Without looking too deeply into the festive crystal ball, it’s not hard to predict the chaotic kitchen scenes on the morning of the 25 December - replicated in almost every household in the land. In fact, as stressful tasks go, preparing a perfectly timed Christmas dinner is perhaps second only to moving house.
So to help make the day go even more smoothly, here’s a few liquid suggestions (in moderation, of course) which should provide the ultimate in pairings alongside your starter, fully trimmed up turkey and Christmas pudding.
The Christmas Morning Pick Me Up:
Traditionally the territory of the Bucks Fizz (Champagne, laced with fresh orange juice, which was originally the preserve of the well-heeled gentlemen frequenting the Bucks members club in the 1920’s) the Christmas morning breakfast has almost become as complicated a routine as the actual main event itself. In the Ridley household, smoked salmon and gammon steaks with pineapple and egg often vie with a family-sized pork pie, smothered in homemade damson chutney. Pairing something light and refreshing, but with enough body to carry through such epicurean delights is not easy. But with a few simple tweaks, the Bucks Fizz can carry all the necessary delicacy and punch to slice through the meatiness with aplomb.
For a more robust, spicy version, use a mixture of raspberry and cranberry juice, some English fizz (Camel Valley’s 2012 Brut Rose is exceptional) and add a couple of dashes of bitters. For the traditionalists, simply juice the freshest, plumpest oranges you can find and top up with Heidsieck & Co. Monopole 2007 Gold Top Champagne for an outstanding accompaniment.
The Pre-Prandial Mid-Morning Livener:
After every mammoth festive breakfast, there’s always the danger that one will start to fade too early before the main event, or at least half way into the obligatory mid-Christmas morning viewing of Toy Story. To combat this, a simple Highball (made with Kings Ginger Liqueur, a squeeze of lime juice and tonic water, garnished with a sprig of mint will do the trick nicely. Prepared by Berry Brothers & Rudd, Kings Ginger Liqueur was originally formulated to keep King Edward VII revitalised and revivified on his winter morning drives. I wouldn’t recommend this particular combo, but sticking some in a hip flask for your mid morning walk is also highly advised.
There’s nothing like the sight of a fully laden table, groaning under the weight of a perfectly bronzed turkey, crisp duck fat roasted potatoes and all the other treats, to develop a keen thirst. This year, as an aperitif, try experimenting by modifying your fizz: a nip of light, citrusy grain whisky (Bains Cape Mountain Whisky from South Africa is wonderfully vibrant, Girvan Single Grain or, if you fancy a celebrity endorsed tipple, Haig Club, courtesy of David Beckham) alongside a bitters-soaked sugar cube in your flute will certainly add another festive dimension. Similarly, seek out the virtues of a well-made pink gin and tonic (The Botanist gin, three dashes of Angostura and Fever Tree tonic, garnished with a slice of red apple.
Classic cocktails: in pictures
Classic cocktails: in pictures
The daiquiri is one of the most important classic cocktails as it demonstrates the perfect balance between sweet and sour, strong and weak. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/10E9sh6
2/9 Tom Collins
In England, this drink is traditionally credited to John Collins, a bartender who worked at Limmer’s Hotel, Conduit Street, London. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1n99NlU
3/9 Sweet Manhattan
There are a number of origins suggested for this drink, most dating back to the 19th Century. Try a cherry, chocolate or orange bitter for subtle flavour differences in your Sweet Manhattan. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1sYUeQx
4/9 Classic Vodka Martini
Shaken or stirred, wet or dry, garnished with an olive or twist the possibilities are seemingly endless. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1EjMaga
5/9 Bloody Mary
The idea of a perfect Bloody Mary can be as personal as the Martini. Number one, experiment with spices! For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1urTnX8
6/9 French ‘75
Although The Bellini might be the best-known champagne cocktail, the French '75 is an all-time classic – and some would argue more delicious. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1vGBmTt
Delicious on the rocks or frozen or even shaken up with fig puree, egg white and lime (the Autumnal Tradicional Sour) there is always one to suit everyone. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1yGWVZn
The Mojito is one of the archetypal iconic cocktails. Its history lays in Havana which is the Godfather of Spanish Style rum and the birthplace of many great cocktails. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1uQ0Dxo
9/9 Pina Colada
With its exotic ingredients, indulgent nature, together with tropical heat refreshment, it's no wonder it's become a holiday makers staple. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1q22FTm
Pairing anything stronger than wine with Christmas dinner is arguably a notch too far, so my tips for a full-bodied white to compliment a succulent bird (goose or turkey) would be a 2010 Heggies Chardonnay from the Eden Valley in Australia. The oak is restrained and not too tannic, alongside juicy citrus notes and a slight nuttiness. For those favouring a red wine, look no further than the majestic fruit and spice of a 1999 Chateau Musar from the Bekaa valley in The Lebanon.
Despite the obvious weightiness of a Christmas blow out, it seems customary to follow up with more of the same and the indulgent siren call of a rich, moist fruity Christmas pudding is agonisingly tempting for a full stomach. Here you have two real options: cut the richness with something cleaner on the palate, such as a dark spirit, or go with the festive flow and paddle around in a sticky wine. By far the most extreme and flavoursome find in the latter camp is a complex and outrageously sweet Pedro Ximinez sherry (seek out a half bottle of the more elegant Gonzalez Byass Noe 30 year old.) But you could balance out the sweetness of the pudding (or chocolate dessert) with an equally well-aged sweet Oloroso, such as Emilio Lustau East India Solera sherry or a Tawny port (Berrys’ William Pickering 20-year old)
Spirit wise, if you fancy eschewing the traditional Cognac for something else, a fine Armagnac is an undiscovered gem (Delord 1984 Bas-Armagnac is full of perfect dark chocolate, coffee, candied orange and oaky spice notes) alongside an equally weighty, spicy and complex whisky, such as Mortlach 18 year old, Glendronach Parliament or, if you fancy a skillfully blended whisky, Chivas 18 year old. Just be sure to hang on to enough to make yourself a generous after-dinner Manhattan cocktail, which should see you nicely through the Queen’s Speech and well into Skyfall.
Neil Ridley is the joint author of Distilled, a guide to the finest artisan spirits from Absinthe to Whisky, priced at £14.99