To ensure your festive season goes with a swing, here’s our menu for the Twelve Cocktails of Christmas – all easy to make and easier to consume, says Jonathan Ray
Mulled wine is all very well but give your guests any of these 12 Christmas cocktails and you will certainly add to the conversation. There is certain to be one to your taste, whether it’s a Baileys Piña Colada or a Buck’s Fizz.
(No time to make a Christmas pudding? Here’s the list of The Field’s best Christmas puddings, with no stirring required.)
As we head towards the 25th December, our house rocks to the regular shake, rattle and slosh of the Boston shaker. Son number two, Ludo, 19, has been busy honing the skills he learned on a residential cocktail-making course at the European Bartender School (EBS) in London.
Trust your instincts
Christmas cocktails are a great way of using up those crusty, half-full bottles of liqueurs and digestifs that lurk forgotten and unloved at the back of the drinks cupboard. All you need are some additional extras – such as gin, brandy and whisky – some citrus fruit, a basic kit, an inquiring mind and a raging thirst.
If you can cook even the simplest of meals, scrambled eggs on toast, say, or spaghetti bolognese, then you can make a Christmas cocktail. Trust your instincts and feel free to experiment.
And so, to encourage you to get shaking, stirring and muddling during the month ahead, here for the Twelve Days of Christmas are 12 Christmas cocktails. Some are classics, some are tweaks of the classics and some are my own (or Ludo’s) creations. All are a cinch to make and, of course, are absolutely delicious.
The Field’s 12 Christmas cocktails
1. Baileys Piña Colada
You will definitely have some Baileys knocking about somewhere and if you can stop the kids from pouring it on their vanilla ice cream or Christmas pudding, nab some for this ridiculously, embarrassingly tasty cocktail.
- 25ml fine dark/golden rum
- 25ml Baileys Irish Cream
- 40ml pineapple juice
- 10ml fresh lemon juice
- Pinch of Maldon sea salt
Shake all the ingredients together and strain over a glassful of crushed ice. Garnish with a glacé cherry, a pineapple leaf and a dusting of cinnamon.
2. The Shot In The Dark
I created this little charmer a few Christmases ago when one of our guests declared a fondness for ginger and challenged me to make something novel using the nonpareil King’s Ginger Liqueur from Berry Bros & Rudd. I think you will like it.
- 50ml King’s Ginger Liqueur
- 25ml cognac
- 25ml maple syrup
- 25ml fresh lime juice
Shake all the ingredients together over ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass.
3. Corn and Oil
I only discovered this gorgeous concoction recently in Brighton’s fabulous Bar Valentino. It’s so simple to make and, being delectably warming and uplifting, it works as well before Christmas lunch/dinner as it does afterwards.
- 50ml fine dark rum
- 25ml Velvet Falernum
- Two dashes of Angostura Bitters
Stir ingredients together and serve over ice in a tumbler and garnish with a lime wedge.
4. Buck’s Fizz
A festive classic this, crammed with vitamins and goodness. I find it works brilliantly as an all-ages-appropriate festive aperitif (just up the amount of orange juice for the youngsters and throttle back on the fizz), as well as a morning-after-the-night-before pick-me-up.
- 1 part fresh orange juice
- 2 parts champagne
Pour the orange juice into a champagne flute and top up carefully with the fizz.
5. Espresso Martini
Beware of imitations! I’ve lost count of the number of lousy EMs I’ve had of late in places that really should know better. This version is a belter, tried and tested countless times in the Ray household.
- 50ml vodka
- 20ml Kahlua
- 15ml Tia Maria
- 100ml freshly made espresso coffee allowed to cool
Shake all the ingredients over ice, strain into a Martini glass and decorate with three or four coffee beans.
This wicked seducer is a staple in Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel in New York, where I first encountered it one Christmas Eve long ago, when Mrs Ray and I were swanning about living the good life before reality, in the form of children and a mortgage to pay, kicked in. I still make one every Christmas.
- 75ml gin
- 15ml fino sherry
- Dash of orange oil or orange zest
Stir the ingredients over ice in a mixing glass, strain into a Martini glass and decorate with a sliver of orange peel.
7. The NYE Resolution
A group of us came up with this cocktail many Christmases ago, naming it after the absurd New Year’s
Eve resolutions we were committing ourselves to only to break a day or so later. It’s long, it’s effervescent and it’s tasty and always brings a smile to revellers’ lips.
- 15ml Pedro Ximénez sherry
- 10ml Grand Marnier
- Angostura Bitters
- Cube of white sugar
Place an Angostura Bitters-infused sugar cube in a champagne flute. Shake the Pedro Ximénez and Grand Marnier over ice and pour over the sugar. Top up with champagne and garnish with a long orange twist, wiping the rim with it as you do so.
