Cocktails are one of my favourite indulgences and Christmas is the perfect time for treating yourself.

Cocktails are a popular Christmas indulgence.

A lovely glass of red or a refreshing gin and tonic are fine Saturday evening companions for most of the year. However, Christmas time needs something a little bit more special and for me, that means a mojito in a chic bar after work or a comforting spiced rum on the sofa.

Festive cocktails should become part of your traditions. Bucks Fizz for breakfast and Gin Fizz with our plates of evening buffet are an important part of my family’s Christmas Day.

Traditional cocktail recipes

Snowball

The definition of a retro cocktail and a true Christmas classic. Once described by friend of mine as ‘Sparkly Custard’, it’s taste and texture isn’t for everyone but I LOVE them!

  • 50 ml Advocaat (Eggs, sugar and brandy)
  • 50ml Lemonade
  • 1 x Maraschino cherry
  • A handful of ice

Stir the mixture into a long glass and serve with the cherry on top.

Bucks Fizz

On Christmas Day morning in my house, we have Bucks Fizz and Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Bucks Fizz is light, refreshing and starts the day off with a touch of decadence.

  • 100ml of smooth orange juice
  • 200ml of champagne that is nicely chilled

Pour the orange juice into champagne flutes.

Follow with the champagne delicately and gradually poured onto the juice.

Don’t mix!

Comforting winter warmers

A tradition around Europe is to enjoy gluhwein – you should too.

Gluhwein

A mulled wine cocktail that will warm you from your top to your toes after a chilly walk in the countryside. Gluhwein is originally from Germany and a trip to one of their fantastic Christmas markets is not complete without sipping some. The name translates into ‘glowing wine’ which is the perfect description for this festive treat.

  • A bottle of red wine
  • 150ml of brandy or amaretto
  • 1 x sliced orange
  • 5 x cloves (fruit of the myrtle tree)
  • 200g of caster sugar
  • 2 x star anise (a Chinese spice)
  • 1 x cinnamon stick
  • 3 x slices of peeled and sliced ginger

Combine all ingredients except the alcohol in a large pan for 15 minutes. Pour in the alcohol and serve warm in your favourite glass.

Cinnamon Butter Rum

Gorgeous! There’s nothing much more that needs to be said about these indulgent glasses of spiced rum.

Serves 4

  • 200ml of spiced rum
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2tbsp of caster sugar (preferably the golden kind)
  • 25g of butter

Warm the sugar, butter and cinnamon on a low heat until the butter and sugar have melted and dissolved.

Gently stir in the rum and present to your guests in jewel-coloured glasses.

Try something new!

Toffee Vodka

They may not be much to look at (pick beautiful glasses!) but when you taste these babies they are real showstoppers!

  • 4 tbsp of soft brown sugar
  • 200g of hard toffee such as Thornton’s
  • 750ml of good quality vodka

Equipment needed: a small funnel, a 1 litre sterilised jar with a lid and a similar sized bottle, filter paper that you would used for coffee.

These will need some prep and three months to mature so plan well ahead. Make a batch and a bottle of your homemade toffee vodka will make a great gift.

  • Smash up the toffee with a rolling pin. Put them in a small food bag first so shards of toffee don’t fly everywhere.
  • Place the piece of toffee into your jar with the sugar and a tiny bit of sea salt.
  • Drizzle over the vodka and mix.
  • Put the jar in a cool, dark cupboard for two days.
  • Shake the jar twice a day while it’s in the cupboard.
  • Check your mixture to see if the toffee and sugar have dissolved.
  • Filter the mixture through filter paper placed in a funnel that is sitting on the neck of your bottle.
  • Close the bottle and put back in the cupboard for approximately three months.
  • Shake and then serve with a flourish in a pretty cocktail glass.

Key Lime Pie Martini

Pudding with a twist! This genius recipe truly replicates the taste of a slice of deliciously tangy and creamy Key Lime.

  • 12ml of good quality lime cordial like ‘Roses’
  • 50ml of vanilla vodka
  • 60ml pineapple juice
  • 12ml of Triple Sec
  • Crushed digestive biscuits
  • One half of a lime

Mix triple sec, vodka, pineapple juice and lime cordial together in a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Squeeze the fresh lime juice into the shaker and fling it about a bit.

Place the crushed biscuits into a flat surface and rim a cocktail saucer with them.

Serve immediately.

Low calorie cocktails for the pure amongst us

Recipe for spike eggnogg

Spiked eggnogg – ‘Christmas in a glass’

It’s Christmas and I have very little patience with anything deliberately low calorie at this time of year. HOWEVER, these two low calorie cocktail recipes do pack a flavour punch so I’ll suffer them to be included.

