One of my favourite times is on Christmas Day when, with the lunch prepared and cooking and before the guests arrive, I can sit down and relax for a time with a Christmassy drink, while Donna and I open our presents. For some years now our drink of choice has been a Buck’s Fizz or Mimosa as it’s sometimes called. A tall flute, half filled with a domestic dry sparkling wine or champagne if you budget runs to that, and topped up with ice-cold orange juice, it can even be made in a jug for easy serving; it’s refreshing, light and not too alcoholic and if there are children present they can enjoy a lookalike drink with lemonade instead of the wine. A pleasant alternative is a Kir Royal; same tall flute but this time with a measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) in the bottom then filled with the sparkling wine/champagne and for the children, Ribena and lemonade. Christmas is also a good time to enjoy a celebratory Bellini, this sixties’ favourite is made with 3 or 4 ripe peaches and a sprinkling of sugar pureed and either put in a punch bowl or jug and into which is gently stirred a bottle of sparkling wine, it’s supposed to be champagne but I am sure Giovanni wouldn’t mind you using Lindauer.
At this time of year an American favourite is Egg Nog, a drink of which I am not over-fond, maybe because I feel it better suited to a winter Christmas or maybe because I want remember the rest of the day, something which wouldn’t be all that easy using a family recipe given to me by an American visitor a few years ago. It calls for a dozen eggs, a tablespoon of icing sugar, two litres of milk, a litre of bourbon and a sprinkling of nutmeg; this recipe to serve only six people!
Whether we have Christmas lunch or dinner we will be having wine, bottles that I have set aside for special occasions, usually bought when it has been on special and squirreled away. If you are having a barbecue though, what could be better than jugs of sangria? Ideal for outdoor summer drinking, the recipes are simple and won’t break the bank.
Santa's Summer Sangria
1-2 peaches (optional)
1-2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp brandy
1 litre chilled red wine (a reasonable Chateau Cardboard will be fine)
500ml chilled soda water
Slice the orange and lemon, stone the peaches and quarter then put all the fruit into a large jug and sprinkle over the sugar and add the brandy. Leave for 30 minutes then pour in the wine and soda, add a few ice cubes, stir and serve icy cold.
Frosty's Festive Favourite
1-2 peaches and/or 12 grapes
2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier etc.)
1 litre chilled dry white wine
500ml soda water
Slice the orange, stone and quarter the peaches, halve and pip the grapes then put all into a large jug and add the sugar and liqueur. Leave for 30 minutes then add the wine and soda. Add ice cubes and serve icy cold.
Neither of these recipes is graven in stone and both may be altered to suit and made the night before and refrigerated, adding the soda and ice just before serving.
A responsible host will always offer a non-alcoholic alternative and since my time as a barman in England mine has been the Long Boat. This wonderful little number is made by putting some bruised mint leaves in the bottom of a tall glass, adding a measure of Rose’s Lime Juice and a handful of ice cubes then pouring ginger beer over them to fill. However if you are not driving and be of an age, by simply exchanging the Rose’s for a squeeze of fresh lime juice and adding a tot of white rum, this can be turned into a Jolly Boat.
Whatever you do this Christmas though, it’s not just the food and drink that make it a feast, it’s the people you share it with; even a cheese sandwich and a cup of tea enjoyed with loved ones is so much better than a banquet by yourself.
So bon appetit, enjoy your Christmas, do all the right things – eat your fruit and vegetables, be careful with the barbecue, be food save and watch those leftovers, don’t drink and drive, keep out of the sun and oh…I don’t know…swim between the flags.
Donna and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – Nga-mihi o te Kirihimete me te Tau Hou.