At Christmas you’re often too busy to think about mixing drinks. There’s food to prepare, presents to wrap, cards to write… So isn’t it all too much like hard work to start shaking cocktails too?
Before I started mixing drinks at home, I would have agreed. But with practice and a few basic rules, I found out how easy it is to make cocktails — and how delighted friends and family are when you present them with an eye-catching glass of something delicious to sip.
With Christmas cocktails, choose seasonal flavours that are a bit stronger and will warm you up in winter. Think plums, sloes, dark berries; comforting baking spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg or even some fiery chilli heat. If you’re unsure about using spices, start with less, then add more.
Zesty citrus flavours – lemon, lime and orange – also work well. To save time, prep fresh juices in advance, rather than squeezing a lemon every single time you make a new drink.
Also remember to use plenty of ice, straight from the freezer – not ‘wet’ ice that has been sitting around in an ice bucket. Fill glasses right to the top, as this will ensure your drink stays perfectly chilled. If you don’t use enough ice, the cubes will melt quickly, diluting your drink, and you’ll end up with a watery cocktail.
To make your drinks look pro, put your glasses in the freezer if you’ve got space. Chill them for at least half an hour. It’s a simple trick, but it always impresses people.
If you’re really short on time, remember that there are plenty of good-quality ready-made cocktails to buy. But the mixes below are so quick and easy to prepare that you’ll be back in front of the fire, unwrapping more presents in no time.
Easy cocktails to make at Christmas
One for gin-lovers, this fruity mix is made with blackberry liqueur. Try Giffard Créme de Mure (£15, Amazon) and pair it with any classic London Dry gin, such as Portobello Road No 171 (£42.22, Amazon). At this time of year, when blackberries aren’t in season, you can use a frozen blackberry to garnish.
- Ingredients: 40ml gin, 15ml créme de mure liqueur, 75ml tonic water
- Glass: Balloon glass or copa
- Garnish: Blackberries and a sprig of rosemary
- Method: Fill your glass with ice cubes. Add the gin and créme de mure liqueur, then top with tonic water. Stir gently to mix and garnish.
This Christmassy twist on a Collins uses whisky instead of gin. Try Monin Cinnamon Syrup (£9.35, Amazon) and make sure you use runny honey, which is easier to mix. Take a look at our recommendations of best whiskies for cocktails for tips on which bottle to choose. Finally choose a premium mixer, such as Fentimans Ginger Ale (£5.02 for 4 x 200ml bottles, Amazon).
- Ingredients: 50ml whisky, 25ml lemon juice, 10ml cinnamon syrup, 10ml honey, ginger ale to top
- Glass: Highball
- Garnish: Slice of lemon and a cinnamon stick
- Method: Pour the whisky, lemon juice, syrup and honey into your glass and stir well to mix, making sure that the honey dissolves. Fill the glass with ice cubes, then top with ginger ale. Stir gently to mix and garnish.
Sales of tequila are on the rise in the UK, so you may already have a bottle at home. For this festive twist on a classic Margarita, choose a blanco tequila like the well-balanced 1800 Silver Tequila (£35, Master of Malt). You can use green or red chillis and use as much or as little as you like. A few slices should give you a spicy tingle; add more for a fiery kick. Triple sec is an orange liqueur: Cointreau (£20.99. Amazon) is always a reliable choice. Margaritas can be served over ice in a rocks glass or straight up in a Martini glass.
- Ingredients: 50ml tequila, 25ml lime juice, 20ml triple sec, 4 slices of chilli
- Glass: Cocktail glass or rocks glass
- Garnish: Salt and chilli rim, lime wedge
- Method: Sprinkle a few teaspoons of salt and dried chilli flakes over a small plate. Rub a wedge of lime along the rim of your glass and then dip it into the chilli-salt mix so that the entire rim is covered. Add the tequila, lime juice, triple sec and chilli to a cocktail shaker, then muddle for a minute to crush the chilli, using the flat end of a barspoon or a wooden spoon. Add ice to the cocktail shaker, then shake until your hands feel cold. Strain into your prepared glass; if you’re using a rocks glass, fill it with fresh ice and garnish with a wedge of lime.
Salted Caramel Martini
A good choice for after-dinner or instead of dessert, this Martini uses coffee vodka: try Masons Espresso Vodka (£28, Amazon) which is also great in an Espresso Martini. Try Monin Salted Caramel Syrup (£11.40, Amazon) or use a plain Caramel Syrup (£13, Amazon) with three generous pinches of sea salt to balance the sweetness.
- Ingredients: 65ml espresso vodka, 20ml salted caramel syrup
- Glass: Nick & Norah
- Garnish: None
- Method: Put all of the ingredients in a mixing glass or jug with ice. Stir down to mix and chill, then strain into a chilled Nick & Norah glass.
Sloe Gin Fizz
The Gin Fizz is a classic and simple mix of gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup, topped with soda water. For a more festive take, use a fruity sloe gin, such as Sipsmith Sloe Gin (£24.99, Amazon). Use frozen blackberries or raspberries to garnish if you don’t have fresh ones.
- Ingredients: 50ml sloe gin, 25ml lemon juice, 10ml sugar syrup, soda water
- Glass: Highball
- Garnish: Slice of lemon and a blackberry
- Method: Put the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until your hands are cold, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with soda water and garnish.