Spiked Eggnog

Christmas in a glass. Sweet and creamy with a powerful kick.

Serves 4

144 calories per glass

  • 3 tbsp of honey
  • 1/3 cup of egg whites
  • A tiny pinch of nutmeg
  • A proper pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla essence
  • A good couple of glugs of bourbon per glass

Combine all the ingredients apart from the whisky/bourbon together in a blender. Heat in a saucepan for 10 minutes. Don’t let it boil. Put the mixture in a big bowl on the side and leave overnight.

Serve your ‘healthy’ eggnog in small glasses and add the whisky or bourbon just before drinking.

The Storm Within

Sweetness, spice and heat combine with deep dark rum to make a cocktail low on calories but bursting with intriguing flavours. One to sip on Christmas Eve while snuggled up watching Christmas movies.

Mix a big batch to keep for the week. Buy a bottle of the honey and rum to add to the spicy fruit mix as needed.

  • 30ml of mature dark rum
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 tsp of cranberries
  • 2 smoked, dried chillies
  • 3-4 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp raisins
  • 5ml of raw honey

Combine all the dry ingredients in a big bowl of water overnight. In the morning bring to the boil. Pour the honey in the glass and add 60ml of the spice and fruit mix. Add the dark rum and sprinkle spices such as cardamom or star anise for decoration.

Non-alcoholic cocktails

Cranberry Shandy

Christmas is the one and only time of the year that we ever eat cranberry sauce. Two or three spoons will be eaten and then the jar will sit sadly at the back of the fridge for the rest of the year. In homage to this weird quirk of our Christmas dinner, I present this delicious concoction.

  • 50ml of lemonade
  • 25ml of cranberry juice
  • 25ml of ginger beer
  • Ice

Simply mix of the ingredients together with a muddler and serve in a long glass over ice.

Pear and Rose Punch

This stunning cocktail is perfect for a Christmas party or Boxing Day buffet. It is just gorgeous to look at and the flavours are incredible.

  • 250ml fizzy water
  • 1 litre of good quality pear juice
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • A slice or two of root ginger
  • 1 tbsp of golden caster sugar
  • ½ tsp of rosewater
  • 25ml apple cider vinegar
  • Ice

For the decoration:

  • Sliced red pear (green if not)
  • Frozen redcurrants
  • Rosemary branches
  • Thyme

Combine the pear juice, vanilla pod, caster sugar, ginger and cardamom in a large pan and turn the heat off just as it starts to simmer. Leave to cool in the pan and pour through a sieve into a serving bowl or festive jug.

Add the rosewater, fizzy water, apple cider vinegar and ice.

Decorate the bowl and punch with artfully placed rosemary, thyme and redcurrants.

Nibbles to pair with your cocktails

No cocktail party would be complete without a few trays of delicious morsels circulating amongst the guests. Even if your cocktail is being enjoyed only by you and a re-run of the film Elf, there’s no reason not to treat yourself to something more than a few Pringles.

Here’s a few simple recipes for inspiration:

Sweet, salty and sticky cocktail sausages on sticks from Nigella.

The Christmas Day starter in my house has always been, and will always be, prawn cocktail. This healthy nibbly twist on that classic will pair perfectly with creamy cocktails.

These tiny but tasty skewers of antipasti will be gobbled up by guests in no time.

How to avoid a hangover

Now. Remember this and don’t say I didn’t warn you! Cocktails are DANGEROUS. They are delicious and pretty and ohhhhh so VERY tempting, especially once the first two have disappeared.

Cocktails are also potent, moreish and will encourage you to mix every type of liquor known to man in the space of one short evening.

Be especially careful if you’re at a friend’s or your own cocktail party as it’s super likely that the measure will be a hell of a lot more generous than those in a bar.

Eat. Do not drink cocktails on an empty stomach. You will lose at least three days I promise you. Not eating dinner will mean that all the gin, rum and vodka you’re about to slurp will hit your bloodstream immediately and with force of a freight train.

If you’re a six-foot rugby player I’m talking to you as well! You might feel a little better in the morning than your 8-stone wet-through girlfriend but only just.

Anti-hangover tips

  • Lots. I don’t care if your dress will be too tight. Wear another one!
  • Drink water throughout the night. Hydration is good!
  • Drink re-hydration salts before you go out and after you get home (leave a ready mixed glass next to your bed) Believe it, Dioralyte is your friend. You can thank me later!
  • Try your very best to stick with one main spirit.
  • Have the longer cocktails. They are better value and will take longer to drink so you won’t have as many.