Christmas warmers - special seasonal tipples
As the kitchen fills with delicious festive smells as Christmas puddings soak in spices and booze, and Christmas cakes go into the oven, it is time to reward yourself for all your hard work with a special seasonal tipple that will warm the cockles of your heart.
So, I thought, who better to consult on the art of festive winter warmers than Bhim Santoo, the spectacular cocktail wizard in Urchin, which is the more casual sister restaurant of the Cliff Townhouse on St Stephen's Green in Dublin. If you haven't been in a while, it's well worth dropping in as it now has a cosier new look. In the meantime, included below are three top hot cocktails filled with cinnamon and spice from Bhim, with a few of his tips. And in the line-up today, I have 10 different winter warmer bottles, from very affordable wine that will work a treat in mulled wine to two very special whiskeys.
Hot cocktail tips from Bhim:
For hot cocktails, glasses should always be hot before the drink goes in. Use a heatproof glass. Measure your ingredients so the drink doesn't get overpowered: hot water infuses flavours faster than cold mixers.
If prepping ahead, for all cocktails but in particular hot cocktails, the most important thing is to ensure all the condiments and garnishes are prepared, fresh and ready to use, so the drink can be served quickly and enjoyed at its best.
The best cocktails are a careful combination of the right ingredients to get that perfect balance, so be meticulous about measurements. Presentation is vital - a cocktail should be as pleasing to the eye as it is to the taste buds.
Altivo Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
€8.99, 13pc, from Eurospar, Spar, Mace and Londis
With a ripe, juicy nose, this wine has plenty of vibrant fruit on the palate with red plum, ripe blackcurrant, blackcurrant leaf and a touch of spice and characteristic mint. Great for mulled wine or with charcuterie.
Doña Paula Estate Black Edition
€12, 14pc, from Tesco, Dunnes Stores, SuperValu, McHugh's, Sweeney's and Next Door
Getting the top gong for the New World Red Under €15 category at the recent NoffLA Irish Wine Show Star Awards, this blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot has plenty of spicy plums, red peppers and a hint of mint.
Château Belles Eaux les Coteaux
€12.95 (reduced from €22.95), 14.5pc, from O'Briens
This top blend of Grenache and Syrah from the Languedoc is owned by the renowned Pichon-Longueville estate in Bordeaux. Loaded with rich, ripe fruit, with bramble, plums, cherries, spice and a touch of wild thyme.
Brazilian Soul Tannat
€10, 12.5pc, from Drinkstore, Redmonds, Jus de Vine, Grapevine, all Dublin; O'Donovan's, Number 21, Fine Wines, all Cork
There's plenty of fruit on the nose of this lush wine from the sunny soils of Brazil, which has ripe dark plums and spicy berries on the palate with a touch of roasted coffee on the finish. Great with pizza, meatballs and easy dinners.
€12, 19pc, from Marks & Spencer
Christmas really is the time to bring the sherry out, and this one is a bit special, as a Palo Cortado is somewhere between an Amontillado and Oloroso in style. This is rich, with complex flavours of prunes, figs, orange zest and a touch of raisin.
Ceppaiano Alle Viole Toscana IGT 2013
€13.99, 12.5pc, from Eurospar, Spar, Mace and Londis
This quality Italian red is made predominantly from the Sangiovese grape with a little bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which adds a roundness, and softens it out with fruity red cherries and a touch of spice. Great with food, but smooth enough to drink on its own.
Les Deux Cols Alizé 2016 Côtes du Rhône
€17.95, 13.5pc, from 64 Wine, Clontarf Wines, Donnybrook Fair, Green Man Wines, Whelehan's Deveney's, Redmonds, Jus de Vine, Martin's, Searsons, all Dublin; Eleven Deli, La Touche, Greystones; Number 21, JJ Fields, Cork; searsons.com
This wonderfully drinkable Côtes du Rhône made by Simon Tyrrell and Charles Derain has generous layers of red fruit sitting over a core of dark fruit with a touch of spice and hint of herbs.
Finest Reserve Port
€19, 20pc, from Marks & Spencer
Full of Christmassy flavours, this is sweet and spicy with dark berries, plums and a touch of cassis, plus a beautiful sprinkling of Christmas cake spice. Beautiful on its own, or have it with Christmas pudding or in a delicious hot Port.
Teeling Single Pot Still Batch 1
€55, 46pc, from Celtic Whiskey Shop, Teeling Distillery gift shop, Dublin; select independent off-licences, Dublin Airport and teelingwhiskey.com
The first whiskey to be distilled in Dublin for nearly 50 years: the equal mix of malted and unmalted barley gives this a fine palate of lychees, white pepper and roasted peaches with a spicy, nutty finish.
Red Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
€115, 46pc, Mitchell & Son, CHQ and Sandycove; Avoca, Kilmacanogue and Dunboyne
Crafted from an old recipe handed down by the Mitchell family, this super premium whiskey has been matured for a minimum of 15 years in a combination of Bourbon, Oloroso and Marsala casks. With spicy flavours of cooked fruit, vanilla and toasted oak, add a drop of water to really open this up.
85ml ruby Port
1 lemon wedge or slice
Curl of lemon peel to garnish
Warm up your glass by pouring hot water inside it. Stud 4 cloves into the lemon wedge and place it and the cinnamon stick into the glass to infuse with the drink. Pour the Port into the glass and top up with boiling water. You can leave in the lemon and cinnamon if you want, or remove them. To serve, stud the curl of lemon peel with 2 cloves and place on top of the glass as a garnish. You can make a sweeter hot Port by dissolving a little brown sugar or a little honey in the hot water first.
Mulled wine by Bhim
1 bottle of inexpensive red wine
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 tbsp sugar
Orange wedges, cinnamon sticks and star anise, to garnish
Start by juicing the orange and pass the freshly squeezed juice through a sieve. Prepare a pot large enough to accommodate one bottle of wine. Pour the red wine and all the ingredients in the pot. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Taste to see if it's sweet enough; if not, add a little more sugar to taste. Pour and garnish with an orange wedge, cinnamon stick and star anise.
Hot buttered whiskey
¼ tsp mixed ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla pod
20ml salted caramel syrup (or sugar, to taste)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 star anise
40ml whiskey (I use Teeling Whiskey Small Batch)
Hot water, to top up
1 cinnamon stick and some grated orange, to garnish
Mix all the spices and salted caramel syrup with the butter and refrigerate for 1 hour. Grind the star anise and whip with fresh cream to make the star anise cream. Warm the glass by pouring hot water inside it. Place 1 tbsp butter mix with 40ml whiskey in the warmed glass, add boiling water and stir. Layer the star anise cream on top. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and grated orange.