The festive season can be really tricky if you’re choosing to cut down or abstain from alcohol. Here are some of our favourite winter recipes, so you can fake some of those classic festive flavours. A couple of things to think about:
1 – Forget any diet plans. I’ve designed these drinks to be fun. They are a treat, a festive treat! So try not to worry about the calories.
2 – Don’t fear the vinegar! Vinegar is your friend, it will balance out all these sweet and fruity flavours that we are working with and make your drinks a little more grown up and sippable.
3 – Be creative. These are just a guideline, you can do so much if you just take a little leap of faith. You know which flavours you enjoy, so think about how you can involve them in your own mixing.
A few simple things will come in handy:
Glasses to serve
This can be modified to suit your tastes, so feel free to get creative with the fruits and herbs that you use. I found inspiration for this online, but have also tried it with plums and cinnamon, which worked really well.
It all starts with making a simple syrup. Gomme is used in many cocktails to add sweetness, but here we are using it to bring flavour and a little viscosity, it’s the star of the show. Gomme is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water, previously I’ve only ever made it with white sugar but this time I used golden caster, which brings a little more richness.
For your syrup:
1 cup water
2 cups golden caster sugar
6 dried apricots
2 pears roughly sliced
2 sprigs of rosemary
Cider vinegar to taste
Combine your syrup ingredients in a pan and gently bring near to boiling. Keep an eye on this at all times, as if you go and put your feet up it’ll likely turn into caramel! Allow it to cook for around 15 minutes until all your sugar is dissolved and your pears are becoming soft. You can adjust the sweetness with more honey or sugar.
Strain your syrup into a jug and allow to cool. When cool, gradually add your cider vinegar, a tsp at a time. You’re aiming to balance the sweetness with some acidity, so keep tasting and adjust to suit your preferences. Remember we will be diluting this with sparkling water later, so you want the flavours to be strong but well balanced. Pop it in the fridge until chilled.
When you’re ready to serve, pour into a fluted glass, use 100ml of your syrup and gradually add sparkling water. Try playing with your ratios until you’re happy with the intensity of the flavour. I like to garnish with rosemary and some dark berries. You’ll be surprised at how far the flavour of your syrup will go.
Dip the rim of your fluted glass into your syrup, just 2-3 millimeters. Dip this in your golden caster sugar, and refrigerate your glass for a few minutes. Be careful not to twist your glass in the sugar, as this will cause it to fall off and won’t create an even finish. This will make a beautiful sugar frosted rim, perfect for toasting the Queen’s speech (or mum’s pigs in blankets!).
This one is quick and easy, perfect for any last minute guests. Mulled wine uses so much juice that I really think you can’t tell the difference between an alcohol-free option and the real deal. This is something for all the family and reminds me of getting warm by the fire after evening carol concerts as a child. A little cup of nostalgia.
500ml pomegranate juice
200ml apple juice
Orange roughly portioned
5 black peppercorns
1 star anise
Clove-studded orange slice to garnish
Pomegranate seeds to garnish (optional)
It’s simple. Combine all your ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer for ten minutes until those lovely festive spices are infused in the juice. Take a ½ slice of orange around 1cm thick. Cut a thin slice into the pulpy section, about 1/3rd from the bottom edge and slightly angled towards the centre of the slice. Stud this with cloves and carefully slot onto the rim of the glass to garnish using the handy incision you’ve made.
Remember, garnishing is all about aroma and aesthetic, be inventive. Try playing around with star anise, blackberries, cherries, or pomegranate seeds. Whatever takes your fancy.
Please don’t call it Chai Tea. It’s just Chai. Chai means tea. It just kills me to see this listed on menus as ‘tea tea’! Rant over.
Chai is my favourite comfort drink, and I drink mine very sweet. You can adjust the sugar to suit your taste. You’ll find lots of complicated recipes online, but if you don’t have a good massala to hand and you’re just jonesing for a warm fragrant cup of chai magic, this definitely does the job.
Equal parts semi-skimmed milk/water (or just milk if you’re feeling lavish)
Regular tea bag (My personal preference is Yorkshire tea)
2-inch piece of fresh ginger – sliced into rounds, no need to peel
10 Cardamom pods
6 peppercorns – I just used mixed
Sugar – I use a lot, sweeten to suit your taste
Combine all ingredients in a pan and gently bring to the boil, careful not to burn your milk. Reduce to simmer and allow to steep for 10-15 minutes. If you think the tea is getting too bitter then you can remove the bag and just leave your spices to infuse. Add sugar to taste, then sieve into cups, a good rustic mug always seems best! You don’t need to garnish, this is about simple pleasures, but if you really want to you can add a little slice of ginger to the rim of the cup.
I have also tried this with unsweetened almond milk and didn’t add any water. You might need a touch more sugar, but the process is pretty much the same.
This one takes time and confidence, so maybe practise this if you plan to serve for guests, to reduce the pressure! It’s a commitment but well worth the effort. Effectively, you are making a loose egg custard, the goal is to build a good thickness and texture to your mix.
6 large eggs
2 additional egg yolks
½ cup of sugar
¼ tsp salt
4 cups of whole milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
½ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ cup heavy cream (whisked to soft peaks)
Fresh nutmeg to garnish
Mix eggs, yolks, sugar and salt in a heavy bottomed pan. Whisk to combine. Continue to whisk and gradually add your milk. Take your time adding the milk to avoid splitting your mixture and keep whisking to mix thoroughly. Cook over a very low heat, you want your thermometer to read 71 degrees Celsius – precise, I know! You’ll need to stir continuously at this heat for 50-60 minutes. The mixture should thicken until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add your vanilla extract and nutmeg, be sure to keep stirring as you do. Pour your mixture into a glass bowl and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours, it will keep up to three days.
When it’s time to serve, put your heavy cream in a bowl, whisking to stiff peaks. Gently fold the cream into your egg custard mixture until combined. Serve your Eggnog in chilled glasses with a grating of nutmeg to garnish.
Why not make a festive stencil using paper? Simply cut out a Christmassy shape, a star would work well. Hold this over your glass when garnishing with your grated nutmeg to reveal a festive shape when you remove it.
I treated myself to a Monin syrup, Saveur Rhum. This packs the same sort of punch as rum, but without the alcohol. I was pretty blown away by the result.
1L apple juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
3 scoops vanilla ice cream
¼ grated nutmeg
25ml Monin Saveur Rhum (optional)
Combine apple juice, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to simmer for around 10 minutes to let the spices infuse. Use a spoon to fish out the cinnamon and cloves. Add your ice cream and stir, you may need to bring the heat up to stop everything cooling too much. The ice cream will create a little froth on top. If you’re using your ‘rum’ pop 25ml in the bottom of your glass. Add your hot mix. If it’s very bubbly on top gently tap the glass on the counter to knock out the air. Finish with a little grating of nutmeg.
We really hope you enjoy them. Let us know what you think, and if you upload your pics to social media and then don’t forget to tag us so that we can share your efforts!