WHEN it comes to matching food and wine at Christmas, we all focus on the savoury stuff. We search for the perfect white wines for all those light starters of soup, shellfish or smoked salmon, we hunt down the best matches for turkey, goose, ham, spiced beef and cheeses. But at the other end of the meal, we often stick to a glass of port, a fragrant brandy or a warming Irish Coffee.
This year, I’m lifting dessert into a realm of its own with some dedicated cocktail recipes to finish the festive feast. The marriage of dessert and cocktails is a course on its own, to be enjoyed either after the Christmas Dinner, or a little later on, by the fire, when the dinner has digested and there might be a little more room to indulge! A few cocktails turn the dessert course into a glamorous and stylish event in itself.
All the traditional desserts of Christmas fall into this category. Christmas cakes, puddings and mince pies combine sweetness with rich spicy flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, and all spice. Very often, they are also laced with booze. So instead of turning to Irish coffee with your traditional sweet bite this year, keep the party going with a gorgeously slinky whiskey cocktail. Try this amazing velvety combination of Irish craft whiskey and stout from the rebel county of Cork! West Cork Original Irish Whiskey comes from a small distillery in Skibbereen. A lovely local drop to grace the Christmas drinks cabinet this year. Available at Supervalu stores €22.00 a bottle. Murphy’s Irish Stout is available in Tesco in a six pack of 500ml cans at €14.99. These two famous Cork tipples married together make seriously sexy drink. Dark, smooth and sensuous, this cocktail is just the thing to turn a mince pie or a bowl of Christmas pudding into a seductive feast.
Few ice cubes
25ml measure West Cork Original Whiskey
15mls Grand Marnier Murphy’s Irish Stout, chilled, to top up
- Place ice cubes into a standard wide brim whiskey tumbler (12oz).
- Pour over whiskey and add the Grand Marnier.
- Top up with Murphy’s stout.
- Decorate with an orange slice on the side of the glass.
Desserts based around fruit like trifle, cheesecake and mousses need a lighter drink to have with them. For these kinds of pud I’m recommending a fruity gin cocktail. Irish craft gin has been having a moment for quite some time now, and shows no signs of a let up in popularity as Christmas approaches.
Of course, you can stick to your trad G&T but this cocktail has the festive fruity flavours created by an Irish craft gin liqueur. Boyle’s Sloe and Damson Small Batch Gin liqueur provides a great base for a sparkling cocktail to add timeless glamour to a fruit influenced dessert. Find this gin liqueur, made at the Blackwater Distillery in County Waterford, at Aldi stores now, €24.99 for a 70cl bottle. It comes in a stubby cask shaped bottle with trad cork closure, so it not only does it taste good in the glass, it looks great in the drinks cabinet too! And it makes super seasonal gift for a gin lover – just sayin’! Pour it into a champagne flute and top up with Prosecco for a sophisticated sparkle in the glass.
Aldi has a whole range of sparkling wines on offer this Christmas. I’m choosing Castellore Organic Prosecco Rose which echoes the fruitiness of the gin liqueur and gives a festive colour to this Christmas cocktail. €13.99 a bottle also at Aldi.
25ml Boyle’s Sloe and Damson Gin Liqueur
Castellore Organic Prosecco Rose to top up
Blueberries for decoration
- Pour the liquer into a flute glass.
- Top up with Prosecco.
- Add a few fresh blueberries to the glass for decoration
Chocolate is a notorious wine killer! There is very little in the wine world that can cope with the intense flavours of a rich chocolate mousse or a lavish moist chocolate cake with covered with dark chocolate ganache. Coffee does work well with chocolate, but at Christmas you might want your after dinner coffee to have a bit of a kick! Try this delicious blend of vodka and coffee in a martini – in true James Bond style, its shaken not stirred!
I’m using a beautiful Irish craft vodka from County Kerry as the base for this. Dingle DD Pot Still Vodka from the Dingle Distillery embodies the exciting flavours of the Wild Atlantic Way in the water used for making, which comes from a natural spring deep beneath the distillery. It’s filtered through charcoal to give a natural mineral taste. Marry it with cold espresso coffee, and creamy Irish coffee liqueur for a distinctly different cocktail to go with any challenge a chocolate based dessert could throw at you!
Dingle DD is available at Supervalu Stores, in its gorgeous blue bottle, €32.00 for 70cl. While you’re at it, also pick up a bottle of the all time favourite Bailey’s Irish Cream, also in Supervalu at €10.00 for a 70cl bottle
Few ice cubes
50mls Dingle DD vodka
25mls fresh espresso coffee, sweetened to taste
25mls Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur
- Make coffee to your preferred strength and sweeten to taste. leave to go cold.
- Place ice cubes in a cocktail shaker.
- Add vodka, cold coffee and coffee liqueur and shake thoroughly.
- Pour into a chilled Martini glass and serve with a little grated chocolate on top!
Santa can’t possibly have a proper cocktail when he’s got to drive the sleigh! But that doesn’t mean he has to miss out on a bit of dessert and a chic mocktail before his journey begins! The same goes for your Christmas non-drinkers or drivers. I’ve got a lovely, spiced apple mocktail which will certainly hit the spot with fruity desserts or the Christmas puds and cakes. I’m using Supervalu’s Irish Apple Juice made in Co. Kildare, €2.00 per litre bottle. The juice is infused with spices and foraged elderberry syrup from Wild Irish Foragers in Co. Wexford available online at www.wildirishforagers.ie €7.50 for 750mls. Top up with Irish Elderflower Tonic Water from Aldi stores €1.89 for 750 mls for a bit of sparkle and bite.
1 ltr Irish apple juice
1 cinnamon stick
50mls Wild Irish Foragers Elderberry syrup
Ridge Valley Irish Elderflower Tonic Water to top up
- Pour apple juice and elderberry syrup into a pan and add the spices. Stir gently over low heat.
- Bring gently to simmering then turn off heat and allow spices to infuse for at least half an hour.
- Cool then chill lightly.
- Strain the juice to remove whole spices.
- For one mocktail, half fill a slender tumbler with mulled apple juice and top up with elderflower tonic.
- Decorate with thin slices of apple in the glass.