Spreading the cheer: The best drinks options for all Christmas occasions

Spreading the cheer: The best drinks options for all Christmas occasions

The first rule for organising all your Christmas drinks is not to overthink them. Stick with your favourites – Christmas Day is not the time to open that dusty bottle you inherited from your grandad; the last thing you want is disappointment on the most celebratory day of the year.

A treasured bottle is best kept for a weekend meal ‘à deux’ and for Christmas, I would opt instead for wines, beers and spirits that you know you and your guests will like. If you are determined to embrace the new, here are some suggestions to help inspire you.

Low Alcohol and Non-alcoholic Drinks

Removing the alcohol from wine and beer severely damages the mouth-feel and flavour so I always struggle to find recommendations in this category. If you must have a zero or low alcohol ‘wine’ on the table Torres Natureo Red and White (Multiples, O’Briens) is better than most, as is Leitz ‘Ein Zwei Zero’ range (JJ O’Driscolls, O’Donovans, Matsons, 1601, Vintry).

King of Kefir Lemongrass & Ginger, 0% ABV, 33cl – €3.49

Stockists: Roughty English Mkt, Stuffed Olive Bantry, McCambridges, Ardkeen, Selected SuperValu, good healthfood shops.

This was one of my finds of the year. At just 7 calories per bottle and packed with flavour (as are the three others in the range) this is tangy, zingy and gorgeous with a light fizz and a pleasing touch of heat from the ginger. A proper adult drink.

Kinnegar ‘Low Tide’, Low Alcohol Pale Ale – 1%, 440ml – €2.89

Stockists: Bradleys, Castle Tralee, No. 21 group, World Wide Wines, McHughes, Martins, Vintry, Craftdirect.ie, CraftCentral.ie

This is a traditionally brewed low-alcohol pale ale packed with citrus and pine scented American hops and unlike any of the big brand zero alcohol beers I’ve tried, this has some body and character. The rest of the Kinnegar range is also highly recommended.

L’Atitude 51 Lemonade

recipe by:Leslie Willliams

The lovely Beverly of L’Atitude 51 serves this gorgeous lemonade in her Wine Bar on Union Quay in Cork, and has kindly agreed to let me share it with you.

Ingredients

  • 3 limes and 3 lemons quartered

  • 6 tbsp caster sugar 

  • 60ml Simple Syrup (½ sugar, ½ water).

Method

  1. Muddle (smash) the lemons in a cocktail shaker to release the juice and oils.

  2. Next add the sugar and simple syrup and shake vigorously with lots of ice. Strain into a jug and top with sparkling water to taste.

Aperitif

You need a bottle of decent gin in the house at Christmas as nothing perks you up like a good Gin & Tonic with its perfect balance of sweet and bitter.

Maharani Gin, 41% ABV, 70cl – €49.00

Stockists: Bradleys, Matsons, larger Cork SuperValu stores, www.irishmalts.com, Celtic Whiskey Shop www.celticwhiskeyshop.com. More info at rebelcitydistillery.com/

Rebel City Brewery was the first new distillery to be opened in Cork City in over 50 years in the old Ford building in the Marina. Maharani is bright and fruity with noticeable floral and herbal notes mixed with citrus, spices and exotic fruits. Nutmeg and Mace come through on the finish along with a zesty freshness. Try with Poachers Wild Tonic or Fever-Tree Mediterranean.

Wine to Match Gift-Giving

Nothing matches the present opening like Champagne. If you are serving fizz with your smoked salmon starter I recommend pushing up a little to maybe Pol Roger or Louis Roederer (both around €60 from good off-licences). However, this fine Champagne is hard to beat in the price-quality stakes – buy two!

Beaumont des Crayères Grand Reserve NV Champagne – €29.99 (was €36.99)

Stockist: O’Briens

From a small Co-Op with 250 growers and an average plot size of less than half a hectare.. Pear, citrus, dried apple and biscuity aromas with pleasing creamy brioche and lemon zest flavours.

Starters

Seafood starters such as Prawn Cocktail or Smoked Salmon work brilliantly with Champagne but will also happily match with any zesty white wine from Alsace Riesling to Sancerre to Albariño. However this year I’m suggesting you try something a little more exotic.

Laurent Miquel Solas Viognier, Languedoc, France – €10.00

Stockist: Dunnes Stores

The best Viognier is from the Northern Rhône and costs five times or more than this peachy fresh little wonder. Bright apricot and white peach aromas, textured pear fruits on the palate and a dash of acidity. This will work with rich seafood starters and would also be a good party wine – on the slim chance that parties are allowed this Christmas.

Domaine LaFage Miraflors Rosé, Côtes Catalanes, France – €19.95

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, 1601 Kinsale, World Wide Wines, Cashel Wine Cellar Vintry, Jus de Vine, Redmonds.

My second choice for your starters is Rosé in a gorgeous frosted bottle form Roussillon. LaFage are a fine producer so feel free to buy one of their fragrant whites instead such as the peachy Cadrieta or the textured complex Centenaire. Peach and strawberry aromas, textured and crisp with red cherry touches and a lingering citrus zing.

Wine for the Bird

Wine for the turkey is probably your main concern but remember that turkey is a very forgiving meat so will match with just about any wine, red or white. If I must choose I like how the brown turkey meat matches with Pinot Noir. Burgundy is the benchmark but it seems to get more expensive by the day – consider Germany, New Zealand or Romania if you are on a budget.

Bonne Tonne Morgon Côte de Py, Beaujolais Cru – €29.99

Stockists: Ardkeen, Mannings Ballylickey, Little Green Grocer Kilkenny, Vintry, Toons Bridge Macroom & Georges St., www.marypawlewines.com

This producer is seven generations in the village of Morgon, the Beaujolais Cru that is closest in style to Burgundy despite being made from Gamay. The granite hill of Côte de Py is one of the best sites in the region and this ripe concentrated wine is packed with black cherry fruits, plum, blackberries and a hint of spice. Concentrated, textured, lingering and delicious.

Cheese and Dessert

To really match cheese and wine you would need a different wine with each cheese so I always opt for sweet wines, especially Port which can cope with everything from Brie to Crozier Blue. For the Pudding this year I’m suggesting a luscious sweet Sherry which is one of the few wines that can match ice-cream.

Taylors 10-Year-Old Tawny Port, Portugal – €29.99

Stockists: SuperValu, O’Briens, Greenman Wines, O’Donovans, Independents.

Taylors are a Tawny specialist and are part of the reason that Tawny sales have increased significantly in recent years. This pours a brick red with soft berry aromas and pleasing spice notes. Rich and satiny on the palate with stewed figs and prune flavours. This will match cheese, chocolates, mince pies and even TV box sets.

Piedra Luenga PX, D.O. Montilla-Moriles, Spain, 50cl – €18.75

Stockists: Manning’s Emporium, Ballylickey, The Quay Co-Op, Organico Bantry, Clontarf Wines. The Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny

This is my choice for the Christmas pudding or for the Trifle (both in it

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