Winter wonders: cocktails for the festive season

The Thirteenth Day of Christmas
Midwinter may have passed and Christmas is nearly upon us, but there is still plenty of time left for some seasonal cocktails. From Marian Beke’s drink with aromas of marzipan and pine at the Nightjar or fruity cocktails sparkling with gold leaf at the Trafalgar Hotel’s Vista bar, there are festive ideas at many of London’s top establishments while winter-themed ideas are being promoted for brands such as Midori, Malibu and Bombay Sapphire.

Marian Beke of the Nightjar in Old Street, London, has created a cocktail inspired by the classic Christmas song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. His drink, The Thirteenth Day of Christmas (pictured above), ties in with window displays devised by different artists and jewellers at stores Peckham’s in Edinburgh and Jeroboams in Chelsea, London. They were curated by the company behind Hendrick’s Gin – a dark eccentric reinvention of the Christmas son using dolls, stuffed animals and other curiosities. Marian’s drink aims to conjure up images of Christmas with marzipan and pine on the nose and the flavours of port and cocoa:

The Thirteenth Day of Christmas

40ml Hendrick’s Gin
40ml Christmas wine mix of ratafia, Byrrh, sweet vermouth, white port and amontillado sherry
3 dashes of roasted cocoa and Mauritia pine nuts bitters
1 barspoon of Italian marzipan paste
2 Whole quail eggs

Shake all the ingredients extremely hard with ice and strain into a glass dusted with Luwak powder and chocolate. Marian garnishes it with an edible chocolate spoon.

Boris Ivan, head bartender at Longitude 0°8’ at Le Méridien Piccadilly hotel in London, has created a cocktail inspired by Japanese and English tea culture. His Goji Ice Tea is served in a Japanese tea set, either cold or hot for the winter season.

Goji Ice Tea
Goji Ice Tea

50ml Fair Quinoa Vodka
40ml Fair Goji Liqueur
15ml Vanilla syrup
5ml Fresh lemon juice
100ml Rooibos, orange and cinnamon tea
50ml Cranberry juice
1 fresh stick of lemongrass
2 slices of dried orange
2 slices of dried pear

Place all the ingredients in the teapot and steam in a coffee machine. Serve warm with two teacups and a small bowl of mixed fruit. For the cold version, gently shake all the ingredients apart from the lemongrass and dried fruits and double-strain over ice cubes or dry ice in the teapot.

Gold Desire, Golden Winter and Golden Sprinter at Vista
On the roof of the Trafalgar Hotel in London’s Trafalgar Square, winter cocktails can be enjoyed in Vista bar which has been covered to allow it to open throughout December until New Year’s Eve. The menu – labelled Five Gold Rings – features three luxurious cocktails, priced at £16, alongside two food dishes. The drinks are the Golden Winter, made with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, a dash of Angostura Bitters, cranberry juice, fresh blackberries and crème de mûre, with 23-carat gold leaf sprinkled through to add sparkle. Real gold leaves are also added to the Gold Desire, a champagne cocktail made with Southern Comfort and amaretto. The Golden Sprinter blends bison-grass vodka Zubrowka with apple schnapps and a dash of vanilla, garnished again with real gold leaf. The accompanying dishes are smoked salmon and a plate of dark chocolate alcazar, chocolate sauce and brandy snaps, freshly made in the hotel’s kitchens.

Chocolate Gingerbread
A winter cocktail menu has been introduced at the Rotunda Lounge at the London Marriott County Hall Hotel over on the South Bank. Here, head bartender Carlos Santos has been experimenting with molecular mixology in advance of the bar shutting down for a refurbishment in January. The results include the 2512 – named for the date of Christmas Day – which combines Moët & Chandon champagne in a flute with red and yellow jelly spheres made from Hendrick’s Gin and essence of elderflower. Other seasonal drinks include the Chocolate Gingerbread, made with Mozart Dark chocolate liqueur, Rémy Martin VSOP cognac, Grand Marnier, gingerbread syrup and egg white, served in a Martini glass. (You can read more about the Rotunda Lounge in a more recent post on this blog.)

The team at Bombay Sapphire are encouraging people to create their own sloe gin by combining the contents of a 700ml bottle with 450g of sloe berries and 200g of caster sugar, ideally in a one-litre Kilner jar. Clamp the lid shut and shake to agitate the contents every two days for the first two weeks and then leave in a dark cool place for three months. When ready, strain the liquid back into the bottle. Simple mixed drinks being suggested include a Sloeberry Fizz, which is one of the seasonal drinks at the House of Hackney pop-up gin den at Bistrotheque in Hackney, north-east London, until December 31.

Sloeberry Fizz
Sloeberry Fizz

50ml Bombay Sapphire sloe gin
25ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
A dash of runny honey
50ml Soda water

Pour the sloe gin, juice and honey into a highball glass and stir. Add cubed ice and stir again. Top up with soda water and stir again. Garnish with a large orange wedge.

A range of other winter cocktails have been put together for making with Bombay Sapphire, including the fruity Royal Victoria Punch which mixes the gin with Martini Rosso vermouth, Chambord and winter fruits such as clementines and pears. The cocktails – many of which are promoted on its Facebook page – also include a warm version of a Cosmopolitan made with gin, cranberry juice, triple sec and lime with an added cinnamon stick, cloves and orange slice studded with cloves. Others include the Jappletini Sapphire, a seasonal twist on a fruity Martini cocktail:

Jappletini Sapphire
Jappletini Sapphire

50ml Bombay Sapphire
20ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Half a Granny Smith apple, diced into small cubes
2 teaspoons of blackberry jam

Muddle the diced apple in the Boston glass and add the rest of the ingredients. Shake well for 30 seconds with cubed ice and fine-strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a slice of apple.

In November, Pernod Ricard UK introduced a limited-edition Malibu containing coconut flakes – inspired by wintry snow flakes. Some simple serves are being promoted for the coconut rum liqueur on Facebook such as a Malibu Snowflake, combining 50ml of Malibu with equal parts cranberry juice and apple juice in a tall glass. Adding just warm apple juice to 50ml of Malibu Winter Edition creates an Apple Strudel, which can be garnished with a cinnamon stick, while the Malibu Blizzard is made with 50ml of the Malibu with lemonade and a squeeze of lemon juice, garnished with a lemon wedge. Other suggestions include the Malibu Winter White:

Malibu Winter White
Malibu Winter White

50ml Malibu Winter Edition
25ml Whole milk
5ml Pistachio syrup
5ml Coconut puree
Coconut flakes

Dip the rim of the glass in water and then twist in coconut flakes. Shake all the ingredients with ice and pour into a tall glass.

Midori has had a good year in the UK thanks to work by global brand ambassador Manuel Terron to prove how versatile the Japanese melon-based liqueur is. For the winter months, distributor Cellar Trends has been promoting some warm mixed drinks including a Mulled Midori punch, made by mixing the liqueur with pressed apple juice, orange, pear slices, cinnamon sticks, Grand Marnier, Cinzano Rosso and orange bitters. A simpler recipe is the Cider House:

Midori Cider House
Cider House

120ml Hot fresh cloudy apple juice
40ml Midori
30ml Dark rum
2 dashes of bitters

Build in a heat-proof glass or mug and stir. Garnish with a large apple slice sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

In the run-up to Christmas, Global Brands has been promoting a signature festive serve for its Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur, part of a year-long programme of on-trade activity. Through point-of-sale materials such as menu inserts and tent cards, it will be promoting seasonal drinks for key times of the year such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter. The Christmastini is made with 50ml Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur and 25ml of vodka, served in a martini glass with cream floating on top, dusted with cinnamon.

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