There’s something magical about Christmas, all those festive flavours, including cranberry, clementine, mulled wine, frankincense and myrrh, and the gin world does it in style with special seasonal bottles. We’ll be celebrating Christmas early with a very special seasonal virtual festival where you not only get to try five great special gins and matching mixers, discover over a dozen tempting Christmas cocktails to make with them BUT you can also win prizes – wear your Christmas jumper, a special festive outfit or even decorate your Christmas tree – and/or dog – to win prizes! I’ll be joining in, too, not just hosting and talking cocktails but I’ll be breaking out the tinsel and having a cracker of a night!

What’s on Santa’s nice list? Don’t forget that you’ll receive a discount for the gins with your tasting set – treat yourself to a very special Christmas present

Pickering’s Cranberry Gin – Fever-tree Aromatic Tonic Water
Misty Isle Mulled Christmas Gin – Fever-tree Raspberry and Rose Soda
Tarquin’s Festive Figgy Pudding Gin – Fever-tree Smoky Ginger Ale
Trevethan Christmas Reserve Cornish Gin – Fever-tree Italian Blood Orange Soda
Snowglobe Orange and Gingerbread Gin Liqueur 2021 release – QUBA Ginger, Chilli & Pimento Berry Mixer (250ml)

To buy the tasting set with 30ml of the five festive gins in sample bottles (not shaped miniatures) with four x 200ml and 1 x 250ml mixers for £20 + P&P, go to https://thespiritsembassy.com/products/christmas-gin-tasting-with-fi-shoop) or see The Spirits Embassy Facebook and Twitter pages. The matching mixers include the irresistible QUBA Ginger, Chilli & Pimento Berry mixer which I discovered at Rumfest UK but is absolutely perfect with at least two of these gins – I’d recommend also mixing it with the Tarquin’s Festive Figgy Pudding Gin but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The virtual tasting is being treated like a whisky tasting. When you go to gin festivals, they usually add tonic before you’ve had a chance to experience the sheer delights of the gin on its own. I’d recommend using just half the gin and half the mixer initially so you can experiment later, including making cocktails. Together, we’ll smell (nose) the gin, everyone gets the chance to talk on the Zoom tasting or add comments in the ‘chat’ – what do you detect? It’s surprising how much depth there will be, not just the botanicals.

Then, taste it neat. Is it a gin you’d like to drink on its own? What tasting notes do you get? Next, try the mixer on its own. What do you think? Would you buy it to drink on its own or try with other gins or other spirits? Finally, pour some of the mixer into the gin – remember, you can always add more, you can’t take any out.

Share your thoughts. Is this a gin and mixer you’d like to find in your stocking? Will Santa’s sleigh be bulging with festive goodies? Can Rudolph carry it all or will he need a quick gin cocktail to get through the night?

Pickering’s Cranberry Gin, 37.5% ABV – Fever-tree Aromatic Tonic Water
Botanicals – Juniper, coriander, cardamom, angelica, fennel, anise, lemon, lime, cloves and cinnamon, plus cranberry

Part of the Pickering’s festive range and one of the must-have Pickering’s Gin Baubles which always announce the start of the festive season – don’t forget to order set on the night or with the tasting set.

Distilled in Pickering’s Gertrude copper pot still, the base of this seasonal spirit uses Pickering’s Original 1947 Gin and adds seasonal cranberry.

Pinkberry Fizz
This would be great in a fruity Negroni but it’s Christmas and we need an extra special cocktail, a variation on a Kir Royale. I love the beautifully berried (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, loganberries and blackcurrants) A.R. Lenoble Rosé Terroirs Chouilly-Bisseuil Non-Vintage Champagne (RRP £41.95), the perfect match for Pickering’s Festive Cranberry Gin or just to enjoy on its own or with dessert

25ml Pickering’s Festive Cranberry Gin
125ml A.R. Lenoble Rosé Terroirs Chouilly-Bisseuil NV Champagne or pink fizz of your choice
2-3 raspberries or Nim’s Cranberry Infusions, to garnish

Pour the gin into a Champagne flute, top with the pink Champagne and gently stir. Garnish with 2-3 raspberries or the dehydrated cranberries.

