Words by Simon Difford
Christmas is a time for overindulgence and so Christmas tends to be rich in every sense of the word. Almost a meal in itself, in America it’s the creamy Eggnog that dominates the festive cocktail scene. In the UK we have the Snowball – a lighter drink that also appears creamy and is based on Dutch Advocaat, a luxuriant liqueur made with egg yolk, spirit and sugar.
Traditionally a Snowball is simply advocaat mixed with lime juice and English-style lemonade (7-Up also works well). Made well, with freshly lime juice and served in a tall ice-filled glass the Snowball appears creamy but is surprisingly light with the lime and lemonade freshening and invigorating the creamy advocaat.
Being a proud Englishman I thought I'd kick off my own humble offering of festive cocktails with my riff on a Snowball. The others use Christmassy flavours such as ginger, cranberry, nuts, raisins, sherry, port, mincemeat, cream. You'll also notice the use of plenty of advocaat and tenuous names.
My 20 easy to make Christmas cocktails
Tom & Jerry
A boozy, warming and filling festive meal in itself. Make for 2 or 20 - once you're made the base batter, this is quick and easy to serve to a crowd.
Snowball (Difford's recipe)
This riff on the classic Snowball was inspired by the way my dad made them when I was growing up. He used lime cordial rather than fresh juice and added a splash of sherry. The use of fino sherry dries and freshens while champagne lifts and lightens the thick creamy egg yolk.
Fino sherry again dries this creamy and complex Christmassy cocktail with scotch whisky providing backbone and character while advocaat adds dairy-like creaminess. Chartreuse adds faint religious significance - drink after all Christmas is meant to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Jenever provides the yuletide spirit base, sweetened and flavoured by cherry liqueur. Chinato adds wine notes while gin freshens and adds botanical complexity. Maraschino and orange bitters complete this festive tipple.
A 'wet' Vodka Martini made soaking wet with a festive dose of almond and gingerbread syrup. Simple and somewhat 1990s but very tasty.
White Russian Christmas
While all the songs about a White Christmas I couldn't help this play on words. This vodka based Christmassy white Russian is given a festive feel by mincemeat and gingerbread syrup. I should explain for those of you in countries not familiar with 'mincemeat' that this is not 'meat' but a very English pie filling containing chopped apple, dried fruits, candied peel and mixed spices. Christmas is not Christmas without mum's mince pies!
A perfect after-dinner cocktail at any time of year but particularly appropriate over the festive period due to its ingredients - Pedro Ximénez sherry (which tastes like English Christmas pudding), mandarins and walnuts, which are best cracked whilst watching a Christmas special.
Christmas Velvet Alexander
Combining advocaat, London dry gin and fino sherry, this is the ultimate stereotypical Christmas English granny's cocktail.
Cognac stirred with rich berry flavours of muscat wine along with the relatively dry berry flavour of cranberry.
Cognac and freshly squeezed orange juice warmed with ginger and clove spice.
Christmas Pudding & Custard Cocktail
As the name suggests this drink combines flavours reminiscent of alcoholic custard with Pedro Ximenez sherry resembling liquid Christmas pudding and advocaat being custard-like.
Creamy Vanilla Colada (a.k.a. White Christmas)
Creamy yoghurt married with aged rum and richly flavoured with vanilla. Back in 2011 I created this cocktail with a then newly available yoghurt liqueur and gave it the unimaginative name 'Creamy Vanilla Colada' but renamed 'White Christmas' is a fitting festive cocktail.
Cola de Mono
I based this on a Chilean drink traditionally consumed at Christmas, the name of which literally translates as 'Tail of Monkey'. The original uses milk and sugar instead of coffee liqueur.
Port and brandy (rhymes 'Randy') are traditionally consumed at Christmas and used to be a popular British pub combo. I've used maple syrup in place of brown sugar syrup to lightly sweeten this festive after dinner combo. The Sazerac was the inspiration for the choice of bitters and use of absinthe.
I created this 'Winter Season' drink for Laurent-Perrier. The rich wintery flavours of sloe gin and honey are balanced by lemon juice with clove providing seasonal spice and rosé champagne lifting and refreshing.
Sir Charles Punch
From a recipe in the 1949 Esquire's Handbook for Hosts, which suggests this drink should be served at Christmas.
As the name suggests pear and almond are the main flavours of this wintery cocktail with calvados providing backbone and hints of apple, while champagne dries and adds flavoursome effervescence.
Sticky Toffee Fizz
Given the name and the ingredients of this indulgent champagne cocktail is surprisingly dry and complex. The more sophisticated the drinker then the thinner toffee sauce rim should be. Conversely, bring it on!
Auntie's Hot Xmas Punch
I created this drink to serve live on Christmas Eve 2002 during a broadcast on BBC radio. 'Auntie' is a nickname for the BBC and the drink uses the traditional punch proportions of 1 sour, 2 sweet, 3 strong and 4 weak with Pedro Ximénez sherry supplying both sweetness and rich Christmas flavour.
Based on cognac and named after one of the three wise men, this cocktail uses three spices - ginger, cloves and saffron (in the Bénédictine) and a good dash of red wine (after all, in later life the baby they visited reputedly turned water into wine).
The Cosmopolitan meets the Margarita in this gloriously pink cocktail - I was aiming for Christmassy red.
A suitably Christmassy amaretto influenced vodka-based Cosmopolitan. The drink's rather better than the name which seemed apt back in 2011.
Other suitably festive cocktails
General Harrison's Nogg
Named after General William Henry Hartison, the American President to hold office for the shortest period we were sent this Egg Nog recipe by King Cocktail, Dale DeGroff.
Created in 2012 by Adeline Shepard and Craig Harper at Ruby, Copenhagen, Denmark, this cocktail featured smoky island malts tamed by the Christmas pudding flavours of Pedro Ximénez with absinthe adding notes of enlivening anise.
Fish House Punch
One of the most famous of all punch recipes, one of the stories behind the origin of the Fish House Punch has it that the drink was first made in 1848 by Shippen Willing of Philadelphia to celebrate women being allowed into the Fish House for the first time for a Christmas Party. Also try my cold tea influenced Fish House Punch.
Created in 2008 by Bruce Borthwick this festive tipple captures the flavour of that British Christmas staple, the mince pie.
a festively spiced champagne cocktail created in 2016 by Dave Beatty.