A Guide to Making the Perfect Christmas Drinks
Deciding which drinks to serve at a Christmas party or on Christmas Day can sometimes be difficult. Rather than adding more stress to the holiday preparations, I think it's possible to turn drinks-making into a fun, festive activity that everyone can get involved in.
I come from a creative family, so I'm no stranger to experimenting with new twists on classic ideas. With a few simple steps, I intend to make it possible for everyone to enjoy Christmas in style with a range of festive ideas to brighten up those cold winter months. If you're interested in acquiring some creative new ideas for your own Christmas party, or if you just want some inspiration for the perfect fireside tipple, I hope to inspire you.
By the way, all of these ideas and recipes can be easily adapted to suit any season or occasion, and are not exclusive to Christmas.
Festive ideas to brighten up those cold winter months...
#1 - Garnishes
My favourites are these metallic foliage garnishes. I first got the idea from a friend's wedding and thought the metallic element would fit in perfectly with Christmas. So natural and elegant. All you need to do for these is cover anything from fuchsia heads to sprigs of mint with edible silver or copper spray, and there you have it! Some gorgeous winter themed cocktail garnishes. Make sure the spray's edible though, I made the mistake of using actual paint once. Really didn't add much to the flavour of the drink.
#2 - Botanical Ice Cubes
If you though they looked good, hold tight. I absolutely adore these flower infused ice cubes, and they're as simple as they are elegant. If you want to really impress whilst setting yourself an interesting creative project, give them a try. Once you've learned the process, you're free to fill them with anything that tickles your fancy. Have a go at freezing festive foliage like red currants, wormwood or burgundy amaranth to give them a touch of class. Once you're familiar with the process, these fabulous home-made cubes can be adapted to suit any theme or season.
(They look best when used in glasses with a wide, flat bottom like the 'coupe' cocktail glass.)
How to Make Botanical Ice Cubes
- large ice cube try
- boiled (cold) water
- festive foliage (I use red currants)
- Boil up your water. By now you'll probably have noticed how ice cubes always appear cloudy and opaque, but by boiling the water first you take out some of the impurities (or at least that's the idea). I've tried it with and without taking this step, noticing the different boiling can make each time. As a side note, don't expect crystal clear cubes! Boiling doesn't take all of the minerals and chemicals out, just some.
- Prepare your fillings. While you're waiting for the boiling water to cool down, have a think about what you want to freeze. This'll depend entirely on what kind of drink you plan on using them in, and for what effect. If it's purely aesthetic, try and pick a leaf or flower that'll contrast with the colour of the drink. For taste, I suggest a pungent herb or fresh berries. For the purpose of this Christmas themed post, I suggest using red currants or even bits of Christmas tree! Once you've decided on your fillings, cut them into small pieces and place one in each ice cube holder.
- Pour. With the water cooled and foliage adequately placed, half fill each of the moulds. If you decide to fill them up in one go, you leave the risk of sinking. By freezing them half a tier at a time, it'll make the fillings looks as though they've been perfectly suspended in the centre of the cubes. After the first half's frozen solid, repeat the process until your ice cubes are ready to go.
I've included a video below. It doesn't go into as much detail as I do, but it'll make things easier to visualise if that's how you learn.
#3 - Cocktail Time
Once you've prepared your perfect festive garnishes, you'll need an incredible recipe to make it worth while. My all time favourite has to be the simple Negroni, with a festive twist of course. The most widespread story of its origin speculates that the Negroni was invented at Caffe Casoni in Florence, Italy in 1919. According to legend, Count Camillo Negroni asked his friend, the bartender, to strengthen his favourite cocktail – the Americano – by using gin rather than soda water.
Whether the story's true or not, I still love it. So here's how to make one:
Winter Spiced Negroni
Ingredients for the Winter Negroni
- 70ml Infused Gin, (recipe below)
- 50ml Martini bitters
- 50ml Sweet Vermouth
- Oranges, Sliced
Infused Gin (makes about 550ml)
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 4 cloves
- zest of 2 oranges
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 500ml any old gin (nicer the better)
To make the infused gin, boil up all of the ingredients (other than the gin) until all the spices have infused with the sugar. After it's cooled down, pour the gin and spice mix into a sealable bottle, give it a good old shake, and leave for about a week. As a side note, you can do this with loads of different ingredients. By adding sloe berries and sugar to gin and leaving for as long as possible, you'll create a beautiful sweet tasting burgundy-coloured gin that can be drunk neat or used in other festive cocktails.
Back to making the festive Negroni - mix all of the ingredients in a jug or cocktail shaker if you have one, strain, and serve cold over ice. Garnish with one of your metallic flowers and voila!
Get to Work!
So there you have it, a guide to making the ultimate Christmas cocktails. I used the Negroni as an example, but you can take these beautiful garnishes and the idea of infusing gin with winter spices to form the base of any festive drink.
Just remember to have fun - and merry Christmas!