Or, to be extra fruity, blitz 6-8 raspberries in a blender and add to the glass before adding the liquids, then stir gently.

It’s Christmas, so I’m gifting you extra cocktails to celebrate the season.

Cranberrylicious

25ml Pickering’s Festive Cranberry Gin
75ml cranberry juice
75ml fresh orange juice
10ml Rose’s Lime Cordial
3 dashes Fee Brothers Cranberry Bitters
Small pinch of ground nutmeg
Orange wheel, to garnish

Pour the liquids and nutmeg into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake and strain into a Collins glass and garnish with an orange wheel

WooWooWoos
I loved WooWoos when I was at uni, my cocktail of choice (pour 50ml Ciroc vodka, 15ml peach Schnappes, 125ml cranberry juice and the juice of half a lime into a cocktail shaker full of ice and strain into a Martini glass, garnishing with a lime wheel). With a little magic, Pickering’s Festive Cranberry Gin and gin shimmer you get an extra woo

1/2 lime
50ml Pickering’s Festive Cranberry Gin
20ml peach Schnappes
125ml cranberry juice
1/3 tsp PopaBall Gold Shimmer or blueberry-flavoured Blue Pearl Shimmer for Gin, if desired
Lime wheel, to garnish

Juice half a lime and pour with the other liquids into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake and strain into a Collins glass, allowing plenty of space on top for that magical touch. Add the gin shimmer, watch it bubble up the glass, leave to settle until the shimmer shows and garnish with a lime wheel

Add a little glamour to your cocktails with this colourful shimmer, just allow extra space in the glass as it will bubble up when added before settling and spreading Christmas magic in your glass

To Garnish or Not to Garnish?
Garnishes perform two purposes, they add flavour and they look pretty/add visual structure to the cocktail. I love Nim’s Infusions, especially their Christmas range and the dehydrated cranberries are perfect for this cocktail. I’m hoping the seasonal special will be back in stock soon and, until then, their Mulled Wine Infusion is perfect for some of these cocktails https://nimsfruitcrisps.com/product-category/infusions/

Pickering’s Gin Christmas Baubles – 6 festive flavours, £25
Every home needs a set of Pickering’s Gin Christmas baubles for Christmas and beyond as they can be refilled and enjoyed again and again throughout the year. Baubles aren’t just for Christmas, although these festive flavours are only available at this time of year!

Don’t worry about forgetting which gin is which when you hang them on the Christmas tree as the names are on the ribbons

Bauble Flavours
Festive Cranberry
Christmas Clementine
Plum & Ginger
Spiced Pear and Cinnamon
Figgy Pudding
Brussels Sprout

Pop a set or two into your basket, ready for buying with the Festive Gin Virtual Tasting Set https://thespiritsembassy.com/products/g-2?_pos=1&_sid=96bed3d4a&_ss=r

Misty Isle Mulled Christmas Gin, 41% ABV – Fever-tree Raspberry and Rose Soda
Botanicals – Juniper, orange, lemon, Tonka beans, cassia, star anise and liquorice root, soaked in Italian Amarone red wine pre-distillation

The Isle of Skye Distillers have created a very special Christmas gin based on one of my favourite seasonal treats, mulled wine. It would also work very well with the seasonal Fever-tree Damson and Sloe Berry Tonic which is only available in 500ml bottles, perfect for sharing.

