If you want to enjoy bartender-quality cocktails in your own home, look no further. Fuelled by a demand for better drinks to enjoy at home during successive lockdowns, the choice of pre-made cocktails available to buy has never been better.
What’s more, these pre-mixes can save you time and money when you’re preparing a Christmas party. It means you get the wow-factor of hosting a cocktail party, without being stuck in the kitchen with a cocktail shaker for the whole night…
From bottled cocktails to canned concoctions, the choice can be confusing. So I’ve rounded up a few of my current favourites below to offer some inspiration. The mixing has been done for you, but don’t forget all the finishing touches: great glassware and fresh garnishes will make your drinks look party perfect.
Ice is also key for Christmas cocktails that taste as good as they look, so it’s worth paying some attention to getting your ice basics right. Whether your serve is short or tall, if it’s over ice, make sure that you use ‘dry’ ice. This is super-cold ice that’s straight from the freezer – not wet, watery, half-melted cubes that have been sitting in an ice bucket.
Next, properly fill glasses with ice cubes. Some people worry that this will overly dilute a drink; in fact the opposite is true. If you only put a couple of cubes in a long drink, they will melt quickly. Fill a glass with ice and the whole drink becomes properly chilled, slowing down the melt rate of the ice and giving you a drink that stays cool.
Now you just have to choose your ready to drink festive tipple…
Best bottled and canned cocktails for Christmas
Batch & Bottle: Hendrick’s Gin Martini
The Batch & Bottle range from distillers William Grant & Sons pairs leading premium spirits with classic serves to create dependably good cocktails. The selection includes a Monkey Shoulder Lazy Old Fashioned, Reyka Rhubarb Cosmopolitan or Glenfiddich Scotch Manhattan, all well-balanced with a pleasing kick of alcohol. But my vote goes to the Hendrick’s Gin Martini (Alcohol 35%) as this quintessential cocktail will get any party started. Pour it chilled or stir over ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass (at least half an hour in the freezer will do the job) then garnish with a thin slice of cucumber. Each bottle contains five serves.
Bottled Cocktail Company: Silver Fir Negroni
The Bottled Cocktail Company launched in September with an impressive range of bar-quality drinks. Created by Keivan Nemati, former bar manager at award-winning hotel and drinking spot The Zetter Townhouse in London, the range includes an Old Fashioned, Dry Gin Martini and rum-based El Presidente, but my pick for Christmas is the Silver Fir Negroni (Alc 21%). Nemati has also studied perfumery, so his drinks smell as good as they look. This mix of gin, vermouth and amaro features a subtle aromatic twist from organic Silver Fir essence. It intensifies the piney aroma and flavour of the gin, also adding citrus aromatics and a woody note, like a walking in a forest. Orange blossom rounds out the citrus notes and adds just a hint of floral botanicals. Each bottle contains seven to 10 serves. Serve over ice in a rocks glass and garnish with an orange slice or orange peel.
Hawksmoor at Home: Ultimate Old Fashioned
This beefy restaurant chain is known as much for its creative cocktails as for its excellent steaks – both of which are now available to enjoy at home. The range runs from the iconic Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew (in pouches) to the Ultimate Dry Martini, via a series of tweaked and twisted classics. For Christmas you could try the gin-based Blood Orange Gimlet or Sour Cherry Negroni. But my pick is one for bourbon lovers. The Ultimate Old Fashioned (Alc 29%) is made with Woodford Reserve, salted demerara and bitters for a distinctive take on the classic, edged in cigar box notes. Pour it over a large ice cube in a rocks glass and garnish with an orange twist. Each bottle contains five serves.
Shima: Sake, Plum & Hibiscus
Newcomer Shima was founded by friends Hector Butler and Matt Brunault, who fell in love with sake while working in New York, subsequently travelling to Japan to meet master brewers and brewing their own sake in Brooklyn. Back in the UK the duo have launched Shima. One for fans of sparkling cocktails, the Sake, Plum & Hibiscus (Alc 4.5%) is a dry, aperitif-style sparkler, with perfumed aromas and a lovely aftertaste of ripe Victoria plums. Its lower abv and calorie count (96 calories per can) make it ideal if you’re watching your booze intake or your waistline this Christmas.
Spirit of Zing: Winter Spiced Margarita
Previously supplying ready-made cocktails to bars, restaurants and hotels, World of Zing started selling direct to cocktail lovers during the pandemic. And hurrah for that. The Spirit of Zing range of small-batch bottled cocktails (250ml or 500ml) is made with bespoke bitters, liqueurs and special aged finishes, creating drinks that taste like you’ve just ordered them from a skilled bartender. Stars of the range suitable for festive imbibing include a Bordeaux cask-aged Negroni and Sloe Gin Bramble. But there’s also a dedicated Christmas Collection featuring a Mince Pie Rumhattan made with Mount Gay Rum, a Passionfruit Martini and Rhurbarb Cosmopolitan, both made with Ketel One Vodka, and my favourite: a really zesty citrus-and-spice Winter Spiced Margarita (Alc 19%), made with Don Julio Tequila. Serve it over ice in a rocks glass and garnish with a lime wedge. Each 250ml bottle provides two to three serves.