Gin expert Olivia Williams rounds up essential tipples for your Christmas cocktail cabinet.
With a little imagination, you can put the mulled wine to one side and find new festive favourites this year – whether it’s Christmas Bitters made with port and spices from Scotland, or an intriguing smoked vodka from Herefordshire. Eat, drink and be merry with these memorable party tipples.
The King’s Ginger, £22.00
For a warming injection of fiery ginger into any concoction, make a beeline for the King’s Ginger liqueur. Originally made for Edward VII by Berry Bros and Rudd, the king drank it neat. However, it also goes well with tonics, champagne and in hot toddies. You’ll sleep well after a few tots of this late at night. www.thekingsginger.com
Sacred Christmas Pudding Gin, £33.85
Made in London from distilled homemade Christmas pudding, this is the most seasonal spirit of them all. Although aromatic and sweet, the gin is not overpowering and will evoke nutmeg-scented memories of Christmases past. Its novelty and surprisingly fresh flavour makes it a thoughtful present for drinks aficionados. www.sacredspiritscompany.com
Blackdown Silver Birch Vermouth, £22.99
Vermouths made in Britain are very rare but this strong, clean tasting one from the South Downs is well-worth tracking down. It creates a beautiful, refreshingly dry martini that will cut through all the heavy wintery food. Its unusual notes of camomile and silver birch make it a must-try on its own as well. www.blackdowncellar.co.uk
Chapel Down English Rose Vintage Reserve, £20.99
Brimming with floral flavour, this fizz from Kent is sure to be a hit at parties. Better value and more interesting than champagne, its tartness will cut through sweet mince pies and rich canapés. www.chapeldown.com
Chase Smoked Vodka, £36
This is the latest triumph, with a run of just 1000 bottles, from the ever-inventive Chase distillery in Herefordshire. An oak-smoked spirit, it works well as an unusual accompaniment to cured meat and smoked salmon. A splash can also bring new life to one of those dull sherries that has been hanging around since last Christmas. www.chasedistillery.co.uk
Hix Fix cherries, £6.00
Allow these cherries generously soaked in Somerset apple eau de vie to work their magic on ordinary cocktails and run-of-the-mill proseccos and champagnes. The cherries are not widely available, but you can pick them up at any Mark Hix restaurant, whose aperitifs they were made for. www.ciderbrandy.co.uk
Daylesford Plum Liqueur, £17.99
Put liqueurs back in pride of place with Daylesford’s delicious plum version. It can take the place of sloe gin in hipflasks and as a seasonal dash in champagnes and other fizzy concoctions. Winter traditionalists will be kept happy with its simple, comforting flavour of plum, almond and prunes. www.daylesford.com
Tipplesworth Mince Pie Syrup, £9.95
Made by distilling mince pie ingredients, this syrup adds a spiced sweetness to brandies and whiskies. If you’re feeling really indulgent you can serve it with rum, warm apple juice and a thin layer of cream on the top, sprinkled with cinnamon. www.tipplesworth.com
Tanqueray No 10, £32.90
Treat yourself to a dry martini on Christmas Eve, as The Queen apparently does every year at Sandringham. Tanqueray Ten is an ideal martini base. It is a fairly traditional gin but still vibrant thanks to the grapefruit and lime notes and its bracing hit of juniper. Midnight Mass will fly by. www.alexanderandjames.co.uk
Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Christmas Bitters, £11
Distilled in Scotland from rum and thirteen botanicals, these bitters add a Christmassy quality to a gin and tonic or a martini, or in a warm hot apple juice or a post-prandial brandy. Only a few drops go far, so you could well be enjoying your bottle into the new year. www.bokersbitters.co.uk
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