 

Hot Gin Toddy
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without mulled wine. I love the smell of the kitchen with all of those wonderful spices mixed with fruity red wine and brandy. The word toddy meaning a hot drink using alcohol, spices and sugar dates back to1786 and I love hot whisky toddies but you can also make a gin version and this is the perfect gin for a hot drink on a cold Christmas morning. Or even an unseasonal warm one. You can stick it in the microwave and ping for 90 seconds on hot but you’d miss out on all those lovely scents if you don’t warm it slowly on the hob in a saucepan

30ml Misty Isle Mulled Christmas Gin
150ml apple juice
1 tsp runny honey
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
2 star anise
1/4 inch fresh ginger, sliced

Pour the gin, apple juice and honey into a saucepan (or mug if microwaving). Add the cinnamon stick and either add the other spices to the saucepan or tie them in a muslin bag and add them. Gently warm, stirring occasionally, until hot but not boiling, set the spices aside for seconds and pour the liquids into a mug and serve

Hot G&T
G&T conjures up hot summer days but, on cold winter ones, enjoy a hot G&T, instead. The mulled element of this gin is perfect for that

30ml Misty Isle Mulled Christmas Gin
15ml Jeffrey’s Classic Premium Indian Tonic Syrup, or tonic syrup of your choice
1 tsp Monin’s sugar syrup
Hot water, to top
Orange wheel
Cinnamon stick, to stir

Pour the liquids into a mug or Irish coffee mug, pour hot water from the kettle into the mug, add the orange wheel and stir with the cinnamon stick

Mulling It Over
A wonderfully fruity festive treat. I’ve chosen Cava or Prosecco instead of Champagne for this fizz delight to balance out the tartness of the lemon juice and grenadine. I love the fresh and floral notes in Avallen Calvados which works really well in this fizztastic cocktail

25ml Misty Isle Mulled Christmas Gin
25ml Avallen Calvados
15ml lemon juice
5ml grenadine
100ml Freixenet or the Cava or Prosecco of your choice
Cinnamon stick, to stir

Pour the first four ingredients into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake and strain into a Collins glass, top with the fizz and stir gently with the cinnamon stick

Tarquin’s Festive Figgy Pudding Gin, 42% ABV – Fever-tree Smoky Ginger Ale
Botanicals – Tarquin’s Cornish Dry Gin with its 12 botanicals (juniper, Devon violets, orris root, angelica, almond, liquorice, lemon, orange, grapefruit, cardamom, cinnamon and coriander) figs, fresh clementine zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and brandy-soaked cherry wood chips, plus a dash of Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry

This, the first of our two Cornish gins, Tarquin’s Gin is made at Southwestern Distillery. Their festive gin would also work wonderfully with the QUBA Ginger, Chilli & Pimento Berry Mixer we’re mixing with the Snowglobe later but the Fever-tree Smoky Ginger Ale brings out the richness of the PX and the sherry. It uses their Cornish Dry Gin as a base and adds the fruit and spices, plus PX sherry. Gin, brandy and sherry, this is Christmas in a glass.

Figgy Cocktails
You could just pour 25ml of Tarquin’s Festive Figgy Pudding Gin into a Champagne flute and top with Champagne. In fact, do that anyway BUT Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a classic festive cocktail, the Snowball – or a variation. I make classic Ginger Snaps, using ginger ale instead of lemonade (50ml Warninks Advocaat, 15ml Rose’s Lime Cordial, 75ml Fever-tree Ginger Ale, poured into a mixing jug full of ice, stirred and strained into a Collins glass). This is a festive special so I’m going to suggest two additional Advocaat cocktails here. We all want some figgy pudding!

You can make your own Advocaat using egg yolks but I stick to tried and tested Warninks which, unlike fresh Advocaat, lasts in the fridge for up to six months once opened

Ginger and Fig Snap
This sweet figgy sherried gin can also be poured over ice cream but is ideal in festive cocktails, including this variation on a Ginger Snap which, in turn, is a variation on a Snowball. I’ll be enjoying a glass on Christmas morning as I unwrap my bottles of gin/s. Thanks, Santa!

25ml Tarquin’s Festive Figgy Pudding Gin
30ml Warninks Advocaat
75ml Fever-tree Ginger Ale or QUBA Ginger, Chilli & Pimento Berry Mixer
10ml Rose’s Lime Cordial
1/2 fig, to garnish, fresh or dried

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker full of ice. Shake and strain into a Martini glass, garnish with half a fig

Snow Angel
A very decadent cocktail, leave a chilled glass out for Santa! The Gonzalez Byass Nectar PX sherry will add extra figgy, dark chocolate and ground coffee notes – and is also perfect just drizzled over ice cream or enjoyed on its own. I hear Santa’s a fan!

