When it comes to spirits, Christmas is a time for experimenting. Try to step away from your usual order and venture into the world of festive flavours like toffee, maple and cranberry.
Whether sampling whiskey with a twist, giving Sloe gin a real chance or buying a brand you’ve never looked at before, be bold.
To start you on your way, we’ve put together a list of our favourite tipples for the holiday season, with each one set to start a conversation around the Christmas dinner table.
Or at the very least, leave you with something delectable to drink…
Lucky Sod Whiskey Liqueur £23.75
If you want to dip your toe in the whiskey pool but prefer sweet over single malt, this liqueur is a good starting point. Made by Urchin Spirits, the Lucky Sod is the equivalent of a whiskey dessert with vanilla, sticky toffee and caramel flavours. It’s tasty but a little too sugary for a discerning spirit drinker. Like other festive tipples (Baileys hot chocolate, egg toddy etc) it is best drunk in moderation to avoid regret. An excellent shot option too, should your Christmas party go down that route.
Discarded Sweet Cascara Vermouth, £19
When you think ‘booze shopping’, vermouth probably isn’t the first spirit that pops into your head (unless you’re a bartender or really like martinis). But this fortified wine shouldn’t be overlooked and can add sparkle to cocktails or serve as a great tipple all on its own. The Discarded version on our list is infused with cascara, a waste product from the coffee industry, so you can feel good about your drink too. It’s also a decently-priced bottle (it won’t leave you bankrupt, should you decide that vermouth isn’t for you).
Port Askaig 8yo, £44.94
Experimenting doesn’t mean you have to go crazy with flavour. Sometimes, it’s enough just to try a more high quality brand. Refine your palate with the eight-year-old Port Askaig and earn yourself whisky bragging rights. Be warned: it’s quite smoky. Enjoy a glass by yourself (we like ours over ice but neat is just as nice) or bring the bottle out at parties in December to show off. Tell your mates the drink has notes of charcoal, caramel and peppercorn, and watch them marvel trying to taste it for themselves.
Waterford: Cuveé, £68
Speaking of whisky, this Irish single malt is also a good option. A bit more modern, both in appearance and taste, it’s described as having an “unprecedented spectrum” of flavours. We don’t believe it quite lives up to that hype but it’s a decent tipple that deserves a pour. Waterford has 14 different bottles to choose from, each with its own spin, but all are made from 100% Irish barley.
Balvenie DoubleWood 12yo, £46
We’re on a roll with the whisky, so we’re throwing in another one and this is our favourite on the list. The Balvenie Doublewood is so smooth, you won’t want to share it. The complex taste is down to the equally complex process that the spirit undergoes. The whisky spends 12 years sitting in casks like American Oak ex-bourbon barrels and hogsheads, before being moved to Spanish oak ex-Oloroso sherry casks for nine months. Then it’s left to mature in oak ‘tuns’ for another three to four months. Respect the process: don’t water it down with ice.
What’s better than a tasty G&T? A tasty G&T with a twist. Hendrick’s gin is well-known for its unique flavour. So much so, the spirit has its own garnish (cucumber, never lime). And rather than mess with the ingredients, this year, the brand has created a limited edition cracker packaging. It’s green, jolly and with content much better than a paper crown or festive joke (though we like those too). Gift it to yourself or someone else – either way, it’ll look great under the Christmas tree.
AKER English Rosé Aperitif, £35
When it’s time for the cheese course (yes, you should absolutely have a Christmas cheese course), pull out this bottle. Light and crisp, the rosé aperitif will serve as the perfect palate cleanser and remind you of warm summery nights in winter’s doom and gloom. The AKER spirit is made at Chapel Down vineyard with ingredients foraged in the “depths of the Cotswolds”. It’s just as dreamy as it sounds, with botanical blossoms and spice tones.
Smokehead, £40.99 (Original)
Yes, yes, it’s a whisky-heavy list but all is not what it seems. You see, Smokehead has whiskeys infused with tequila (Terminado), rum (Rebel), sherry (Blast), stout (Twisted), as well as classic – and incredibly smoky – whisky. Whichever one you choose, prepare for an assault of the senses in the best possible way. Smokehead is a bit like having a wild date; it might not be a perfect match but you’ll have one hell of a fun evening.
Chapel Down’s Bacchus Gin, £30
Another hit from Chapel Down, this gin is included on our list not for its daring flavour (no funky fruits or spices here) but for its quality; the gin was awarded gold at the Global Gin Masters
2022. We’ve tried the tipple; it’s crisp, sleek and a little sexy (we’re not entirely sure gins can be sexy but here we are). With Britain being a nation of gin drinkers, it seemed only right to present something a little special for Christmas. It’s also currently on sale!
Monkey Shoulder, £29.99
Last one, we promise. As far as blended whisky goes, Monkey Shoulder is a great option for dinner parties. Partly because it’s more palatable for those not as familiar with the Speyside malt taste and partly because the drink is a good base for cocktails. The brand offers classic recipes (think Rob Roy and espresso martini) on its site but don’t be afraid to experiment with festive flavours like cinnamon, maple and cranberry syrup. Or just drink it straight by the fire.
Boatyard Sloe Boat Gin, £30
What is the festive season without a Sloe gin? Like Smokehead, Boatyard Distillery dabbles with one spirit in many ways, offering a range of gins from the aforementioned Sloe to Winter Solstice (which apparently tastes like Christmas pudding and candied orange!) and has even forayed into a banana and black pepper vodka. But this is quite an adventurous selection so if you prefer your spirits neat and tidy, look elsewhere.
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