3 Festive cocktails to enjoy with your canapes & post dinner treats

Here’s how to add a contemporary twist with a variety of spirits instead of wines, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

If you’re looking for some alternative food and drink pairings this Christmas, you’re not alone.

According to a recent survey on the changing tastes of the nation, seasonal stalwarts such as a mulled wine have lost their mojo and the Buck’s Fizz bubble has burst.

With the surge in popularity of cocktails and 73% of tipplers looking for more food and drink variety, Sunday Brunch mixologist and gin expert Carl Brown has teamed up with leading drinks brands to create the Changing Tastes of Christmas menu of modern aperitifs, appetisers and digestifs.

“Spirits tend to go with everything, it’s more how you design the base of the cocktail that will assist in matching,” says Brown.

“Gin-based cocktails make good pre-dinner aperitifs as they often incorporate citrus flavours and if you’re using citrus, you know you’re aiming for lighter foods. Lemon makes spicy food really hot, whereas lime balances it.”

PICTURED ABOVE: Aperitifs, appetizers and digestives | PA Photo/Simon Smith

Here are three easy and tasty recipes to try at home…


1. Tanqueray Mandarin & Clove Cooler
“Designed to cut through the heaviness of Christmas while keeping nostalgic flavours and adding a modern mandarin twist,” says Brown.

“After dinner, people often prefer sweeter dessert flavours like Baileys to contrast the savouriness of their meal.

“Alternatively, for those with less of a sweet tooth, a whisky based serve has full-bodied flavours to round off a meal.”

50ml Tanqueray London Dry Gin (£22, 1L, Sainsbury’s), 5ml clove bitters,50ml mandarin juice, 20ml lemon juice, 10ml sugar syrup, dash of bitter lemon.

Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all ingredients except the bitter lemon, shake vigorously and strain into a tall glass over ice. Top with bitter lemon and garnish with dried out mandarin.

Serve with: Bacon wrapped figs with black pepper and sour cherry jam.

PICTURED ABOVE: Tanqueray Mandarin & Clove Cooler | PA Photo/Simon Smith


2. Almande Apricot Flip
“Following a steep rise in veganism, eggnog is fast becoming a thing of the past: Make way for this delicious and dairy-free modern alternative.”

50ml Bailey’s Almande Dairy Free (£16, 70cl, Amazon), 50ml apricot & cardamom syrup (see below), 10ml agave syrup, 50ml coconut milk.

To make the apricot & cardamom Syrup
In a mixing jug, crush two cardamom pods. Add 100g apricot jam and pour over 50g hot water, then gently stir until smooth.

Half fill a tumbler with ice. Add both syrups, pour over the Baileys Almande and coconut milk, stir until blended together, top with more ice. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Serve with: Vegan bread pudding served with coconut milk, vanilla and agave syrup, dried apricot and flaked almonds.

PICTURED ABOVE: Almande Apricot Flip | PA Photo/Simon Smith


3. John ‘n’ Pickle
With an estimated 25% of Brits ditching their dessert this Christmas, Carl has created the perfect pairing for a cheese board with Johnnie Walker Black Label – the new Old Fashioned.

50ml Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch Whisky (£19.80, 70cl, Amazon), 2tsp caramelised onion chutney, 10ml demerara (or brown) sugar syrup, 2 dash black walnut bitters, 1.25ml distilled vinegar.

In a whisky glass, add the chutney, 25ml Johnnie Walker Black, demerara syrup, then two ice cubes. Stir until ice has half melted, add the remaining whisky and rest of ingredients, stir gently and top with ice. Garnish with an orange wedge.

Serve with: Some good quality manchego cheese, quince and cinnamon poached pear.

PICTURED ABOVE: John ‘n’ Pickle | PA Photo/Simon Smith

Words by Sam Wylie-Harris, Press Association

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