8. Hambleton Hall’s Blood Orange & Chilli Margarita
I love a margarita at Christmas. It reminds me of sunnier times and helps the dark days pass in a merry blur. Sip by a roaring fire and dream. This version from Hambleton Hall puts a distinctive twist on the average margarita by adding blood orange and chilli, a real pick-me-up.
- 40ml Herradura Reposado Tequila
- 15ml Cointreau
- 12.5ml Ancho Reyes Chilli Liqueur
- 20ml blood orange juice
- 10ml yuzu juice
- Dash of agave syrup
Combine the ingredients in a Boston Tin and shake over ice. Double strain and pour over ice into old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a salt rim and dehydrated orange slice.
9. Bourbon Milk Punch
This cocktail is stupidly toothsome and will delight all but the most snobbish, from granny to grandkids and everyone
- 45ml bourbon
- 15ml dark rum
- 15ml vanilla syrup
- 75ml fresh full-fat milk
- Dash of vanilla extract
Shake over ice and strain. Finish with freshly grated nutmeg.
10. Bloody Mary
The Bloody Mary is a festive essential. Chock-full of vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, niacin and dietary fibre, it lifts you up, fortifies you and repairs the damage (or at least papers over the cracks) better than any other drink I know. The key is to use the best available tomato juice rather than the best available vodka, which is just there to give oomph rather than texture or flavour. Substitute tequila for the vodka and it’s a Bloody Maria and substitute gin for the vodka and it’s a Red Snapper – both of which are mighty fine.
- 45ml vodka
- 75ml tomato juice
- 10ml Fino/Manzanilla sherry
- 10ml fresh lemon juice
- 10ml fresh orange juice
- Worcester Sauce
- Tabasco Sauce
- Accompany with: celery salt, celery stick, lemon wedge, rasher of crispy bacon (all optional)
Stir the ingredients over ice in a tall glass, dust with celery salt and serve with a wedge of lemon and celery stick or a rasher of crispy bacon.
11. The Sidecar
This is a suitably elegant and sophisticated cocktail that shrieks of the Roaring Twenties. Put on your tux/cocktail dress, crank up your Fats Waller LP on the gramophone and start Christmas Eve in style with Sidecars all round.
- 50ml cognac
- 25ml triple sec
- 25ml fresh lemon juice
- Lemon twist
Shake all the ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass. If you can be bothered, frost the rim of the glass with sugar and serve with a twist of lemon.
12. Hot Mint Choc
The favourite festive bedtime drink of my son, Ludo, which everyone else professes to find terribly naff (whilst draining their mugs). I can’t resist it.
- 1 freshly made mug of hot chocolate
- 1 shot of crème de menthe
Add one shot of crème de menthe to a steaming hot mug of cocoa and head to the land of nod with the broadest of grins on your face.
Non-alcoholic Christmas cocktails
Not everyone drinks. My eldest son, Ferdy, 20, for example, is resolutely teetotal and can’t understand what his mother, brother and I see in grape and grain. I can’t think where we went wrong.
Actually, Ferdy is annoyingly au courant: many of his peers feel likewise, with one in three people under 20 having reduced their consumption and one in four choosing not to drink at all these days.
These enlightened folk and drivers, too, need to be looked after at Christmas. Fortunately, there are many non-alcoholic drinks for them to try, from wine and beer to de-alcoholised spirits or premixed ‘mocktails’. These are my two favourite non-alcoholic Christmas cocktails.
When I was at university, I was struck down by a particularly savage bout of glandular fever and was forbidden alcohol for a year. This was the drink I clung to – refreshing, nourishing and tasty.
- 75ml fresh orange juice
- 25ml fresh lemon juice
- 20ml fresh lime juice
- 15ml fresh grapefruit juice
- 15ml pineapple juice (from a carton will do)
- 15ml grenadine
- 1 egg yolk
Shake all the ingredients over ice and serve in a tall, ice-filled glass adding a straw.
The Bloody Shame
This is simply a Bloody Mary without the alcohol. The quality of the tomato juice is crucial.
- 80ml tomato juice
- 15ml fresh lemon juice
- 10ml fresh orange juice
- Worcester sauce to taste
- Tabasco sauce to taste
- Celery salt
- Celery stick
Shake all the ingredients together over ice and strain into a tall glass; decorate with a stick of celery.
The cocktails featured here were mixed and photographed in The Bar at Hambleton Hall, Rutland.
This article was originally published in 2021 and has been updated.