Christmas Food & Drink: The spirits of christmas

Those curiously coloured drinks with unpronounceable names hidden at the back of the cocktail cabinet are due for their annual airing. Terry Durack suggests some uses for them

IT SEEMS A rather bizarre admission to make, but I once bought an alcoholic beverage solely because of its colour. I also once bought a bottle of wine solely because of the amount of dust on its shoulders, but that's another confession altogether. The colourful liqueur in question was Blue Curacao, which bore a striking, electric shade that looked a little like a blue rinse gone wrong.

This total lapse in common sense occurred during my Sophisticated Swinging Cocktail Set period, when I was liberally experimenting with mind-altering substances. They came in an artist's palette of colours ranging from bright yellow (chartreuse) to emerald green (creme de menthe), including one particularly over-the-top number with gold flecks suspended in it, like a drinkable snow dome. (Hands up all those who have a bottle of Goldwasser in the back of the cupboard. Okay, hands down, somebody might see you.)

Buying Blue Curacao is one thing. Trying to find something sensible to do with it is quite another. I suppose it is just possible that the Luisita (Blue Curacao, barley water, lemon juice and soda, Italian National Cocktail of 1966) wasn't totally terrible. And the Blue Devil (gin, maraschino, lime and Blue Curacao) at least has the advantage of using up both the Blue Curacao and the maraschino. Most of my concoctions, however, tasted an awful lot like a blue rinse gone wrong.

I recall only one great success. It occurred after my wife responded to my inquiry as to her cocktail needs with the words: "Surprise me."

And so the Durack Death Wish was born. One part Blue Curacao, one part tequila, one part vodka, one part white rum and one part gin, garnished with half a green apple, slit and inserted on the rim of a brandy snifter, and served while wearing only a Groucho Marx mask. It tasted vile, but boy, was she surprised.

Several years after my Swinging Sophisticated Cocktail Set period, I flew into Bangkok, jet-lagged to (and from) the high heavens, and checked into the Oriental Bangkok hotel. Too tired to go to bed, I repaired to the cocktail lounge, where it just so happened to be Happy Hour, those 60 minutes in which the most miserable people in the world prolong their problems by drinking a lot more than they should.

The next thing I knew, it was three o'clock the following afternoon and I was in bed with my clothes on. Hmmm. I showered, dressed, and dropped into the bar for a pre-dinner drink.

"Ah, Mr Grasshopper," beamed the cheerful barman.

"I'm sorry?" I said. Obviously he'd mistaken me for someone else.

"You like another Grasshopper, Mr Grasshopper?"

"Look," I said firmly, "I don't even like creme de menthe."

Suddenly there was a wide-mouthed Martini glass of white and green creme de menthe and cream frothing by my hand.

"There," he announced triumphantly. "The usual."

The only thing I can say about the alleged Grasshopper incident is that I can't remember a single thing, which, as anyone who has ever tasted a Grasshopper will know, is not necessarily bad.

We have all had our Swinging Sophisticated Cocktail Set periods. They tend to pop up every decade, so no generation can escape them. The names might change, but the colours, ah, the colours ...

The blue of Curacao has been replaced by the blue of Bombay Sapphire gin, creme-de-menthe green is now Midori melon green, and chartreuse yellow has given way to southern Italian Limoncello. But for those rumbling through the cupboard in search of a little yule-tide cheer, only to unearth a vomitous rainbow of green, red, orange and purple stuff, there is salvation at hand.

You might just find that you have the makings of some of the finest Christmas cocktails ever invented, without even knowing it. Those bottles of apricot brandy, Dom Benedictine, Tia Maria and sake can be the spirits of Christmas present, not just past. And at least you got rid of the bottle of advocaat with your last divorce.

The sake, for example, is best employed in a rather gorgeous little concoction known in New York as the Saketini (three parts frozen sake, one part dry vermouth, twist of lime peel). As for that unfashionable half-bottle of brown rum, think of it as the first step to a good old festive eggnog, along with sugar, egg, whisky, lemon peel and nutmeg.

If there is any Pimm's No 1 Cup lying around (and of course there is) then congratulations - it's trendy again. Try it in a VIP (gin, Pimm's, passion fruit juice, dry vermouth and lemon juice) created for a Taylor and Burton film of the same name. Even creme de menthe takes on a little social credibility when transformed into a Caruso (one part dry gin, one part dry vermouth, one part creme de menthe, shake over crushed ice). Cointreau should be utilised immediately in the making one of the great classic cocktails of our time; the lemony, elegant White Lady (two parts dry gin, one part Cointreau, one part lemon juice). As for Blue Curacao, you're on your own.

If you still have a few bottles left and you're bored out of your brain, have no taste and even less shame, and don't mind indulging in a little cheap exhibitionism, then the obvious answer is the pousse-cafe. For those born after 1945, a pousse-cafe is an amusing construction, consisting of separate layers of differently coloured and weighted liqueurs. It's, um, not the sort of thing you'd serve Hugh Johnson.

Or you could give up and serve vodka. After all, it is the spirit of the 90s. It's colourless, odourless, and tasteless. But is it as much fun?

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform