Things that I think and do
Christmas is looming and you cannot (absolutely cannot) have failed to notice. It’s the season to be jolly, with the aid of several glasses of your favoured tipple, but to save you the trouble and expense of trying them all I’ve done the hard work myself. Whether you want to find the perfect drink to stock up on for Christmas Day, want to get in the holiday mood without ending up an embarrassing and drunken mess or just want to check out the festive choices available, all you need is below. It’s a miracle that I can still type coherently, but here we are:
[Almost certainly not alcoholic]
Purchased from a popular high street hot beverage outlet which shall remain anonymous (but whose name combines an astrological phenomenon with a slang term for US money) this was a disappointing choice. As a latté it functioned perfectly well. Frankly you might as well buy a latté and ask them to sprinkle some nutmeg over the top, because that’s all it was. It lacked that crucial eggnog element, something I felt was important to have in an eggnog coffee.
[Quite definitively containing no alcohol]
This was the seasonal offering of a different well-known coffee establishment which shall also remain nameless (although if you know your tyrannical Roman emperors you might get it). I assume it was the seasonal offering since it was on a small display board also featuring baubles and Christmas lights. It’s also the season in which drinking before midday is acceptable, so it seems a strong guess to label it ‘festive’.
While the eggnog latté was lacking in eggnog, the amaretto forces its way through the coffee like a furious rhinoceros through a gingerbread house. It was sweet yet also warming, and since I like my coffee to be both of those things it was marvellous. I highly doubt it was actual Amaretto, firstly because coffee shops probably aren’t allowed to serve alcohol and secondly because it would be expensive, but the almond-syrup substitute worked just as well.
Christmas beer (various)
I have to break it to you at this point that there is no such thing as Christmas beer. There is beer flavoured with fruits and spices, available all year round, which is marketed as Christmas beer at the appropriate time. Many Belgian beers fit this description. I remember Strasbourg Christmas markets doing a big line of these festive beers, and in fact they were pleasantly flavourful and came with some lovely Christmassy glasses. They’re sort of placebo beers which make you feel holiday-ish just because they’re marketed as such. This being said, beer is always pretty great and Christmas beer does indeed make you feel very festive.
Mulled wine (red)
There are many varieties of this, of varying strengths and flavours but with the same basic premise of cinnamon, sugar and other miscellaneous herbs. This year I’ve had mulled wine from the German Market in Leeds and from the bar at my college, as well as the bottled stuff from a low-cost supermarket originating in Germany (the one that isn’t Aldi). The latter was remarkably excellent, in fact, and relatively cheap as well. Overall a good choice.
Previously I’ve had glühwein in Strasbourg (which is the same thing as mulled wine) and have also added sachets of mulled wine spices to red wine, which was supposed to create the desired effect. If the desired effect was cloying, herby and slightly sharp red wine, it did a brilliant job. What the packet failed to mention is that you have to add considerable amounts of sugar as well to make it anywhere near palatable. In my experience, mulled wine spices are best used when slow cooking gammon joints in cider.
Market- or bar-bought wine: 5/5
Nameless discount supermarket wine: 4/5
Homemade wine (with spices provided): 2/5
Mulled wine (white)
“Mulled white wine?!” I hear you exclaim. Well, yes. It comprises largely of honey and cinnamon in hot white wine and it’s surprisingly pleasant and highly recommended, although probably available only at Christmas markets.
Meh. It’s like hot and slightly cinnamon-y apple juice, so if you’re into that kind of thing go nuts.
Irish cream liqueur (supermarket own)
OK, this might not be a specifically Christmas drink but I’ve tried a couple of the cheap supermarket-own brand ones and I can tell you that they are in fact largely indistinguishable from the famous brand. Although they don’t come in the funky new flavours, which are all great.