If you’re feeling the squeeze with the cost of living crisis, raising a glass this Christmas with a delicious home-made cocktail offers a taste of the high life – and feel good drinking ritual with the look of luxe.
As Alessandro Palazzi, head bartender at Dukes Bar in London, puts it: “During lockdown, so many people were making their own cocktails at home – and the beauty of it was people really came to appreciate classic cocktails, which has continued.”
He says the result is people are really proud to show their friends and family cocktails they can make at home. “And to share the moment with them, which is what the holiday season is perfect for,” says Palazzi.
Here, he shares some dos and don’ts…
“The most important ones for making cocktails at home are to always make sure the ingredients and glassware are cold – the colder the cocktail, the better.”
Put the alcohol in the freezer or fridge, says Palazzi. Always chill the glass – either by putting it in the fridge or filling it with ice and leaving it for 10 minutes. “My top tip would be to put a little splash of water in the glass before the ice. Stir and discard the water before pouring in the cocktail.
“Water is one of the biggest enemy of cocktails!” he notes. “Remember, most ice in supermarkets doesn’t last as long as it would in bars.”
When making the cocktail, either in a shaker or glass, he says to put the ice in first – and leave it so you can see it’s cold from the outside. “Then get rid of the water before you put the liquid in the shaker.”
Palazzi says to always start with the less expensive ingredients, “In case you make a mistake, then work up to the most expensive.
“Don’t use waxed lemons,” he adds, as you can’t extract the oil. “The best type is an organic unwaxed lemon – and use high quality ingredients.”
Ready to get the party started? These festive serves have Christmas written all over them…
1. Winter Applause
A festive favourite with its winter spice aromas and notes of wood smoke, this crafty take on a mint julep has been winterised to highlight the whisky’s fruity finish.
Ingredients: 45ml Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch Whisky, 30ml pomegranate juice, 15/20ml honey syrup (dependent on sweetness of pom juice), 2 dashes orange bitters, 10ml lemon juice. Fresh mint and pomegranate seeds to garnish.
Method: Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add ingredients and shake vigorously. Pour into a julep or highball glass filled with crushed ice and 4 to 5 mint leaves. Garnish with fresh mint and pomegranate seeds.
2. Mermaid Gin Gingerbread Martini
With a dash of festive syrup – such as Monin gingerbread with warming spicy notes – and zesty peppery notes of this Isle of Wight gin, it’s a seaside rollercoaster of flavour.
Ingredients: 50ml Mermaid Gin, 25ml red vermouth, 10ml amaretto, 10ml festive syrup, crushed gingerbread to rim glass.
Method: Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add ingredients, shake vigorously, strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with gingerbread rim.
To garnish: Crush gingerbread finely, dip martini rim in festive syrup and dip in crushed gingerbread.
3. Cotswolds Christmas Gin and Tonic
Beautifully blending nine cheery botanicals (there’s sweet zesty clementine and cardamom in the mix) the secret to this bright, juniper-led gin are the welcome notes of fresh clementine, warm spice and signature cloudy glow when the gin collides with ice or tonic in the glass.
Ingredients: 50ml Cotswolds Cloudy Christmas Gin, Indian tonic water. Slice of orange and star anise.
Method: Fill a large Copa glass with ice, pour over Cotswolds Christmas Gin and top with tonic water – watch the cloud appear. Garnish with a slice of orange and star anise.
4. Mijenta Tequila Reposado Pink Polka Dots
A jewel from Jalisco, Mijenta Reposado is aged in a combination of American oak, French oak and French acacia casks for up to six months – the result is an exquisite slow sipping tequila with layers of honeyed vanilla, vegetal agave, and nutty wood.
Ingredients: 45ml Mijenta Tequila Reposado, 25ml cranberry syrup, 25ml lemon juice, 25ml maraschino liqueur.
Method: Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add ingredients, shake vigorously and strain into a Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with pink peppercorns.
5. The Dukes Martini
After a deliciously decadent drink to impress your loved ones? It has to be the classic Dukes Martini, says Palazzi. “A drink to truly sip and enjoy over the holidays.” Especially with this resplendent Crown Jewel serve using the sister gin to Beefeater – with marked depth at 50 per cent strength and addition of grapefruit among the botanicals.
Ingredients: 100ml Beefeater Crown Jewel London Dry Gin, 25ml dry vermouth, organic Amalfi lemon to garnish.
Method: Chill your martini glass and discard any water. Pour vermouth into the chilled glass, stirring the liquid in. Palazzi says if you like a dry martini: “Discard the vermouth – it will have stuck to the sides of the chilled glass.” If you like a wet martini, leave it in the glass.
Top up with frozen gin. Peel an unwaxed organic lemon, squeeze the peel over the glass to extract the oil and place the peel in the glass.