Drinks Party

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve done drinks with Luke Evans, WineTime with Kat (and a church full of brilliant women!) and sung carols with Cliff Richard. Honestly, I couldn’t feel more Christmassy if I rolled myself in glitter. However, I haven’t done anything to make me feel even remotely organised on the home front. I’ve bought a few presents and ordered the turkey but that’s pretty much it. Still, my drinks cupboard is sorted so really it’s all gravy (well, not actual gravy, that’s still on the to-do list).

This week’s wine recommendations are things I can’t do without over the Christmas holidays, from a failsafe fizz to a fortified wine that goes with anything. Also, below are the recipes for some pre-batch cocktails I made on This Morning a few weeks ago and have been promising to share ever since (I blame Luke Evans).

Negroni Sbagliato – makes enough for 6
150ml Campari
150ml Red Vermouth
Bottle of Prosecco
Orange slices to garnish
Method: mix the Campari and Red Vermouth in a jug and store in fridge until needed. Get tumblers and fill with plenty of ice. Pour in 50ml of pre-mixed Campari/Red Vermouth into each tumbler, top up with chilled Prosecco and garnish with a half slice of orange.

French 75 – makes enough for 6
150ml gin
90ml fresh lemon juice (approx. two lemons)
90ml of sugar syrup
Bottle of crémant or champagne
Method: mix the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup together and store in a jug or jar in the fridge until needed. When ready pour 50ml of the pre-mix into chilled flutes or coupes, top up with chilled crémant and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

Bloody Mary – makes enough for 6
300ml vodka
1l tomato juice
50ml Fino Sherry
Generous grinding of black pepper
Generous pinch of celery salt (or normal salt)
Worcester Sauce – a dash per serving
Tabasco Sauce – a dash per serving
Fresh lemon juice – a squeeze per serving
Celery stick to garnish
Method: put plenty of ice into a jug and pour in the vodka, tomato juice and Fino sherry. Mix and add all the extras to taste, adjusting as you go. Pour into tall glasses over ice and add a half stick to celery to each or two olives on a sprig of rosemary if you fancy.

Non-Alcoholic Dark & Stormy – makes enough for 6
300ml Lyre’s Spiced Cane Spirit, £23.50 (available here)
500ml ginger beer
50ml fresh lime juice
30ml vanilla sugar syrup (use Monin or make homemade, see below for recipe)
Method: put everthing into a jug over ice and top with plenty of fresh lime wedges. Serve in tumblers or highballs over ice with more fresh lime wedges to garnish.

Homemade Vanilla Sugar Syrup
Take 1 vanilla pod and slice down the middle then cover with a generous amount of white sugar and leave overnight. Remove pod, cover the sugar with just enough boiling water the soak the sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Pour into a cooling bottle and leave to cool.

Homemade Mulled Wine
100ml orange juice
100g muscovado sugar
Half an orange
5 cloves
Fresh ginger
Stick of cinnamon
Dried star anise
750ml red wine
50-100ml Sloe gin (depending on how much oomph you want to add)!
Method: heat the orange juice and muscovado sugar in a pan. Add half an orange studded with the cloves, a peeled thumb of ginger, a stick of cinnamon, a piece of dried star anise and the entire bottle of red wine. Then add the sloe gin and heat gently for about 10 minutes (don’t let it boil or you’ll burn the alcohol off)! Serve in heatproof glasses with a handle or mugs adding a half slice of orange and a cinnamon stick in each.

One last thing, we’re throwing in a last minute WineTime over on Kat’s Instagram on Friday 16th December featuring our pick of the 10 for £10 wines currently on offer at Waitrose. Join us if you fancy and I’ll share the wines we’ll be tasting before then.

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Les Pionniers Brut NV

Price: £19.50 - Buy From Co-op

Made for the Co-op by none other than Piper Heidsieck, this award-winning own label champagne is based on a similar blend of the three classic champagne grapes (mostly Pinot Noir, with Pinot Meunier and some Chardonnay too).  One of the best champagnes currently under £20 around, this is such good value. Yes, there are some cheaper ones around but the quality is hit and miss. This one’s a definite hit.

Current port on the side: Tesco Tawny Port

Price: £7.20 - Buy From Tesco

Honestly, have a bottle of this in the house over Christmas and you’ll have the perfect thing to drink every time you have a mince pie, a slice of Christmas cake, some Christmas pudding or a plate of cheese. For my money, Tawny Port is one of the best value wines in the world. It starts out life as normal port – from the Douro Valley in Portugal, made from a blend of local grapes and fortified with grape spirit – but is then aged in oak barrels so turning the colour its eponymous tawny colour. I say it’s kept on the side but actually serve it lightly chilled for best results.


  • Elaine
    1 year ago

    Dear Helen, Could you recommend a good, reasonably priced Armagnac please.
    So please, I’ve joined your blog. I’m a massive fan of ‘Saturday Kitchen’. The banter and humour sets me up for the following week. Not forgetting the cooking tips and recipes and of course your wine recommendations.
    Thank you,

    • Helen McGinn
      1 year ago

      Hi Elaine, the Château du Tariquet Bas-Armagnac XO from Waitrose is gorgeous and currently on offer, £6 off! Go!

  • Ray
    1 year ago

    Hi Helen,

    Any recommendations for a bone dry white wine? Preferably NZ/Chile? Thanks budget £8 – £20

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