Drink: The spirit of Christmas past

Champagne cocktails, fine sherry, hot toddies: the perfect recipe for a night with friends. We asked drinks connoisseurs from around Britain to suggest traditional, festive tipples that you can enjoy at home

St Feuillien - Cuvee de Noel from Belgo

Traditionally produced for Christmas by one of Belgium's many independent breweries - this one's family-owned and based in an old abbey - Cuvee de Noel is a smooth, rich and dark ale with a touch of bitter chocolate and spice. It even has a warming aftertaste - possibly because it is 9 per cent ABV - and it goes well with Christmas pudding, apparently. It is one of more than 100 Belgian beers served at Bierodrome bars and Belgo restaurants in London and Bristol, but, for pounds 2.10, bottles can also be bought to take away. The three Belgo restaurants in London also sell Cuvee de Noel gift packs, for pounds 18.25, of four bottles and a goblet which has been shaped to accentuate the aroma.

Belgo Centraal, 50 Earlham Street, London WC2 (0171-813 2233).

Christmas Coffee

from Bettys

For 80 years, Harrogate-based Bettys has provided Yorkshire with coffees, teas and cakes. At this time of year, Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms offers its own blend of Christmas Coffee to those who stop by for a treat. This medium-dark roast is a blend of Ethiopian mocha and coffees from Zimbabwe and Indonesia: aromatic, spicy and ideal for drinking with mince pies. A splash of brandy, Cognac or Irish whiskey can be added for greater cockle-warming effect. Brewed in a cafetiere, it is served with a choice of hot milk or cream. Bettys Christmas Coffee berry is pounds 8.80 per lb and a 125g caddy of the ground coffee is pounds 4.50, from mail-order sister Bettys & Taylors.

Bettys Cafe Tea Room, 1 Parliament Street, Harrogate, North Yorkshire (01423 502746). For mail order call 01423 886055.

Chocolate Martini from Match Jonathan Santer, based at the new Match bar in London's West End, calls this a "nouveau classic". Chocolate Martinis are "no longer outrageous, they're dead simple, good for a dabble at home," he says. The chocolate isn't immediately obvious as they're made with white creme de cacao chocolate liqueur. They're a great indulgence after dinner, but not too sickly before a meal, either. The Match version includes Marie Brizard Vanille de Madagascar for enhanced aromatic essence; it's called a Vodka Blondie. Pour 50ml Wyborowa, 25ml Vanille de Madagascar and 15ml white creme de cacao over ice into a Boston shaker. Shake and strain into a frozen Martini glass. Garnish with a white chocolate button.

Match, 37-38 Margaret Street, London W1 (0171-499 3443).

Ardbeg whisky from the Bow Bar

Of 150 malt whiskies at this Edinburgh bar - recommended by the Scottish Malt Whisky Society for its splendid range - this is the one most readily suggested by manager Lee Thorburn. Many connoisseurs agree with him. A 17-year-old Islay single malt with the smoky, peaty characteristics of malts from that island, it has a particular complexity and delicacy attributed to a purifier on the still and Bourbon-matured wood. The distillery was taken over by Glenmorangie two years ago, and it has been described as the greatest on earth. At the Bow Bar, Ardbeg costs around pounds 1.80 a shot - served straight, with water on the side if required. Larger Sainsbury's, all Asdas and Oddbins sell it for around pounds 29.99 a bottle.

Bow Bar, 80 West Bow, Edinburgh (0131 226 7667).

Fino Jarana, Lustau

from Corney & Barrow

Corney & Barrow, the 200-year-old wine merchant which also runs wine bars, has chosen a sherry that should surprise with its dryness and elegance. Emilio Lustau is a family-owned sherry shipper, committed to restoring traditions. It allows its wines to mature especially slowly, bringing out complexity and elegance. Fino Jarana is the lightest of its Reserva range, with a crisp freshness akin to that of Manzanilla. Normally drunk as an aperitif, it also works well with shellfish and seafood. Drink it by the glass at the bars, or buy a bottle for pounds 9.17 at the shops.

Corney & Barrow, 116 St Martin's Lane, London WC2 (0171-655 9800). For shops and wines by the case, call 0171-251 4051.

Champagne cocktail

from Claridges' Bar

In the grandest of Mayfair hotels, Paolo Laureiro, manager of the beautifully restored Art Deco Claridges' Bar, has no hesitation recommending a classic Champagne cocktail as a winter pick-me-up. "It's a powerful drink and warms you up," he says, "especially if you have two or three." His recipe follows the original, with the addition of Grand Marnier liqueur for seasonal spice and a sweet, orangey aroma. Put one shot of brandy, a little dash of Grand Marnier, one sugar cube and three dashes Angostura Bitters straight into a champagne flute. Top up - gently - with Champagne.

Claridges' Bar, Davies Street, London W1 (0171-629 8860).

Sandeman Vau Vintage port, 1997 from Hotel du Vin

Vintage ports are the wines from a single, great year. They are aged for two years before bottling, then matured in the bottle for 10 to 15 years. But Sandeman's Vau Vintage is intended to be drunk young. "It's the first year I've seen a vintage port this young," says Denis Frucot, manager of the bar in Bristol's Hotel du Vin. He's been won over by its light, lively style. It would complement a dessert of red fruits as well as the chocolate or cheese courses with which port is usually partnered - or drink it on its own after a great meal. Oddbins sells it for pounds 24.99 a bottle, pounds 12.99 for a half bottle, and pounds 49.99 for the 1.5-litre size.

Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Narrow Lewins Mead, Bristol (0117 925 5577).

Dark and Stormy

from The Eagle

The original gastro-pub was a pioneer in London's fashionable Clerkenwell, and it still gives its many new neighbours and imitators a run for their money with its blend of loose-limbed music, open-grill cooking, wines, ales and this winter warmer called a Dark and Stormy. Rum and ginger beer combine in a dark spirit and spice mixture that is refreshing and warming rather than sickly. Ginger beer is a great drink, though tragically many bars haven't heard of it. Do not be palmed off; ginger ale is nothing like it. On a blustery day a Dark and Stormy is just the drink to dive indoors for. Quarter a lime, squeeze the juice of each and drop what's left into a tumbler. Add lots of ice cubes, and a large tot of dark rum - at the Eagle they use Havana Club. Top up with Fentiman's ginger beer.

The Eagle, 159 Farringdon Road, London EC1 (0171-837 1353).

Suggested Topics
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

A Brazilian wandering spider

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style

Company decides to go for simply scary after criticising other sites for 'creepy and targeted' advertising

Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    ***Sports Graduate***

    £50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: This role has arisen due to inc...

    Business StudiesTeacher

    £110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Bu...

    ***Are you a Support Worker? or a Youth Worker? ***

    £50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The RoleDue to demand we are cu...

    **SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

    £110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past