I think there’s just something about cocktails that demands to be photographed in black and white.
When the good folks over at Granta books sent me a copy of How to Drink at Christmas by Victoria Moore, wine correspondent at The Telegraph, a number of people (including my boyfriend) asked whether I really needed any help.
Quite apart from the fact that there was, in my opinion, plenty of space of the shelves for another book on cocktails, it may seem strange to regular readers that I don’t really associate Christmas with boozing. The only time alcohol really features is when we dig out the bottle of sherry from the back of the cupboard so that we can leave out a glass for Father Christmas.
The book is a mixture of advice, tasting notes and cocktail recipes with the odd food recipe thrown in there to mop up all those spirits. The cocktail recipes are loosely themed around Christmas gatherings with sections on drinks for small groups, larger parties, Christmas day itself and some more ‘refreshing’ drinks for the morning after the night before. There are plenty of options for the non-drinkers too as well as tips on how to host the perfect party. There are six or seven pages devoted, for example, to making the perfect ice including the frankly genius suggestion of filling a large roasting tray with water, freezing it and then hacking at it when you need some ice. I know that’s a party game that my friends will take to with merry abandon.
Several pages in the book are devoted to the perfect gin and tonic (and there is an accompanying video). I have to say, this made me laugh a lot. Victoria talks about the pain of being poured a drink made with cheap gin and stale tonic from a bottle that has sat in the cupboard half open for a week. The memory immediately transported me back to my beloved grandparents’ house as this is exactly how my grandfather would make his gin and tonics. I can’t even begin to tell you how many half opened bottles of tonic we cleared out of the house after he died.
I was particularly intrigued by some of the cocktail recipes. I think I’ve made it clear before that I’m a sucker for a good cocktail and even though I’m not supposed to drink much at the moment, I can always find room for a festive drink (or two). There are some classic recipes here but also some more interesting and unusual combinations making good use of the Christmas tradition of indulging in some of the more obscure spirits in your collection. Much to my delight there were not one but two recipes for drinks involve sloe gin, a concoction which is becoming more and more a la mode with plenty of the big gin distilleries making their own versions.
Sloe gin is one of those spirits that often turns up at Christmas but which I’m generally at a lose to know how to use. It’s a delightfully ruby red liqueur made by infusing gin with sloe berries for a couple of months. The berries can give the drink a slightly almond flavour which just adds to its Christmas appeal. I’ve never really known how to drink sloe gin before but here it is mixed with lemon juice and a dash of egg white to create a sharp but creamy drink that slips down really rather easily.
Please note that this cocktail involves raw egg white. It stands to reason that if you’re going to drink raw egg, make sure it’s good and fresh. If egg whites scare you then can probably leave them out but your drink will be slightly less frothy.
Put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with some ice cubes.
Shake well and pour into a tumbler.
Disclaimer – I was sent a copy of ‘How to Drink at Christmas’ by Granta books. I wasn’t compensated in any way for this post and all views are my own. I, sadly, had to provide my own sloe gin. There is a link to the book on Amazon but I don’t make anything from it, promise.