From port and parmesan crisps to shot glasses hand-carved from rock salt, we've got all sorts of ideas to make your Christmas party go with a swing.
There are always a few crazy food and drink ideas doing the rounds. Tesco caused a stir a few years ago with their chocolate Brussels sprouts, while this year’s headline-grabber is Heston Blumenthal’s bacon and banana trifle, being sold by Waitrose.
Such ideas are great fun… but you’ll be surprising nobody at your party this festive season by serving something that’s been splashed all over the weekend papers. Instead, take a look at our suggestions for ways to make sure that your bash goes off with a bang.
1. Welcome everyone with a white chocolate hot toddy
Jeremy Vine must be a busy man. When he’s not presenting the lunchtime show on BBC Radio 2, or Crimewatch on BBC 1, he’s apparently got time to dream up drinks recipes such as this one.You’ll know from the headline if you’ll fancy it or not, but it’s simple enough to make: warm 330ml of milk in a pan until it simmers; mix in 50g of chopped white chocolate (that’s two Milky Bars); and pour in a double shot of Malibu once it’s melted. Then serve it up in a heat-proof glass cups and garnish with coconut flakes.
2. Unveil the custard cream cheesecake
If you’re having a warm cup of something, you’ll want a bit of cake to go with it. This brilliant bit of retro fun was dreamt up by Martha Collison, a former Great British Bake Off contestant: it’s a cheesecake with biscuits which just pour out childhood memories. Waitrose have the full recipe on their website.
3. Up the ante with sloe gin and prosecco
All warmed up from the cold? Good. Now it would normally be time for guests to decide between a traditional sloe gin drink or a glass of bubbly. But why should anyone have to choose? This recipe came to us from gin maker Greenall’s, who recommend 50ml of sloe gin – that’s a double, measure, to you and me – poured into a champagne flute, and then topped up with bubbly. How much more Christmassy can you get?
4. Bring out the Parmesan and Port crisps
Time to put the nibbles out now. And while hand-made crisps are nothing new, we’re pretty sure these Savoursmiths crisp flavours are. Champers and Serrano Chilli, anyone? Or how about Parmesan and Port? There’s also Truffle & Rosemary and Wagyu Beef & Honey Mustard – all currently being stocked by Fortnum & Mason at £1.50 a bag. They were dreamt up by Colette Cronje, a model who featured in Country Life last month, and her fiancé Mike Russell Smith, a farmer from Cambridgeshire.
5. Crack open the (sparkling) beer
Those salty crisps means it’s time for a beer. But not just any beer. British company Savour brew beer in the style of sparkling wine, with a strength of 10.5%. Slightly bonkers, but nobody will forget popping the cork on this one. £18 from John Lewis.
6. Time to show off your own home-made gin
No, we’re not suggesting that you distill your own spirits in the shed – there’s too much risk of enraging HM Customs & Excise, not to mention sending guests home semi-blind. But this neat kit will walk you through the process of flavouring a plain vodka with juniper and whatever else you fancy. £44.99 from The Fowndry.
If that seems a bit involved, we have an alternative suggestion: G’Vine is a French gin made from grapes (instead of the usual grain alcohol base) that is so flowery and unusual that you could easily pass it off as something you’d concocted yourself. That would mean not getting to show off the rather pretty bottle, of course, which costs around £34.
7. Get everyone buzzing with a honey cocktail… served in a bee
Presentation, presentation, presentation. It’s half the battle when it’s cocktail-o-clock, and Scottish-made Botanist gin always do a good job of getting bartenders across the country to dream up wacky ideas. One recently suggested serving a cocktail in a hollowed-out bonsai tree.
That’s probably asking a bit much, but you’ll have more like finding something like this ceramic bee. In it, Botanist suggest the honey gin recipe of Eduardo de la Mora of Three Six Six bar in Battersea. He spends hours rehydrating shiitake mushrooms crushed blueberries, sweet soy sauce and a pinch of salt; at the same time he warms his gin for four hours with some pineapple weed; then adds a hawthorn, thyme and honey infusion, which itself has been warmed for two hours…
It’s just possible that you don’t quite have that much time on your hands. And if not? Well, gin with a warmed mixture of warm honey, crushed blueberries, mushrooms and soy sauce might conceivably have the same effect. Particularly if you find one of those cute ceramic bees to serve it in.
8. Cheese and crackers… but not as you know it
We’re not suggesting you shouldn’t serve real cheese as well. Of course you should. But why not mix it up a bit? This creation looks like a lovely cheese board, with just-right melting brie… except the whole thing is actually made of chocolate. You’re really messing with people’s heads now – particularly if you hide a real camembert in among the confectionary. £15 from Choc on Choc.
9. Bring out the tequila… in Himalayan rock salt shot glasses
If all has gone well to this point, your party will probably go one of two ways: single malts and cigars, or dancing and tequila. If it’s the latter, you’ll want some shot glasses. These ones are hand carved from natural pink rock salt, to give a salty edge to your Mexican spirit. The makers, Root 7, claim that the glasses are perfectly reusable – and so you’d hope, at £25 for a set of four. Then again, by this point of the evening you’ll probably be way past caring about how much your glasses cost…