Welcome to my Mega Christmas Drinks Guide 2015! This time of year, I always want everything a little extra-special. I want cocktails instead of cider, I want slow coffee instead of instant and I want everyone who comes through my door to feel pampered.
We have 13 people coming for Christmas this year – the first Christmas in our new house. So I’ve already dusted off the vintage drinks trolley (a folding 1940s number from my husband’s gran), and I’ve been collecting everything I need to make every drink a treat – from coffee, tea and matcha, to gin, whiskey and wine.
Alcoholic Christmas Drinks Guide
Opihr Oriental Spice Gin (Morrisons, £22) is said to have the exotic intensity of the ancient spice route. It is flavoured with cubebs from Indonesia, black pepper from India & coriander from Morocco, hand-picked to create a unique spiced gin. Opihr (pronounced o-peer) has sharp bursts of citrus, while notes of cumin and cardamom provide a warm earthy background balanced with the grapefruit peel. I really like this gin, as it has such a great depth of aromas and makes a gin and tonic extra special with so many spices and botanicals. It’s perfect for Christmas cocktails: try it as a G&T with a slice of ginger, or mixed with ginger ale instead of tonic. It’s also lovely in a Bloody Mary – and we may all need one of those on Boxing Day.
Feeney’s Irish Cream Liqueur (Tesco, £10) is a very luxurious example made in the traditional way with real Irish dairy cream from Country Laois, rich chocolate and aged Irish whiskey. I love Irish cream liqueur at Christmas, on its own over ice, as well as in a Pumpkin Spice Latte or for an extra-decadent hot chocolate by the fire. It’s also amazing in a cheesecake or tiramisu!
Feeney’s has just been awarded the prestigious SIP Platinum Best in Class 2015 Award – as judged by consumers.
I had a blind taste test the other night with friends and by far everyone preferred Feeney’s to that ‘other brand of Irish cream’. This one is more chocolatey and richer but at the same time more subtle. Try it.
The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Waitrose, £38)
This is an absolutely beautiful single malt whisky. It’s crafted by malt master Gordon Motion who describes it’s character as “mellow, soft fruits, citrus and honey.” They’ve combined ten of the finest vintages from Glenrothes into one shining example.
Interestingly, this whisky was first tasted at the world’s largest Burn’s night supper. What sets it apart is that instead of bottling the whiskey based on age, The Glenrothes’ whiskies marry the finest whiskies of a particular year and bottle it as soon as they are ready.
Of this whisky, Glenrothes says, “The combination of different Vintages aged in a variety of casks creates a balanced whisky with mature experience and vibrant youth: the most venerable constituent (a full 25 years old) is Vintage 1989, bringing mellow oak and dried fruits; the greatest proportion is Vintage 1998, adding soft, mature, sweet vanilla; the more youthful vintages add exuberance and lemon citrus notes.”
This would be a very welcome gift for any singe malt whisky fan or as a wonderful host gift. My husband and I savoured this complex yet mellow whisky on a cold night by a roaring fire and again last night. I really look forward to sharing it with friends and family over Christmas to see what everyone thinks of it.
Whitley Neill Gin (Sainsbury’s, £21.99)
Award-winning Whitley Neill Gin is softer than most other gins and is smooth with rich juniper, citrus and exotic spices. It has a long finish with a subtle fade of herbs, cocoa and candied lemon peels. Made in England, it is small batch distilled and inspired by Africa (via botanicals including baobab).
It isn’t harsh at all, so is really nice neat with ice, but also great in cocktails. We’re going to have it over Christmas with apple juice and cloudy lemonade, served with slices of orange and ice.
The Wild Geese Irish Honey Liqueur (Amazon, £25 ) is a blend of smooth premium Irish Whiskey and a 100% pure natural honey from the green fields of Tipperary and Kilkenny. This is a flavourul, easy drinking whiskey is lovely on it’s own with a little ice or in a cocktail. There’s no harshness when it’s served as a shot and it is very drinkable – even for those who don’t think they’re whiskey fans. You can even make it into a Whiskey Parfait!
Wild Geese says, “Lifted aromas of honey and spice expertly integrated to give a multi layered complex palate and a long lasting finish.”
This is amazing as a winter punch and perfect for a hot toddy. All of my guests at Christmas will be trying a Ginger and Honey cocktail: 1 part The Wild Geese Irish Honey Liqueur mixed long over ice, with 3 parts ginger ale – it’s really really nice. Though it it’s cold out, I’ll serve it with hot apple juice and winter spices as an alternative to mulled wine.
Tequila Rose (DrinksDirect, £15) is a premium Mexican tequila blended with real strawberry flavoured cream liqueur. It isn’t overly sweet and definitely smells and tastes of strawberry – a bit like strawberry cream in chocolates, or a strawberry Irish cream liqueur, but with a kick from the tequila! It’s really easily drinkable on it’s own, chilled, but you can also mix it with milk into a naughty milkshake, or layer it in a shot with chocolate liqueur.
Bluebeard’s Revenge make a large range of barbershop quality men’s toiletries which are all paraben free and aren’t tested on animals. I like that it has a fab macho-hipster exterior, but inside the amusing packaging there are messages and advice from the charity Orchid about fighting male cancer. The toiletries range is available at many stockists including Asos (from £5).
