincense & Myrrh; both have been infused into this very clever gin. There are herbal and root spices to the aroma, suggesting a powerful heat, with liquorice and ginger dominating proceedings. But mixed with tonic, this gin transforms.
It’s not overpowering in the slightest and is a lot sweeter than you’d expect. The earthy liquorice of the Myrrh and citrus and pine qualities of the Frankincense combine to deliver a winter wonderland taste of cloved oranges, blended with aniseed and vanilla. There’s even a hint of liquorice allsorts on the pallet.
Sophisticated, smart and exciting, it’s a Christmas must-have. Paired perfectly with Fevertree tonic, you’ll want to use an orange garnish. Where to buy: John Lewis or www.edinburghgindistillery.co.uk Price: £35
Top tip: Gin Christmas Crackers will liven up your lunch, and provide a very welcome gift inside. No longer must you suffer the fate of finding another flimsy padlock. There’s six crackers, each containing a dram of gin. Pull these with care. Where to buy: www.masterofmalt.com Price: Around £40.