If you’d like to turn this delicious short cocktail into a long one, pour into a Collins glass and top with Champagne. I recommend the Lelarge-Pugeot Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Premier Cru NV Champagne (RRP £36.75) with its unexpected ginger notes

40ml Tarquin’s Festive Figgy Pudding Gin
30ml Warninks Advocaat
5ml Monin’s Gingerbread Syrup
10ml Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximenez Sherry
15ml Rose’s Lime Cordial
2 dashes Bob’s Vanilla Bitters
Lime wheel, to garnish

Pour all of the liquids into a cocktail shaker full of ice, strain into a Martini glass and garnish with a lime wheel, I use a Nim’s Infusions dehydrated one

Incidentally, if you treat yourself – or Santa treats you – to Pickering’s Gin Christmas Baubles, you can also use their Figgy Pudding Gin in these festive cocktails.

Trevethan Christmas Reserve Cornish Gin, 40% ABV – Fever-tree Italian Blood Orange Soda
Botanicals – Trevethan London Dry Gin 10 botanicals (juniper, coriander, angelica, cassia, orange, lemon, cardamom, vanilla and hand picked Cornish elderflower and gorse flower), Cornish-grown Norwegian spruce, cinnamon, cranberries, raspberries, lime and extra orange and vanilla

Christmas Orange Martini
Fancy a change from Buck’s Fizz/Mimosas on Christmas morning? Try this Christmas Orange Martini instead. You can use whatever Champagne you have at home but I highly recommend buying the Gallimard Père et Fils Cuvée Prestige Brut 2015 (RRP £34.95) because its kumquat and honey notes are perfect for this cocktail – enjoy the rest of the bottle with your Christmas and/or Boxing Day lunch

2 large oranges, to juice
25ml Trevethan Christmas Reserve Cornish Gin
25ml Cointreau
100ml Gallimard Père et Fils Cuvée Prestige Brut 2015
Cinnamon stick, to stir
Orange wheel, to garnish

Juice the oranges, pour into a cocktail shaker full of ice, along with the Trevethan Christmas Reserve Cornish Gin and Cointreau, shake and strain into a Martini glass, top with the Champagne, stir gently with the cinnamon stick and garnish with the orange wheel

Festive Pine Gimlet
I love the classic Gimlet which I mix with four parts of gin to three parts Rose’s Lime Cordial – never pure lime juice which is too acidic – but this is a special festive variation celebrating the pine botanical of Trevethan Christmas Reserve Cornish Gin

Avoid covering your carpet with dropped pine needles by turning them into a cocktail, instead – or just put your tree on a mat or sheet!

Yes, you can make your own pine needle syrup but do you really want a semi-naked Christmas tree? Okay, so if the answer is yes, make sure you really can identify pine needles before trying this. Yew offers traditional Christmas greenery but is also poisonous. Double check you’re using pine needles or just buy a ready-made pine syrup:

For the Pine Syrup:
75ml caster sugar
75ml water
Handful of chopped pine needles

Pour the sugar and water into a saucepan, bring to the boil and stir gently until the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a jug and allow to cool until luke-warm. Add the chopped pine needles, cover and leave to steep in a cool place overnight. Strain the liquid over a cloth into a bowl, ensuring no pine needles remain, then bottle and seal the syrup and keep in the fridge. As well as the Gimlet, you could also add 5-10ml pine syrup, to taste, to a Hot Gin Toddy or a mug of mulled wine for a festive flare. The pine syrup should last around a week in the fridge once made

15ml William Fox Pine Syrup or homemade pine syrup
30ml Trevethan Christmas Reserve Cornish Gin
10ml Rose’s Lime Cordial
2 cranberries, to garnish

Pour the liquids into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake and strain into an old-fashioned glass and garnish with a couple of cranberries

I prefer to use a ready-made pine syrup so I have more time to enjoy my Festive Pine Gimlet in peace with no extra washing up to do. Lazy fixes are there for a reason!

