New year, new cheers: how to create the perfect festive drink

Expectations are always high on New Year's Eve. While we can't guarantee the perfect evening, Skye Gyngell will at least make sure that your drinks - some with alcohol and some without - live up to the hype
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I've long thought that New Year's Eve is a funny old night. When I was young, my expectations were so high that I always thought it was going to be the best night of the year, if not my entire life. It didn't take me many New Year celebrations to get over that.

This year I'm going to celebrate in a small town called Claviere in Piedmont, in the mountains that straddle Italy and France. It will be spent with family and close friends, and hopefully will be really quiet. We'll cook something simple and, because it's a combination of people who drink and people who don't, these are the kind of drinks we might make.

For the kids there's something hot and chocolately. For me, because I don't drink alcohol, there's pomegranate and clementine juice, and for my friends there's prosecco cocktails.

I do think New Year is something worth celebrating. It's a good moment to review what's happened in the year gone by and collect your thoughts and hopes for the next one. I have felt really blessed in 2006 - what with everything that's gone on at the restaurant at Petersham, with my book coming out and doing these recipes for The Sunday Review - it's a been a truly amazing year. I hope next year, however, things will be slightly quieter and that I can just spend as much time as I possibly can in the kitchen. Last year was frantic, the next one I hope will be about consolidating and simply trying to become a better cook.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627

Hot apple cider

Serves 6-8

750ml/24fl oz apple cider
250ml/8fl oz orange juice
125ml/4fl oz lemon juice
1tbsp allspice
The peel of one whole orange
4 whole cloves and a cinnamon stick
Muscovado sugar or honey, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a pan. Place over a low heat and bring to the boil. Add more honey, sugar, orange or lemon according to your taste. Reduce the heat and simmer with a lid on for 20 minutes. Strain before serving.

Pomegranate and clementine juice

Serves 6-8

6 ripe pomegranates
12 clementines
250ml/8fl oz sparkling water
1tbsp caster sugar

Hold each pomegranate and turn it slowly in your hand while gently tapping it with the end of a rolling pin. This loosens the pips inside. Slice each one in half and, using a teaspoon, remove the ruby red pips from inside. Once you have done all six, place in a blender and purée. Pour the juice from the blender through a colander, to remove the pith and pips. Pour the liquid into a jug and spoon over the sugar. Cut the clementines in half and using a juicer, extract all the juice. Pour this juice on to the pomegranate juice. Using a wooden spoon, stir well to combine and pour over the sparkling mineral water. Serve chilled or over ice.

Raspberries with prosecco

Serves 6-8

1 punnet of raspberries
150ml/5fl oz good-quality brandy
1tbsp caster sugar
1 bottle of prosecco
6 sugar cubes

Place the raspberries in a sterilised jar, spoon in the sugar and pour over the brandy, Seal, and allow to sit in a cool, dark place for three to four days. To serve, place two or three raspberries in a champagne flute and pour in just enough brandy to cover them. Add one sugar cube per glass and top with prosecco. Served chilled. (omega)


Serves 6-8

300g/10oz dark chocolate such as Valrhona
300ml/10fl oz coffee (Nescafé will not suffice - either made in a cafetiere or a Bialetti using Illy or Lavazza)
150ml/5fl oz double cream
1tbsp icing sugar

Place the chocolate in a bain marie over a low heat. Make sure that the bowl that the chocolate sits in does not rest in the water - you want the chocolate to steam. Without stirring, allow the chocolate to melt by itself. Meanwhile, whip the cream into soft peaks and fold in the icing sugar.

Once the chocolate is melted, remove from the heat and stir in the hot coffee with a wooden spoon. Divide between each cup and spoon the cream over the top so it sits on top of the coffee and chocolate. Serve while piping hot.

Sherry eggnog

Serves 6-8

1 medium egg, separate yolks and white
25g/1oz soft brown sugar
50ml/2fl oz dry sherry - Fino or Manzanilla
75ml/3fl oz full-cream milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
Whisk the yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. Then slowly whisk in the sherry followed by the milk. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they peak and gently whip the cream. Fold the yolk mixture into the whites, then follow with the cream. Just before serving grate over a sprinkling of nutmeg and serve.

Q&A Skye answers your culinary queries

Can you recommend a good hangover cure/hangover meal?

T Karlin

It's been a long time since I've drunk alcohol. I think the best hangover cure is probably to drink one glass of water between every alcoholic drink, the whole night through. I imagine the best hangover meal would be a good breakfast. The biggest carbohydrate-filled one you can find.

Who has been your food hero of 2006?

Sarah Levy

In many ways my food heroes haven't changed. For me, it's food writer Richard Olney, whose book Simple French Food shows not only his profound knowledge of classic French food but also a genuine love of cooking. Then there's Alice Waters of Chez Panisse for her completely uncompromising stance on everything from organics to sustainability. Also Judy Rogers because The Zuni Café Cookbook is still the best cookbook of all time and Maggie Beer because she is the living embodiment of everything real about food.

Please send your questions for Skye to