Why is it in a drinks guide? Well the Devon-based grooming co has joined the craft beer revolution and have teamed up with Hunter’s Brewery to bring you The Ultimate Pale Ale, made with Citra and East Kent Golding’s hops, then is bottle conditioned, unpasteurised and unfiltered, with a strong, uncompromising and proud flavour. It’s the sort of beer to be seen with in a rugged coastal pub amongst smugglers, rogues and pirates. It’s available at Wetherspoons and other pubs. My husband snaffled this last night, even though I’m the pale ale fan in this house. He really liked it and so did I from the few sneaky sips I took.
Non-Alcoholic Christmas Drinks Guide
The Chemex (Amazon, 6-cup £43) is undeniably the most gorgeous coffee maker there is. That glass, the wooden and leather cuff, the elegant lines. This is pour-over coffee that brews slightly slower and reduces bitterness. You simply put a compostable filter in the top, add the coffee grounds, pour in a little hot water for a few seconds to ‘bloom’ then pour in the rest of the water in a circular motion and it will slowly drip into the base – ready to be poured into your favourite mug. I wanted one of these for aaaages and I’m so delighted to have one. I love using it at the weekends or for a weekday morning treat. It only takes a few minutes more than instant coffee, but the flavour is incomparable. Plus, you don’t have loads of those wretched ‘pods’ of coffee to send to landfill. Win win.
Another amazing coffee maker is the popular AeroPress (Amazon, £21). This gadget makes fresh coffee in the time it takes to make instant! It’s also really easy to clean and uses gentle air pressure for a smooth rich flavour with lower acidity and no bitterness. It’s super-easy to use and the coffee really tastes great. I was sent mine by the lovely people at new craft coffee co Coffee Trekkers (from £39.99) – a subscription based company offering packs of coffee to members every 4 weeks, each containing 4 unique flavoursome blends (they roast, grind and post on the same-day). Coffee Trekkers are inspiringly passionate about sourcing great coffee from single estates and creating innovative blends. A subscription would be a pretty special gift for a coffee lover.
I’m a bit of a copper addict at the moment. Like a magpie I seem to be drawn to it for my kitchen! This beautiful copper-coloured 2-cup French press from Leopold Vienna (Haus, £24.99) is a cheerful way to make coffee. It has a stainless steel filter and heat resistant glass with a lovely shiny, rose-gold/copper-coloured metal casing.
A new type of coffee on the market is concentrate from Press’d. I first tried these at Food Blogger Connect and was really impressed. They’re a pure arabica concentrate, extracted with a low temperature method to preserve the flavour and aroma of the coffee beans. You just squeeze a bit into the cup and top up with hot water. They also come in vanilla and caramel (my favourite). Available at Ocado (£2.99).
Tea Pigs make wonderfully interesting blends of tea in their signature biodegradable silky bags. I love Earl Grey, particularly at this time of year, so I have that one as well as a very fragrant Chai available for my guests this year. I love having a variety of teas on hand, but I also love cooking with tea (in truffles, pies, icing…).
Tea Pigs teas are widely available in most supermarkets and independent shops, priced from £1.30.
Another flavourful tea brand is Yogi Tea (Holland and Barrett, £2.29). Their ayurvedic blends are intensely fragrant and many have festive spices. I love the Christmas Tea blend, which has rooibos tea with cinnamon and star anise. They also have Choco Mint – with cocoa shells, peppermint and liquorice! Just making a cup of one of these makes the whole room smell of Christmas! I’ve even been known to brew up a bag in a saucepan on the stove as a way to scent the room without the chemicals that come in most typical air fresheners (which I avoid).
I really love matcha green tea. It’s comforting, energising and tastes lovely. I really like Pure Chimp’s ceremonial grade matcha (Pure Chimp, on sale at the moment for £6.95) and I drink it as a tea, a latte or in my morning smoothie. I’ve even turned it into matcha coconut and yogurt tarts! I would LOVE to find some in my stocking.
You’ll need something to make super-fluffy chai tea lattes, hot chocolate and matcha lattes – so this Zyliss Milk Frother (£9.99) is perfect. I’ve had loads of these and some can be a bit flimsy – but this one is really good. It whizzes the milk up in seconds. I’ll be making cappuccinos on Christmas morning (before we open the Proseccco for Buck’s Fizz!), using this frother to make them really fluffy.
Nearly every morning I make a smoothie of a banana, scoop of Lean Greens and water. The green colour would make you think that it tastes a bit, well, healthy, but actually it’s really really nice. It wakes me up, gives me energy and starts the day off right. I’ve also mixed it into oats for a green porridge – which looks odd but is lovely. It’s full of spirulina, wheat grass, barley grass, chlorella and other healthy ingredients that I won’t purport to know much about, but all I know is that if I don’t have it one morning then I really miss it. Lean Greens (£44.97). But my guests won’t be getting any this Christmas. I’ve nearly run out and I’m not nice enough to share.
My sister gave me this set of scientific beaker glasses last year and I love love love them. They make my morning smoothies so jolly and look great. They’re quite sturdy and we use them all the time. I’ve photographed smoothies and juices for the blog in them loads and also use them as vases and to measure ingredients when cooking. So wonderfully nerdy! I’ve also seen petri dishes for snacks that are next on my wishlist!
Lab Scientific Flasks Drinking Glasses (Amazon, £12.92)
I hope you’ve been inspired by my Mega Christmas Drinks Guide. What will you be drinking this Christmas?
Disclosure: I was sent some of these products to review for my Mega Christmas Drinks Guide and others I bought myself. A huge thanks goes out to those who sent me product to try. I’ve only shared products that I like and all opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links. Prices correct at time of writing. Coffee beans picture courtesy of Shutterstock.