What’s Christmas without a cocktail or two?
This week The Hungry One is out at all manner of festive functions. It’s a tough life for him, being wined and dined by men in suits, trying to talk business while wearing silly hats.
I had a twinge of jealousy, until I remembered what office Christmas parties were really like.
In my old life they were stained with awkwardness- first the female challenge of transitioning an outfit from ‘work to wow’ (a terrible phrase picked up from a terrible women’s magazine that’s stuck). The secret seems to be high heels and a big pair of earrings. Not everyone got that memo.
Then there’s the bad music, fried food and standing around for hours making mundane chit chat with the folks from level two. Actually, I lie- most years I was only present and accounted for an hour of the party – we’d arrive late after slaying reams of documents with track changes. The curse of a communications department and its pre-Christmas deadlines.
These days I’m working at home, largely on my own. There’s not much fun in a Christmas party for one.
That’s one reason I was delighted to be invited as a guest to a festive dinner with the lovely folk at Malmaison in Smithfield.
The Christmas supper the bistro is running is the sort of food you need to gild you against the cold- roast meats and mince pies included. And to start there was a very flirty cocktail.
So let me introduce you to the ‘Avant Noël’ - a combination of champagne, raspberry liqueur, raspberry vodka, caramel syrup and apple juice. It’s cerise, cheerful and goes down terrifyingly easily.
Booze at Christmas can be a sticky cocktail. Too much and the proverbial can hit the fan. Too little and it’s hard not to feel like a chump pulling on a cracker and wearing a paper hats.
This week when The Hungry One is out drinking his cups of good cheer, if I’m not in Smithfield downing another ‘Avant Noel’, I’ll be at home, making myself one of these.
Christmas ‘champagne’ cocktails
If you can afford a great bottle of bubbles, grab it. And don’t do anything to it except chill it, then drink it. But if your extra dosh is going on presents, taxis home and flights to the other side of the world to celebrate with family then these are a good way to gussy up a workable bottle of sparkling into something a smudge more special.
Here’s some of what you’ll need
A nifty trick that might help
Glossing the inside of glass with a sticky fruit puree or jam is a novel way to get a touch of sweetness and fruit into a cocktail. Both marmalade and morello cherry jam work well Just put a little on the back of a teaspoon and twirl it up the sides of the glass so you get a slightly stained glass effect.
I call it this because any more than one on Christmas morning and it will steal your Christmas away. It’s slightly bittersweet and also lovely at the end of a long day with a bowl of green olives on ice.
Gloss the inside of a glass with a teaspoon of good quality marmalade. Add one tablespoon of Campari and fill with sparkling wine
A cosy combination of the juices from a jar of dark cherries and the orange fruitiness of Cointreau. You could substitute pomegranate juice just as easily.
Gloss the inside of the glass with one teaspoon of black cherry jam. Add one tablespoon of Cointreau or orange liqueur, one tablespoon of cherry juice and fill with sparkling wine
A silvery twirl on a Bellini. It’s grated pear with the edelweiss hum of Elderflower cordial. This might be one for the ladies and the menfolk in touch with their sensitive sides.
Grate one peeled pear on a box grater or microplane. Add a tablespoon of the puree, one tablespoon of Elderflower cordial to a flute and top up with sparkling wine.
The Avant Noel
18-21 Charterhouse Square,
London ECIM 6AH,