With Christmas fast approaching, thoughts naturally turn to which drinks you may celebrate with over the festive season. From spirits and fortified wines to traditional cocktails, there are classics aplenty that people reach for every year. Here, we look at seven of the most popular options.
Not many things beat a nice glass of Port at Christmas, especially when enjoyed with your after-dinner cheeseboard or dessert. This Portuguese fortified wine has a rich heritage – links to the UK date to the early 1700s when war with France deprived wine drinkers of French wine, which importers took full advantage of.
Port can only be made in the Douro Valley, a demarcated region east of the city of Porto. There are several different styles to choose from.
Ruby Ports are the youngest and most inexpensive. Tawny Ports are ready to drink and the ageing has been done for you. A Vintage Port is made with only the very best harvests in certain years and is designed to be cellared. If you see LBV, on a label this means Late Bottled Vintage – they are like Vintage Ports but have had several years of ageing in a barrel before bottling. White Ports are light, refreshing and perfect as an aperitif.
If you fancy something a little lighter and less mainstream than Port or Sherry, then Sauternes is a great alternative. This sweet dessert wine hails from the Sauternes region of France, which sits just 40km to the southeast of the city of Bordeaux. Like Port, Sauternes wine carries a regional denomination and can only be made within certain regulated boundaries. It is produced using white grapes.
These delicious and luscious wines are delightfully sweet and uplifting. They can bring most desserts to life and are great for pairing with cheese. Expect bright aromas of honey and candied citrus peel with notes of golden syrup, plump sugared sultanas, and poached pear.
A great value-for-money drink that’s equally as delicious when served slightly chilled.
Of all the whisky styles available, Scotch seems to hit the mark at Christmas. It is consistently one of the most popular gifting items each year. There is something so festive and heart-warming about sitting with a nice tumbler of Scotch whisky on Christmas afternoon or Boxing Day and sipping away.
However, there are many different flavour profiles, and this can be a little daunting to the uninitiated. But there is something for everybody.
Whiskies that have been matured in ex-Sherry barrels give the most festive set of flavours – these have plenty of dried fruits, candied orange peel, caramel and nutty notes. Peaty whiskies also fit the bill well – their bold and smoky character is like a big hug in a glass and perfect for the cold, crisp weather around the Big Day.
Drink neat, on the rocks or in a cocktail – there’s no right or wrong way here.
The festive season is sherry’s time to shine. While sales tick along throughout the year, they explode once December hits. This fortified wine from the south of Spain has a long association with Christmas. The origins of this can be dated to the late 1500s when Sir Francis Drake sacked the city of Cadiz and pillaged nearly 3000 barrels of sherry to bring back to the UK. The reigning Elizabeth I endorsed the wine, and it became hugely popular.
Britain has historically been one of sherry’s biggest markets ever since, particularly from the Victorian era onwards. Sweet cream sherry is the most popular style – that is the stuff that grandma would have been sipping on back in the day – but other more complex styles are worth investigating.
Maybe try some fruity Oloroso, treacly Pedro Ximenez or fruity, salty Manzanilla. Perfect for accompanying a mince pie or two.
This retro classic makes you think of Christmases past, especially those in the seventies and eighties. But the drink has much older roots than that. The modern version is believed to have come from an 18th-century drink called egg-n-grog – this was created by British immigrants when colonising America and was made by combining egg, rum and spices. This in turn was derived from a Scottish egg-based drink that was served with warm ale, called nugg.
Egg Nog has become synonymous with Christmas and is popular across the world, especially in the States. It is made by mixing eggs, sugar, cream, milk and rum, plus a good grate of nutmeg. A good brandy, Cognac or whisky is a decent alternative to rum.
Egg Nog is most commonly served warm but is also delicious when chilled.
The Hot Toddy is not just a modern-day cold and flu remedy but is one of the all-time iconic winter warming drinks. It is a result of the spread of the British Empire in Victorian times, which saw people take things from home and adapt them to their new climates. Toddy is a fermented drink made from coconut flower sap that is popular in southern India.
The Hot Toddy uses Scotch whisky, honey and lemon topped up with boiling water. Fresh ginger and warming spices such as cinnamon and clove add a true festive twist.
Have a sip and everything will suddenly feel better.
Ah, mulled wine… just the smell of it is so evocative and instantly makes one think of Christmas. The classic festive drink sees exotic spices such as cinnamon and clove added to warm red wine – the term ‘mulling’ means to heat beer or wine. The idea is believed to have come from Europe and be derived from such drinks as glögg in Scandinavia and glühwein in Germany.
If you want to give this a crisper and lighter twist, then switch out the red wine for cider. Mulled cider is a delicious winter warmer with cinnamon and other festive spices working superbly with the wonderful apple aromas and flavours.