All shook up: Cocktail expert Simon Difford reveals his yuletide recipes

Bucks Fizz, egg nog, mulled wine...will you be serving up the same old tipples this festive season? Instead, let cocktail expert Simon Difford mix your drinks from Christmas morning to New Year's Eve

First drink of the day: Breakfast Martini

Christmas is the one time of the year when I don't have to make the drinks – my dad does them instead. And as with all the cocktails here, the Breakfast Martini shouldn't present him with a challenge.

It was created in the late-1990s by Salvatore Calabrese at The Library Bar at The Lanesborough Hotel, London. It is very similar to the Marmalade Cocktail created in the 1920s by Harry Craddock and published in his 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book.

The success of this tangy drink is partly reliant on the quality of marmalade used. If you've had a late Christmas Eve wrapping presents, or perhaps not so virtuously spent, this will set you up for the big day: refreshing, with lots of citrus – a real wake-up call. If you're worried about getting stuck in so early, use a smaller glass rather than alter the measurements – these are specific.




1 spoon orange marmalade
2 shots* Tanqueray London dry gin
3/4 shot Cointreau triple sec
3/4 shot freshly squeezed lemon juice
*A shot in these recipes is equal to 25ml
Orange zest twist

Stir the marmalade with gin in the base of the shaker until it dissolves. Add the other ingredients, shake with ice and fine-strain into chilled glass.

A note on ice: never use ice in a shaker twice, even if it's to mix the same drink. You should always throw away ice after straining the drink and use fresh ice to fill the glass if so required. Unless otherwise stated, all references to ice mean cubed ice. Crushed ice is available commercially – avoid the hollow, tubular kind. Alternatively, crush cubed ice in an ice-crusher or bash a tea towel of cubed ice with a rolling pin.

The hangover cure: Hair of the Dog

It tends to be kill or cure with many hangover drinks – the Prairie Oyster is the former, requiring you to knock back an entire egg. That takes the mind off any hangover. But, despite its name, the Hair of the Dog is actually very pleasant: honey, whisky and cream combine wonderfully. Milk and cream often feature in hangover cures – you actually feel as though there is something in your stomach, and honey, in particular, has many benefits.




3 spoons runny honey
2 shots Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky
1 shot double (heavy) cream
1 shot milk


Fresh nutmeg, grated

Stir the honey with the Scotch until the honey dissolves. Add the other ingredients, shake with ice and fine-strain into a chilled glass.

The aperitif: Oh Gosh!

A good aperitif needs to be served short, not long – you don't want to fill up before dinner. I often use Campari in an aperitif, to stimulate the palate, but people either love it or hate it, so to be sure of pleasing everyone before your Christmas dinner, I've avoided it here. Oh Gosh! was created by Tony Conigliaro in 2001. A customer ordered a daiquiri with a difference – when this was served he took one sip and exclaimed "Oh gosh!" It's a subtle orange twist on the classic daiquiri, slightly more bitter, with bite – a lot like a margarita with rum instead of tequila.




11/2 shots Bacardi Superior rum
1 shot Cointreau triple sec
1/2 shot freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 shot sugar syrup (2 sugar to one water)
1/2 shot chilled mineral water (omit if ice is 'wet', rather than dry)


Lemon zest twist

Shake all the ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled glass.

Toast the Queen's speech: Queen Martini

Sadly, I've never made a drink for royalty, and it's been a good few years since I caugthe Queen's Speech on Christmas day... The Queen Martini is another drink based on a classic cocktail from Harry Craddock's The Savoy Cocktail Book. I should add that this fruity martini is a classic, not some made-up festive drink!




11/2 shots Tanqueray London dry gin
1/2 shot Noilly Prat dry vermouth
1/2 shot Martini Rosso sweet vermouth
1/2 shot freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 shot pressed pineapple juice


Maraschino cherry

Shake all the ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled glass.

