How to make the most of those drinks that only come out of the cupboard at Christmas
The festive period is one of merriment, seeing loved ones, and enjoying a tipple or two. It is also a time when many people purchase a bottle of something a little different to their usual – something that they typically get “just for the holidays” or “because it’s Christmas”. After all, once you’ve had a small glass of Drambuie and maybe a Rusty Nail, what do you do? How many Advocaat-based Snowballs can you really drink?
We’ve surveyed a number of gin fans to discover what spirits and liqueurs are typically left over in their homes after Christmas and come up with some gin-based cocktails to put them to good use.
This is a Dutch egg liqueur that is often brandy-based and is a thicker version of its American cousin, eggnog. Warninks and Bols make two of the most popular varieties. Advocaat is often mixed in a Snowball: a combination of Advocaat, lemonade and lime, which is both festive and surprisingly refreshing.
So what can you do with leftover Advocaat? The following cocktail is a variation on the egg flip, a drink whose origins go back to the 17th century, but was popularised in the 19th century by Jerry Thomas.
A Flippin’ Festive Cocktail
- 30ml dry gin
- 15ml Advocaat
- 5ml sugar syrup (optional)
Shake ingredients without ice (this is known as a “dry shake” and simply helps the gin and thicker Advocaat to mix properly). Then shake for a second time with ice to add chill and a little dilution. Fine strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a dusting of grated or ground nutmeg.
A civilised liqueur based on Scotch whisky and flavoured with honey, herbs and spices, Drambuie is typically sipped after dinner and is a great winter warmer.
Nice ‘n’ Easy Old Fashioned
- 50ml gin
- 15ml Drambuie
- Orange bitters
Typically, an Old Fashioned involves muddling sugar and gently diluting the spirit and, whilst there is a place for this ritual of drink preparation at Christmas, you’ve probably got a hundred other things to do, so here’s a shortcut.
Add your gin, Drambuie and orange bitters into a tumbler and stir gently before adding ice and stirring again. Simply serve as it is or with a skewer of dried festive fruit.
The character of the gin comes through well in this drink, but is sweetened by the liqueur and accompanied by a solid splash of Christmas spice and a lively zip of zest from the orange bitters. A lovely and easy way to enjoy an Old Fashioned.
Despite the name, there is not a drop of dairy in sight; here, the “cream” refers to quality, as in “cream of the crop”. The best-known example is Harvey’s Bristol Cream.
- 25ml dry gin
- 25ml sweet cream sherry
- 15ml fresh lemon juice
Combine the ingredients in an ice-filled
glass and top up with around 100ml of sparkling water.
This makes for a smooth and fruity drink that is crisp and refreshing with a touch of nuttiness.
With boiling water
Add the mix to a heatproof glass or mug and top up with boiling water (around 100ml) and a teaspoon of brown sugar.
Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry
In our house, the Christmas tipple is PX sherry, typically served with dark chocolate Kit Kats (one of my favourite food pairings). It is exceptionally thick, sweet and sticky, whilst being full of delightful, plump and jammy notes.
- 30ml dry gin (ideally spice-forward)
- 10ml red vermouth
- 10ml PX sherry
- 10ml Campari
Add the ingredients to a tumbler and add ice, stirring gently. Garnish with a wedge of orange and a sprinkling of nutmeg.
You immediately notice the rich, jammy notes of the PX on the nose, which mingles deliciously with the woody nutmeg. I had expected this to be overpoweringly sweet, but in fact it’s nicely balanced and the gentian root of the Campari really comes through, complementing the orange garnish. A lovely Christmas-y cocktail.
When this was suggested to me, I was a bit bemused – “Who has leftover Champagne?” – but apparently people do! There are plenty of Champagne gin cocktails, an example being the French ‘75, but I felt that that was a bit obvious, so I dug out some recipes from an article I wrote a few years ago on “Millionaire’s Cocktails”. To make the “Millionaire” version of any cocktail (even non-gin ones, as it’s great in a Manhattan) you mix the drink and top up with a little bit of Champagne.
- 50ml dry gin
- 10ml dry vermouth
- 15ml Champagne
This drink works especially well with a Brut Champagne (or other sparkling wine). First, mix your Martini to your personal preference (shaken or stirred), but be sure to leave some space in your glass. Top up with Champagne. For a garnish, I’d recommend lemon peel or orange – definitely leave the olives in the jar!
The Millionaire’s Martini is refreshing and dry with a gentle fruitiness and delicate sparkle. They are particularly easy to drink, so I would suggest having just one of these.
An alternative can be made by pouring 30ml of gin straight from the freezer and topping up with Champagne; this will be drier and colder, with the Champagne taking the place of the vermouth, and neither shaking nor stirring is required.
- 20ml dry gin
- 20ml red vermouth
- 20ml Campari
- 15ml Champagne
I usually like my Negronis in a tumbler with ice, but this works better in a cocktail glass or Champagne coupe. Stir the gin, vermouth and Campari with ice, strain into your glass, and top up with Champagne. Garnish with a piece of candied ginger.
The Champagne adds brightness to the drink: a lovely mix of dry citrus, sweet spice, and earthy bitterness. An excellent choice for New Year’s Eve.
Possibly the trickiest of all crimbo tipples to incorporate into a gin drink, Baileys is an Irish liqueur made with Irish cream and an Irish whiskey base spirit. The combination of gin and cream and whisky is unusual, but hopefully this after-dinner drink will do the trick.
Gin & Shannon
This drink is named after Shannon Airport, the home of the Irish Coffee, which used to be the last stop for flying boats in Europe before they made the transatlantic flight to North America.
- 30ml dry gin (ideally something classic, juniper-forward)
- 20ml Baileys Irish Cream
- 20ml chilled espresso
Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously with ice. Fine strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with grated chocolate.
The Gin & Shannon has a fluffy texture that is less rich than many other cream cocktails. Initial flavours from the Baileys are followed by notes of coffee, wafer biscuits, and then subtle gin notes, before deep coffee notes return on the finish.
Hopefully these recipes will give you a new appreciation of some old favourites and realise that pretty much anything can be mixed with gin to make a tasty drink!