By Anya Cooklin-Lofting
As the festive season bubbles to a head, the comforting din of Christmas carols and the clinking of glasses fill the air. One of the most important elements of the festive season has to do with what we choose to fill our glasses with, however. While traditional British Christmas drinks like cockle-warming mulled wine and an ever-classic coup of Champagne have long held their place at the Christmas table and at festive soirees, why not shake things up with a twist for 2023? In the spirit of Christmas, this month, I’m exploring some alternative drinks that will not only get the party started but will add an element of surprise to the usual proceedings…
First on our unconventional Christmas libations list is the Negroni, a classic Italian cocktail that has found its way into the hearts of many cocktail enthusiasts, around the globe, to the great alarm of many aperitif purists. Comprising equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, the Negroni offers a pleasing (oh so pleasing!) balance of bitterness and sweetness, making it a not so much of a departure, but tantalisingly tangential take on the usual fare. Often served with an orange twist, this jewel of a concoction not only looks festive but also brings a sophisticated, cool and current vibe to any drinks party.
Not dissimilarly, sangria will also bring a festive citrus sophistication to the Christmas table. The fact that sangria is often served in jugs or pitchers makes it a brilliant communal drink, perfect for the Christmas table. Also, I don’t know how your family Christmases go down, but mine are such warm affairs once everyone’s jostling around the table, that I think I’d appreciate the refreshing qualities of a glass of sangria amongst the chaos of steaming sprouts and nuclear roast potatoes. The recipe is pretty simple. Red wine forms the base (very festive!), mingling with a medley of fresh fruits such as oranges, berries, and citrus slices (also festive!), a splash of brandy (I think I’ve made my point…) and a hint of sweetness from simple syrup.
As the evening progresses, the twinkling lights cast a warm glow and the game of Monopoly feels like it might genuinely never end, consider surprising your guests with a round of espresso martinis. This velvety cocktail is an unexpected twist (also offering a welcome energy boost) that pays homage to the season’s spirit in incredibly chic, metropolitan style. Vodka, coffee liqueur, and freshly brewed espresso coalesce into a rich, decadent cocktail, shaken over ice and strained into a chilled martini glass.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to suggest abandoning the Christmas classics altogether. A steaming mug of Mulled Wine, with its aromatic spices and heartwarming punch, still deserves its moment in the spotlight (or fairy lights). However, even the humble mulled wine could benefit from an upgrade. I had my first of the season laced with a shot of Amaretto and I’m never going back. In fact, why not consider setting up a festive drinks station where your guests can experiment with crafting their own festive fancies?