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Easy Christmas cocktails to make at home

Why not celebrate the festive season by mixing up some delicious cocktails? Neil Ridley, co-author of bestselling book, 60-Second Cocktails, outlines a few hints, tips and recipes to make your Christmas cocktail party go with a bang.  

As the festive party season hits full swing, it’s usually a case of ‘so much to do and so little time’. So honing your cocktail-making craft often slips down the list. However, with a little confidence, forward planning and a quick root around the kitchen cupboards, it’s surprising what you can come up with to wow your guests.

In fact, that was the reason behind writing 60-Second Cocktails: 60 Amazing Drinks To Make At Home In A Minute. Joel Harrison and I wanted to pull together some fun, great looking and ultimately, utterly delicious mixed drinks – that take pretty much the same time to make as it takes to select, open and pour a bottle of wine.

From twists on the classics to some more progressive dazzlers, these are drinks that will certainly put a smile on the faces of any partygoer.

Be prepared

One of the biggest lessons I learned is about pre-batching drinks in advance. It can be a total lifesaver, when the party is in full swing and you’d rather be having fun with your guests, not stirring and shaking in the kitchen. Pre-batching a complex-tasting cocktail – such as a Negroni or an Old Fashioned – into a jug before your party is quite straightforward and well worth exploring. Your guests can then simply help themselves.

Using a recipe based on parts, rather than millilitres – as I’ve done below – makes it even easier to measure out ingredients.

It’s also worth prepping some garnishes in advance. Taking a fruit peeler, you can easily – and safely – remove the thin peel from an orange or lemon. Then shape it into professional looking garnishes, or spiral it around a barspoon for a lovely coiled spring look. Keep your garnishes in a bowl with a little water in it for maximum freshness.

Get creative

A little seasonal creativity can also really bring some of the classics alive. For example by substituting the usual granulated sugar in an Old Fashioned for maple syrup (see below), you will introduce a lovely smoky richness into the drink.

Or try making your own simple sugar syrup in a ratio of two parts caster sugar to one part water. Slowly dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat on the hob. Now you can begin to add festive spices, such as cloves, cinnamon and star anise.

Also try adding in a vanilla pod, some dried fruit or a little dark cocoa powder for a more indulgent syrup. Once cooled and strained, the syrup can be bottled and will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

Stay cool

Finally, if there’s one piece of sage advice which has stayed with me during the party season, it’s this: run out of ice, you run out of party! So keep the freezer well stocked in advance. If you fancy really elevating your ice game, then try making some professional-looking blocks of ice. Take a large straight-sided food storage box and fill it with freshly boiled, filtered water, which has been left to go cold. Once frozen, it will be a lovely clear block of ice. It can then be carefully broken into chunky blocks, using a sharp knife or ice pick.

Decanter Premium is the perfect last-minute gift for wine lovers

Fabulously festive 60-Second Cocktails to try

Recipes taken from 60-Second Cocktails: 60 Amazing Drinks To Make At Home In A Minute by Joel Harrison & Neil Ridley. Cocktail images by Vinny Whiteman.

Pink cocktail in a highball glass

Easy Peasy Paloma

A classic Mexican cocktail, which brings together a wonderful mix of blanco tequila, citrus notes and effervescent soda. The original calls for pink grapefruit soda but you can use a lemon soda for a more rounded and sweet-citrusy punch, or blood orange soda for a bolder sweetness. Try using Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila.

  • Ingredients: 1 part blanco or silver tequila, 5 parts soda, a squeeze of fresh lime juice
  • Glass: Highgball
  • Garnish: Slice of pink grapefruit
  • Method: Add the ice into a tall glass, then add the tequila, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and top up with the soda. Give the drink a quick stir and garnish with a slice of pink grapefruit. Very easy to pre-batch into a jug.

Cocktails on a tray

Maple Syrup Old Fashioned

A tasty twist on the classic Old Fashioned, this uses American whiskey and takes its complex, sweet and slightly smoky flavour from the use of maple syrup. Try Buffalo Trace or Four Roses bourbon. Traditionally the Old Fashioned takes a little time to prepare, but it’s ok to cheat at home!

  • Ingredients: 2 parts American whiskey, ½ part maple syrup, 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
  • Glass: Rocks
  • Garnish: Orange peel
  • Method: Add the whiskey, maple syrup and the bitters into a tumbler style glass, then the ice. Stir for around 20 seconds, adding a little more ice if needed. Give the drink a final stir and twist a thin slice of orange peel over the glass to express the oils and place on the top. Can be batched up in a jug in advance. Just add a small amount of chilled water – half a part per serve – to the jug: that way the cocktail doesn’t require any dilution and can be simply poured over ice.

Mug of hot toddy cocktail

Hot Peanut Butter Rum

Dark rum is a spirit full of complexity, wonderful in a number of mixed drinks that call for big, rich flavours. Hot buttered rum is a hugely underrated classic cocktail and this twist, using smooth peanut butter, adds an indulgent, silky element of nuttiness. You could try Plantation or Appleton Estate rum in this cocktail.

  • Ingredients: 2 parts dark rum, 1tsp smooth peanut butter, 2tsp of runny honey, hot (but not boiling) water
  • Glass: Mug
  • Garnish: None
  • Method: Add the rum and honey together in a jug and mix until fully dissolved. Add the peanut butter and pour over a little of the hot water. Stir until melted, then add the rest of the water, give a last quick stir and strain into a mug.

Cocktail and candles on a tray

Mocha Martini

The Espresso Martini has become a revelation, with its dark-roasted, malty sweetness making it a proper party starter. Imagine how much better it might be with a spoonful of chocolate spread added to the cocktail shaker! This drink is nutty, chocolatey and utterly moorish.

  • Ingredients: 2 parts espresso coffee, 1 part dark rum, 1tsp Nutella, a dusting of chocolate powder
  • Glass: Cocktail glass
  • Garnish: Dusting of cocoa powder
  • Method: Prepare the espresso coffee. Add all the ingredients into a shaker and stir with a spoon. Add ice. Shake again. Strain into a cocktail glass. Dust the top with cocoa powder.

Cocktail glass and shaker on a table

Side Hustle

The Sidecar is a luscious, punchy classic cocktail. It combines bittersweet orange notes of triple sec, with vibrant notes of citrus and rich, deep flavours from aged French brandy. This longer, more refreshing version lengthens the drink with lemonade and serves it over ice. Try making it with Hine or Hennessy Cognac.

  • Ingredients: 2 parts Cognac, 1 part triple sec or Cointreau, ½ part lemon juice, 4 parts lemonade
  • Glass: Highgball
  • Garnish: Lemon peel
  • Method: Add all the ingredients except the lemonade into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake. Strain into tall glass with ice and top with the lemonade. Gently give the mixture a light stir. Garnish with  a thin piece of lemon peel.

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