The nightcap: Call Me Old-Fashioned

At the end of a long day, I like a short, strong drink – the perfect nightcap. I worked for Courvoisier a few years ago, and developed this variation of the Old-Fashioned, in which Cognac replaces whisky. It's now popular in bars around the world – and anyway, I think Cognac is quite festive.




1/4 shot sugar syrup (2 sugar to 1 water)
2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
2 shots Courvoisier VSOP Cognac


Orange peel twist

Stir the sugar-syrup and bitters with two ice cubes in a glass. Add one shot of Cognac and two more ice cubes. Stir some more and add another two ice cubes and another shot of Cognac. Stir lots more and add more ice.

New Year's Fizz: Chin Chin

Golden-honey coloured and flavoured, this is an unusual and great- tasting cocktail (created by Tony Conigliaro at Isola, Knightsbridge). You can get away with a cava, decent champagne methode, prosecco, or even a good English sparkling wine. But champagne always seems to go down best.




1/2 spoon runny honey
1 shot Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky
1/2 shot pressed apple juice
Brut champagne, to top up

Stir the honey with the Scotch in the base of the shaker until the honey dissolves. Add apple juice, shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Top with champagne.

The 'mocktail': Limeade (alcohol-free)

I went to the new private-members' club at the Ivy recently, and tried this drink there. It's nothing more than an alternative to a good, freshly made lemonade, but because it's not sweet you can drink more than one. Fresh lime juice also has a bite to it, so you might even kid yourself that you're drinking something stronger.




2 shots freshly squeezed lime juice
1 shot sugar syrup (2 sugar to 1 water)
2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters*
3 shots chilled mineral water
*Angostura aromatic bitters contain alcohol but in the finished drink the alcohol level is negligible.Garnish
Lime wedge

Shake all the ingredients with ice and fine-strain into an ice-filled glass. Alternatively, shake the first three ingredients and top with sparkling water.

The party pleaser: Punch

The punch bowl is back in vogue and should definitely feature in your festive partying.

The classic proportions of a punch follow a rhyme: "One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak." This refers to lime juice, sugar, spirit and water (a fifth element, Angostura bitters, was added to taste in this recipe).

Rum is the most popular punch base, but you can substitute other spirits. I have also used pineapple juice in place of water, but the recipe works just as well when other juices are used.

When serving in a punch bowl, increase the size of your shot measure – which is to say, use a mug instead of a thimble measure.

Another tip is to place a large block of ice in the centre of the bowl by freezing water in a suitable container (ice cubes melt too fast); I use a silicon bread mould. Stir your ingredients together in the bowl.




3/4 shot freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 shot sugar syrup
2 shots Bacardi Superior or other spirit
3 shots pineapple juice (or any tropical fruit juice), or water
3 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters


Lemon or lime slice

Mix in a punch bowl and add a block of ice (see method suggested above).

Mixology: The essential drinks cabinet

There are no two ways about it, according to Simon Difford the aspiring "mixologist" needs to invest in quite a lot of quality booze, and a few toys, if he has any hope of making a decent cocktail. Here's what Difford reckons you're going to need in your drinks cabinet for this festive season, and beyond.

The hard stuff

Ketel One vodka
Tanqueray London dry gin
Bacardi Superior rum
Don Julio tequila
Johnnie Walker Scotch
Courvoisier VSOP Cognac
Bulleit bourbon
Cointreau Triple Sec liqueur
Grand Marnier liqueur
Bols apricot brandy liqueur
Crème de cassis or Chambord liqueur
Noilly Prat blanc dry vermouth
Martini Rosso sweet vermouth
Brut champagne

The soft drinks

Soda water
Ginger ale and ginger beer
Tonic water
Lime cordial
Angostura bitters
Sugar syrup

The key tools

Cocktail shaker
Tea strainer
Muddler or rolling pin

And the essential book

'Cocktails Made Easy' by Simon Difford (Sauce Guides, £15)

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