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Christmas Season Cocktails

Red, green and gold are the colours of Christmas – the winter berries, evergreen trees and soft candlelight have brought this time of year to life for centuries. And it’s this trio of glowing, festive shades that forms the basis for colourful Christmas cocktails.

From the glow of straight whisky in a handcrafted tumbler through to the warming, honeyed spice of a homemade Hot Toddy or the classic Scotch cocktail, the Rusty Nail, gold predominates in many classic Christmas drinks. And Smirnoff Gold, with real gold flakes and a light cinnamon flavour, could have been tailor-made for Christmas. Mix it with ginger for a Golden Mule, apple and lemonade for an Apple Bite Gold, or pair with sparkling apple juice to create The Golden Flute – the gold dancing in the bubbles is Christmas in a glass.

Use bold scarlet hues to your advantage. The Secret Garden, a blend of autumn fruits innovatively served in jam jars, makes an impressive choice for Christmas dinner parties. Or the classic Negroni, with its festive ruby glow, has been a cocktail hour favourite since Fosco Scarselli invented it around a century ago; the Rossini is a colourful contemporary take on the Bellini.


The Classic Cosmo

The Classic Cosmo – Drink Like it’s 1999

Christmas was typically the time when country folk first tasted the season’s sloe gin. Cocktails made from sloes, the dark fruit picked from the hedgerows and related to the plum, can be delicious. From the Sloe Bramble to the Sloe Gin Fizz, make a colourful Christmas choice. As with many a stuffed turkey, it’s hard to go wrong with cranberry at Christmas – either mix your favourite spirit with cranberry juice for refreshing drinks such as a Vodka Cranberry, or opt for contemporary cocktails like the Frosted Rose and French 21, or even the classic Cosmopolitan.

Serve up a beautiful array of drinks that match the evocative shades of the festive season.

French Trim Rib Roast of Beef

French Trim Rib Roast of Beef

Few people hold French cuisine in higher esteem than I do, and yet I have to confess that I’ve never really understood the purpose of French trimming a beef rib roast. I think it’s supposed to be about presentation, a line of thinking that says that having the rib bones exposed makes it look better. (Image above courtesy of Country Valley Foods.)

I don’t see it. To my mind, few things look as good as a traditional English, standing rib roast, brought to the table, browned and dripping juices, looking like the most delicious and primal food imaginable. The rib roast is like a roast turkey, it’s one of those festive, presentation dishes that needs little to make it work other than a sure hand in the kitchen, someone who knows how to season properly, and how to get the timing right.

The point of roast meat, be it a leg of lamb, a turkey, a suckling pig, or a rib roast, is that simple, honest presentation reflects good-tasting, wholesome food.. Good meat is one of those things that speaks for itself, in terms of deliciousness and looks. Don’t tart your roast pig like a fancy lad, just Score his skin, put an apple in the mouth, and roast him to golden brown perfection.

This is one area where English butchers have it all over their French counterparts. No fancy French tricks can compare to the Roast Beef of England.

Promiscuity and Wine

No, I am not talking about what happens after your standard frat boy has a couple of bottles of Boones Farm. I am talking about the basics of enjoying wine.

Most people like to stick with what is comfortable, choosing the same wine over and over again. For as you know, that the prospect of walking Promiscuity and Wineinto a wine shop is for many, off-putting. The choices are overwhelming, and there’s frequently an intimidating ritual involved, one that begins, “What sort of wine are you looking for?”

Although I earn my living talking about Stormhoek, that doesn’t mean that I’m not a bit promiscuous about my wine choices, and not only because Stormhoek isn’t yet widely available in the United States. (Don’t worry, that will change soon.)

So, be promiscuous with wine.

Try, taste, stray, be adventurous: Decide what you like for yourself and ignore the “experts”. (They’re not as objective as they make themselves out to be.) Bordeaux one night, California Cabernet the next… enjoy the decadence of promiscuity. Your ‘significant other’ will love you for it!

As Manolo will tell you, with wine, as with fashion, experimentation is half the fun.