I'm a firm believer that there's a drink for every occasion, and the holiday season calls for a tipple more than most. Armed with the right beverage for the right moment, there's little you won't be able to face.
1. To avoid a Christmas party hangover Work Christmas parties have the tendency to escalate - to spiral out of control as a socially awkward assembly of people look to blur the lines of professional relationships by getting plastered. If you want to hold on to a sense of decorum, space your alcoholic beverages with water.
A lower-alcohol mix I often drink is an Americano - a shot of Campari and sweet vermouth topped with soda. It's barely a standard unit of alcohol but has flavour in spades. You can be seen drinking a few of these without suddenly feeling that it might be a good idea to show your co-workers your breakdancing moves.
2. To unwind from last-minute shopping Let's face it - shopping at this time of year is a nightmare. And no matter how well prepared you are, there's always that one last item to pick up that has you wrestling with someone's nana on Christmas Eve for the last pack of fruit mince pies.
Take a moment and pour yourself a stiff G&T. There are a few options here, but a classic London dry - something juniper-heavy and resinous like the small pine tree in your living room (think Tanqueray) works a treat.
3. To get into the Christmas spirit With Christmas-time being summer-time Down Under, we miss out on some of the great holiday drinks. I suggest that you switch off the invariably terrible Christmas Eve TV and give this classic 19th century American tipple a whirl. Whilst it takes a little practice to perfect, it's well worth the effort.
TOM AND JERRY (serves 6)
4 Tbsp caster sugar
A bottle aged rum
A bottle cognac or brandy
Separate the whites from the yolks and beat them until stiff. Beat together the yolks and the sugar with 30ml of the cognac until thin. Fold the two egg mixes together.
To serve put a generous tablespoon of this batter into a small mug with 30ml each of the rum and cognac and 5ml-10ml of the schnapps (depending on how spicy you like things).
Top with hot milk, stir and garnish with a little grated nutmeg. Serves six.
4. To leave out for Santa We always used to leave out a glass of port for Santa to help wash down his Christmas mince pie. But I think you can do better than that, especially if you're expecting a decent present. Why not leave Santa (or his local helper) a perfect dram of a single malt?
5. To help you cope with the in-laws This is a tricky one - you hardly want to be seen boozing away by yourself at lunch, and you want to be in shape to escape by car if need be. The trick is to escape to the kitchen and fix the folks a drink to settle them and something stiff to boot.
2 tsp caster sugar
A handful of mint
Add all ingredients into a shaker. Stir to dissolve sugar then add ice. Shake briskly and strain over ice into a tall glass. Top with more soda and garnish with a fresh mint sprig.
6. To deal with the turkey Over-indulgence is a problem at this time of year so it pays to be armed with a powerful digestive liquor.
Few beverages will inspire the sort of fear required to get that turkey moving, but one of them is the Milanese-produced Fernet Branca. It's an incredibly bitter, herbal, pepperminty drop that's taken neat, on ice or cut with cola, chinotto or tonic.
7. To share a moment with your dad There are few better ways to get your dad to open up than by sharing a Scotch. You'll need something pretty serious - after a big day you'll need a big whisky. I recommend a malt like Talisker 10-year-old for this occasion - it's smoky and medicinal, but balanced by rich toffee and fruit.
8. For some ‘me' time
You're home after an epic day of family entertaining. You've survived nieces and nephews running about high on sugar, probing questions from relatives and a Christmas pudding heavy enough to sink an oil tanker. If you're feeling the need for a nightcap again, you might be leaning towards the whisky cabinet.
A peaty Islay single malt will punch you in the jaw with an uppercut of flavour, or for a more subtle, honeyed, fruit-driven approach, head towards a Speyside malt.
9. For the Boxing Day barbie
After all the rich eating of Christmas Day, Boxing Day calls for a refreshing change. Cocktails, whisky and other indulgences can be left for another day. A crisp, cold cider served over ice is the answer to the traditional blackened snag. My tip is to go for something dry to medium-dry and the only flavour written on the label should be the one it's made from - apples.
10. To enjoy at the beach
The Pina Colada is unfortunately not a beverage you can order in many bars these days. But it does have its place as a holiday beverage. Blend fresh cored and peeled pineapple pieces with a healthy dose of rum, a dollop of coconut cream (or coconut water if you're watching your waist), a squeeze of lime, a little sugar to taste and a scoop of ice. It should have a smoothie-type texture and not form peaks above your glass. Stick a cocktail parasol in there for a holiday feel.
11. To toast 2013 Few would argue that there's a better celebratory beverage than Champagne, and fortunately for you there's a major price war at moment. Quality domestic sparkling wines will be suffering, as prices for French bubbles keep dropping, but that's something to worry about next year. In the meantime, pick up a bottle or two and keep well chilled until you start hearing fireworks.
12. To nurse a hangover It's the new year, and while you've made resolutions to drink less and exercise more, you shouldn't realise those promises until tomorrow. It's a public holiday, after all. A Bloody Mary and a cooked breakfast will sort you out.
JUG O' MARY
240ml vodka, gin or blanco tequila
40ml pale dry apera
40ml lemon juice
350ml tomato juice
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
Fresh cracked black pepper
A couple of pinches of salt
Fresh horseradish (if you're that organised)
Half teaspoon smoked paprika
Build in a pitcher, season to taste and fill up with ice. Serve with celery sticks and fried eggs on toast.
Sydney Morning Herald
- The Marlborough Express