Gravity Drinks Snowglobe Orange and Gingerbread Gin Liqueur 2021 release, 20% – QUBA Ginger, Chilli & Pimento Berry Mixer
Botanicals – Unlisted but ingredients include 23ct gold leaf

I love the decorated light-up Snowglobe bottle and its gold leaf snow, just shake for an instant Christmas scene. It’s a different scene each year and they can be refilled when you’ve enjoyed all of the gin. The gold leaf has no real taste but it’s awfully pretty and perfect for Christmas, just be careful when choosing cocktails that the gold leaf isn’t masked by the other ingredients. I would have loved to have mixed it into a Ginger and Fig Snap but it would have been wasted as you wouldn’t see the gold leaf snow through the dominant Advocaat. Again, just adding fizz would work very well.

QUBA
I discovered QUBA’s range of rum mixers at Rumfest UK but they deserve more than being limited to just rum, however good the tot! QUBA Ginger, Chilli & Pimento Berry is my personal favourite and was designed for a Dark and Stormy cocktail, also great for drinking on its own.

The other two are Lime, Apple & Lemongrass, perfect for Daiquiris but it would also work wonderfully with the Pickering’s Cranberry Gin. I was also tempted to mix their final mixer, Grapefruit & Red Sorrel with Trevethan Christmas Reserve Cornish Gin.

A great range to discover and also ideal for designated drivers and non-drinkers this Christmas season who deserve a delicious treat of their own.

Snowglobe Orange and Gingerbread Gin Liqueur is perfect simply paired with Champagne – especially Lelarge-Pugeot Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Premier Cru NV with its fabulous ginger notes. Don’t forget to shake the snowglobe-shaped bottle before pouring this very festive gin so the gold leaf snows into your glass.

The Champagne Cocktail
This flavoured gin with its gold-leaf snow will add a twist to this classic cocktail. I prefer to use Bob’s Ginger Bitters to draw on the Christmassy notes of the gin but, if you don’t think you’ll use the bitters often, it’s perfectly fine to stick to Angostura Bitters or Bitter Truth Orange Bitters – you can always ask Santa for a Bitter Truth Traveller’s Set (not the Bar Pack which is different, you want the five-set tin containing Orange and Aromatic Bitters)

1 sugar cube or 1 tsp demerara sugar
3 dashes of Bob’s Ginger Bitters, Bitter Truth Orange Bitters or Angostura Bitters
25ml Snowglobe Orange and Gingerbread Gin Liqueur
Lelarge-Pugeot Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Premier Cru NV Champagne, to top

Place the sugar cube in a Champagne flute or coupe, pour the bitters on top, swirl a little until the bitters have soaked into the sugar, then pour in the gin liqueur and top with the Champagne, stir gently and enjoy

Gin Caipirinha
This brings back memories of my old food magazine’s launch party in Covent Garden, a bar where the worn front step showed its history as a building where elephants were kept. I think of that every time I drink the Brazilian cocktail, which is traditionally made with cachaça.

A second version, an Orange Not-So Caipirinha, would swap the limes for quarter of an orange and the lime wheel for an orange wheel

1/2 lime, quartered
1 tbs runny orange blossom honey
30ml Snowglobe Orange and Gingerbread Gin Liqueur
Lime wheel, to garnish

Muddle the lime quarters and honey in an old-fashioned glass to release the liquid, then pour that into a cocktail shaker full of ice, along with the lime quarters and Snowglobe Orange and Gingerbread Gin Liqueur, retaining the glass. Shake thoroughly, strain into the original glass and garnish with a lime wheel

At the end of the tasting, try mix and matching the gins and mixers, or hold them back for these delicious cocktails. I recommend mixing the Tarquin’s Festive Figgy Pudding Gin with QUBA Ginger, Chilli & Pimento Berry Mixer. So does Santa!

I look forward to seeing you all at The Spirits Embassy’s Virtual Festive Gin Tasting on 12th November.