The Independent's booze expert rounds up his favourite winter reds, boozy baubles and alcohol-filled advent calendars
Winter is just about here; which means it’s time to indulge in Christmas festivities, deliciously rich reds and make copious excuses for why it’s completely acceptable to indulge on anything that involves sugar. Welcome to the festive period, the naughty season; and boy oh boy, do I have some treats for you.
My Favourite Boozy Advent Calendars
Forget chocolate. If you’re looking for a little inspiration as you count down to Christmas, open 24 doors of tipple magic with the best booze advent calendars of 2017.
Drinks by the Dram Advent Calendars – The original pioneers of the spirit advent calendar, who offer, by far, the largest selection of advent calendars. With around 20 difference choices you’ll find most of the selections tailored around whiskies (everything from latest release to incredibly rare collection drams). There’s also a big emphasis on gin (as it’s all we seem to be drinking these days). There’s no question of the quality here, if you’re looking for a safe bet and happy to splash out – you truly won’t regret it. Selections include Whisky, Gin, Rum, Cognac, Bourbon, Tequila, Mezcal, Armagnac, Absinthe, and Vodka. Prices range from £99.95 to £9,999,95 from Drink By The Dram.
The Sparkle Advent Calendar – As the wine advent space continues to evolve, very few focus on just the sparkling category, making this one all the more exciting. A variety of 24 bubbles containing everything from Sparkling Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Cava, Prosecco and Champagne, sit snuggly in 20cl bottles. With France, Spain, Italy and even Australia in the mix, there’s a lot to explore, including a bottle of Laurent Perrier Champagne (one of my personal favourites) behind one of the doors! Check it out for £125 at The Pip Stop.
Laithwaite’s Beer Advent Calendar – Beer from Laithwaite’s?! You weren’t expecting that one, were you? Well, it’s true – and it’s fantastic. Here you’ll find 24 days of craft beer, from the hoppy to the heady and everything in-between. Hand selected to showcase distinct quality from some of the UK’s best craft breweries. £49.99 from Laithwaite’s.
Gin & Premium Tonics Calendar – What’s better than having an incredible gin throughout the entirety of December? Having some extraordinarily creative tonics to go alongside it. That’s why the Lakes Distillery has chosen to place their award-winning Lakes Gin side-by-side with a variety of tonics you’ve likely never tried before. Enter the G&T Advent Calendar, packed full of exciting tonic treats and flavour combinations such as Pomegranate and Basil, Sicilian Lemon, Elderflower, Cinnamon and Grapefruit and Rosemary. This is the ultimate advent calendar for those who really like their gin. It’s yours for £99 at The Pip Stop.
Virgin Wines Advent Calendar – As one of the first wine advent calendars, Virgin offers you 10 whites, 10 reds, 2 rosés and 2 classy sparkles to get you in the mood. Comprised of award-winning (and most boutique) wines, there’s a lot of exploration and discovery to be had. Each bottle gives you one large glass of wine, meaning it’s perfect for two people wanting to share (yes, I can see you rolling your eyes, share?!). Yours today for £80 from Virgin Wines.
Booze Filled Christmas Baubles
If you’re one of those people who like to eat all of the chocolates on the tree, then perhaps you’ve found a new form of indulgence – here’s a selection of my favourite booze-filled baubles:
Pickering’s Gin Baubles - 6 brightly coloured gin-tastic baubles comprising 5cl of pure indulgence will create that truly magic sparkle for your tree. Get em’ now before they sell out, £25.96 at 31 Dover.
The Perfect Measure Christmas Baubles – 3 incredibly beautiful miniature bottles (rum, gin, single malt whisky and world whiskey) sit snugly inside the bauble itself. There’s no question that these little wonders will attract attention. It’s all yours for £27.95 at The Whisky Exchange.
The Lakes Distillery Spirit of Christmas – Whether you go for the 6 petite versions or the gigantic version, the golden-brown hue swirling around these baubles will leave you drooling. Forget angels, it’s all about blended whisky hanging from the branches this year. Check out the 6 petite baubles (£35) or the gigantic 20cl bauble! (£19.95)
Sipsmith Miniature’s - If it’s something slightly less ‘bauble’ shaped you want hanging from your tree, then you may want to check out these cute little Sipsmith miniatures, readily made for swinging from the pine tree. 6 miniature 5cl bottles, each with a tidy little green ribbon will add some festivity to your Christmas tree. But the question is, how long will they last? Buy them now for £32 from Drinks21
7 Winter Warmer Wines To Fight The Cold
This past week we’ve really felt the cold kick in. As the scarves and woolly hats begin to make their way out of the closet, so do those beautifully bold and heart-warming reds. Whether its Californian, Australian, French or Spanish wines that tickle your fancy, you’ll find a little something for everyone in the collection below. Heck, why don’t you branch out and try something you previously hadn’t?! Nothing like a little wine exploration! Snap them up soon, before others beat you to it.
Apothic Dark Californian Red (California) - £8 From Tesco
(Layers of dark cherry, plum, chocolate and tobacco)
Arc Du Rhône Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2015 (France) - £9.49 From Waitrose
(Ripe, bold, and full of body with sticky brambles and spice)
Ramón Bilbao Vinedos de Altura 2014 (Spain) - £13.95 From Great Western Wine
(Beautifully bold, thick and velvety black cherry and plum, oozing with dark berries)
(Bright red cherry, milk chocolate, white pepper and a smoky glaze)
Penfolds Max’s Shiraz 2015 (Australia) - £18.00 From Waitrose
(Thick layers of smoky bramble and pepper spice with a great punch of acidity and sweetness)
Louis. M. Martini Napa Cab Sauv 2014 (California) - £22.50 From Great Western Wine
(Oozing with chocolate brownies, plum, raspberry sauce, vanilla and blackcurrants)
Mt. Brave Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (California) - £59.95 From Just in Cases
(Beautifully rich with elegant raspberries, dark chocolate, brown sugar, spice and vanilla)
Winter Warmer Mulled Wine Punch
As the parties and festive nights in begin to take place, there’s nothing quite like a jug of mulled wine to sip on when you have company. Find the right combination of ingredients and you can drum up a great tasting tipple without breaking the bank. Here’s a sure-fire way to get merry.
- 750ml i heart Merlot (or similar inexpensive but flavoursome wine)
- 250ml apple juice
- 250ml orange juice
- 125ml brandy
- 125ml simple syrup
- 60ml orange liqueur
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 oranges
- 2 apples
- 6-star anise
In a medium saucepan, combine the apple juice, orange juice, brandy, simple syrup and orange liqueur. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whilst stirring. Add the wine with the cinnamon sticks, star anise and slices of orange and apple and allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes before serving.
Carefully pour into heatproof glasses. Garnish with fresh orange slices, a cinnamon stick and star anise. Serve the punch warm.
- Mix together granulated sugar and 60ml of water in small saucepan.
- Bring to the boil over a medium-high heat.
- Remove from heat and let it cool.