Wishing you a very merry Christmas

We try out drinks new and old, whether for present-giving or sheer festive enjoyment.

While we all have our tried and tested Christmas favourites to sip around the tree, we’re always fond of trying new drinks at this time of year. So in the interests of your seasonal choices, we’ve done our best to explore some different options for your Christmas spirit, with plenty of alcohol-free choices as well. Don’t drink? There are some fabulous gift options here too.

For the whiskey drinker in your life

I have a fondness for Irish whiskey (and Scottish too, but we’ll save that for another day), and Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt is a palate pleaser. Made in the world’s oldest licenced whiskey distillery not far from the stunning Giant’s Causeway, this elegant malt is made using traditional methods dating back over 400 years. Master Distiller Helen Mulholland is responsible for this well-crafted smooth and gentle whiskey. I like mine with a splash of water, but you can also test out your cocktail-making skills. I recommend an Old Fashioned, or a Whiskey Sour with tart lemon. And don’t forget the Irish Coffee, a delightful winter warmer. If you want to push the boat out (and best savoured alone not in cocktails), there’s a spicy 16 Year Old Single Malt that would gladden the heart and tastebuds of any recipient. For your much loved connoisseur, you should try the complex 21 Year Old Bushmills Single Malt: a rare treat indeed.

Whisky from the Highlands

Those soft peaty landscapes of the Highlands bring forward some spectacular whiskies and the new Dalmore 12 Year Old Sherry Cask Select Highland Single Malt is certainly one of that group. This new release is crafted by Master Distiller Richard Paterson or ‘The Nose’. Now in his fiftieth year at the distillery, his nickname is truly accurate, as this cask aged whisky is beautifully fragrant. There were historic links between the distillery and Jerez, the source of the sherry casks.

Now you have the tastes of two countries beautifully complementing each other, with deep chocolate and almond flavours plus the sweetness of the famous Pedro Ximenez sherry. It takes ten years to mature the single malt in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, followed by a full finish in oak sherry casks for up to three years. That’s time well invested in perfection. It’s fruity. It’s spicy. It’s complicated. It’s frankly delicious.

Try a taste of tequila

If you still think of tequila as the stuff of shots, salt and lime, it’s time to broaden your horizons. One of the emerging drink trends of 2020, silky smooth tequila is a well-considered addition to your bar. We tried Maestro DOBEL, Mexico’s best selling ultra-premium tequila. This is the world’s first Cristalino, now the fastest-growing style of tequila. Get ahead of the trend and enjoy this beautiful tequila neat or in cocktails. We like a classic margarita or add cranberries to make a seasonal spectacular.

Want to give a truly exceptional tequila? Then try Maestro DOBEL Humito. This is based on traditions dating back to the seventeenth century and using aromatic mesquite wood to cook the agave. This creates a smoky and balanced flavour that might tempt lovers of peaty whiskies on to a new spirit Again, this can be drunk straight or in cocktails.

For gin lovers

With all the exciting gin flavours now available, it’s great to see a delicious new limited edition hit the stores. Award-winning Warner’s Distillery have produced Christmas Cake Gin, inspired by the cake recipe from founder Tom Warner’s mum. The 2020 vintage encompasses dark chocolate, treacle and festive spices for all kinds of drinking pleasure. Naughty but nice? Oooh, yes. Ginger cake, caramel, chocolate, treacle, it’s all there. I followed the suggestion to mix with premium cola, but am keen to try the suggestion to mix this into an expresso martini.

Non-alcoholic taste sensations

Craft gin farmers Warner’s have launched their first non-alchoholic spirits. With expertise gathered making super-premium flavoured gin, Warner’s is now serving up all of the taste with none of the alcohol. The range of 0% Botanic Garden Spirits includes two new variants, Pink Berry and Juniper Double Dry, both of which we tried.

It’s great to find a really complex and delicious drink without alcohol, and these flavours fit the bill. The Juniper is spicy, carrying cardamom and cinnamon with lemon verbena and lemon thyme. I added tonic, but I hear that blood orange is also a great partner. Pink Berry has raspberries and blackcurrant sage with a kick from ginger and Szechuan pepper. Tonic is again a great partner here, plus a sprig of mint. Falls Farm, where the ingredients for these 0% Botanic Garden Spirits are grown, has five acres of botanical gardens, and you can taste the beautiful fruits of that labour here. The full range capitalises on berry, herbal and floral flavours, so don’t forget to stock up on some delectable non-alcoholic options for your seasonal bar.