In this edition of his Great Irish Drinks column, Oisin Davis gives his tops tips for the perfect party tipples, including aromatic mulled apple juice and a booze-free mulled wine.
When it comes to having people round for Yuletide drinks, there's a fine line between being a seasonal session hero and a Chrimbo craic killer.
Whether you're entertaining family and friends at home for a big catch up, or just decided to have a wee gathering after the pub, there's no excuse for having bad drinks. But with a few helpful tips and some half-decent recipes, it's actually quite simple to serve up one or two festive favourites.
Knowing what's worth attempting is the key to success – so here’s my take on just that, with some recipes thrown in.
Spice it up with apples
There are very few things in the world that smell nicer than a pot of hot, spiced apple juice – the comforting aroma would make the meanest of Scrooges smile. I always recommend keeping a pot on the stove at this time of the year.
Keeping the booze out means you can serve it to anyone. But if anyone fancies something stronger, put some whiskey into their mug right before pouring.
One to try: Mulled Apple Juice
Ration the pricey fizz
Even if you're loaded and into grand gestures, there isn’t really a great case to be made for serving your friends pricey Champagne at this time of the year. The chances are they’ve either already had a few, or have over-indulged on rich food so much that their taste buds are more than a little off.
If you're lucky enough to have some good fizzy bottles in your fridge, save them for another occasion. It's a far better idea to drop no more than a tenner on some prosecco and lift it a little with some elderflower cordial and lemon juice.
This is called an elderflower royale, and it’s incredibly simple to make. Just pour two teaspoons of elderflower cordial into a Champagne flute, then drop in a teaspoon of lemon juice and stir. Top it up with the chilled bubbly and garnish with a little lemon peel before serving.
Turbocharge your mulled wine
I've had more poorly-made mulled wines than nice ones. They're either too watery, too sweet or overly cooked and thick with tannins. The trick to producing a good one is to go heavy on the gargle, specifically some cider and gin.
The sweetness of the apple provides a nice alternative to standard sweeteners and its fermented mouthfeel works well with the wine. Then to cut through all the wine and cider, a good belt of a spicy gin will smoothen out all the tannins and give it a little more heat and depth.
One to try: Mulled Wine
Don’t forget the non-drinkers
It's a good idea to serve up a booze-less mulled wine over the winter holidays. To begin with, you will have guests who will have to drive. It's boring enough for them to watch everyone else get tipsy, so don't make it worse by only serving water or a cup of tea. Make them something that's at the very least got some festive flavours to it.
You may also have guests who are pregnant, off the drink, or just don’t fancy it. It's nice to be inclusive and make sure you're thinking of others.
One to Try: Driver's Mulled Wine
Author: Oisin Davis
Oisin Davis works on a global level as an Irish drinks evangelist and producer. He is the founder of nationwide drinks festivals that celebrate Irish spirits in the best bars and restaurant in the 32 counties and to top it off he is co-owner of Poacher's Premium Beverages, Ireland's only all-natural mixer company. F&W is delighted that Oisin has joined our contributing team with his column "Great Irish Drinks."