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Top Christmas cocktails and drinks

The festive season is fast approaching: a time for family, friends, food and some fabulous drinks. Somehow the frightful weather outside never seems as bad when you’re curled up on the sofa or in front of the fire, ‘Love Actually’ on telly and a glass of something warming in hand.

Here are my suggestions for the perfect naughty festive tipples. If you can’t indulge at Christmas, when can you? ‘Tis the season to be jolly, and after a few of these, you will be well on your jolly way.

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World Gin Day: the best gifts for gin lovers

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It’s likely that you know a gin lover or two. Perhaps you’re married to one, or related to one, or perhaps your entire friendship with someone is based around your mutual appreciation of the good-gin-stuff. Whether you’re looking for a perfect Christmas present, the best birthday present, or even just a treat for your gin-fiend self, here’s a list of what to buy the juniper lover in your life. 

Gin journey

Leon Dalloway of Shake, Rattle and Stir doing his thang.

Leon Dalloway of Shake, Rattle and Stir doing his thang. [Image: ShakeRattleandStir]

Fun-filled and educational, about gin? Count me in. With Shake Rattle and Stir, you’ll be whisked around the capital to discover all things juniper. There’s a chauffeur-driven gin carriage, a visit to five bars – including a working distillery, gin cocktails, and more gin included.

£60 per person gets you five gin samples, five cocktails, a chauffeur between each bar, lifelong gin lessons, and plenty of fun.

Gin night at:

The Star at Night (London)

Grace and the giant gin

Grace and the Giant Gin

If you don’t fancy being whisked between five bars in the capital, and just fancy a night in the same place where the gin is flowing, head to my favourite haunt, the Star at Night (Soho), home to the London Gin Club. They have wonderful gin taster menus (see picture, Grace not included) which always taste as impressive as they look, a huge gin menu, and plenty of gin cocktails. The staff know their Monkey 47 from their Bathtub, and are always on hand to offer something you probably won’t have tried before, based on gins you already like.  

You can buy gin money, or vouchers from them, and they run tasting sessions – perfect prezzy options.

The Jekyll and Hyde (Birmingham)

JekyllandHyde bar Birmingham

Victorian decadence and LOTS OF GIN [Image: Jekyll and Hyde]

Back in my uni days, I remember when the Jekyll and Hyde’s Victorian Gin Parlour only had around 50 gins. These days, they’re up to 90. How time flies. Aside from the huge gin menu, the Jekyll and Hyde offers an ‘Eat Me Drink Me’ gin and food fusion menu; a great selection of gin cocktails; gin flights, as gin is always better when it comes in threes; and cocktail masterclasses

Become a master distiller 

Plymouth Gin

Make your own bottle [Image: Plymouth Gin]

Home of Plymouth Gin, the Black Friars Distillery in Plymouth opens its doors to gin enthusiasts for a range of tours. If you’re short on time, there’s the 40-minute distillery tour,  which gives an overview of the distillery and the gin. Stepping up the level of gin love, there’s the 1.5-hour gin connoisseur’s tour, with a tutored tasting. And for those of you who always fancied having a go yourself, the master distillers tour offers everything from the connoisseur’s tour, but you also get to distill your own gin recipe, and take a bottle home. 

Tours: 

Plymouth gin distillery tour – 40 minutes: £7
Gin connoisseur’s tour – 1.5 hours: £20
Master distillers tour – 2-2.5 hours: £40

Gin in tweed

Bramble Tipplesworth case

Get tipsy with Tipplesworth [Image: Tipplesworth]

If you would rather have something you can hold, I have been seriously lusting over these Tipplesworth cases. They do have several non-gin varieties, but for World Gin Day, the Bramble Case is a must. Each beautiful tweed case comes with all the ingredients and equipment you need to rustle up the perfect Bramble (£185, Tipplesworth). 

Boozy Berries

Gin soaked raspberries

Pop them in a cocktail, blend them into sorbet, eat them with a spoon, the possibilities are endless [Image: NotontheHighStreet]

If you’re looking for the perfect stocking filler for your gin loving friend, then look no further than these gin-soaked boozy berries. They’re a natural by-product from Pinkster gin, and you’re kinda helping someone to get one of their five a day… you’re so thoughtful (£7, NotontheHighStreet).

The freshest of lemons

Lemon and elderflower tree

Just hope they don’t prefer Hendrick’s… [Image: NotOnTheHighStreet]

Does the gin lover in your life love their lemons? With Plants4Presents’ Grow Your Own Gin and Tonic set, there will never be the need for that last minute rush to the shops, as you’ll simply be able to pop over to your very own lemon tree. And to get you started, the tree comes with a miniature gin and Fevertree tonic. This is a lovely and unusual gin present (£57, NotOnTheHighStreet). Or for the sloe fans, there’s a sloe bush version too, for £44.

Eat your gin

Joe&Seph's G+T popcorn

Get your G+T fix while you’re at the office [Image: Joe&Seph’s]

If World Gin Day is just another day to you, perhaps you just want a token, or a small nod of appreciation to the greatest spirit. If you fancy all the taste of a G+T, with added crunch and with less alcohol, Joe and Seph’s Gin and Tonic popcorn could be the one for you. Although I was sceptical at first, this is really tasty, and at £4 a bag (including postage if you buy three), a bit easier on the purse than a bottle of gin.     

For something even sweeter, there’s also The London Chocolate Company’s gin and tonic white chocolate truffles (£7.95, Amazon), Mr&Mrs gin and tonic rock sweets (£5.49, Amazon), or five alcoholic gin and elderflower lollipops (£7.50, NotontheHighStreet).

Copa glasses

A copa glass

A copa glass, expertly demonstrated by James.

A balloon glass filled with ice really is the only way to drink a G+T – you can appreciate the aromas so much more. While you might have a bit of trouble finding space for them in the glass cupboard, they are a necessary addition to any gin lover’s life. If you’re in London, you can pick up some from the London Gin Club at £15 a pair, you can order them from Alexander and James for £12.50 each, or you can sometimes find them on Amazon/Ebay.

Gin around the house

I bloody love gin print

Yes, yes I do. [Image: NotOnTheHighStreet]

If the several bottles of gin in the cupboard and the constant supply of Fever Tree tonic in the fridge don’t give your gin lover away, make it a bit more obvious. The ‘I Bloody Love Gin’ print (£13.95, NotOnTheHighStreet) is probably the boldest statement. If you want to be a little more demure, there’s the ‘In Gin We Trust’ tote (£13.95, NotOnTheHighStreet), a Merry Ginmas teatowel (£10, NotOnTheHighStreet), the recycled Gordon’s gin bottle lamp (£95, NotOnTheHighStreet), recycled Hendrick’s table lamp (£160, NotOnTheHighStreet), or a gin coaster (£6.95, Amazon). 

As this post gets so much traffic, it has been updated several times to fix dead links, and add new tasty gin finds. 

Stolen Catering supper club with Bordeaux wines

Bottles of red wine

Bordeaux Wine. Image copyright Paul Monckton

I rang the doorbell on a residential street in Notting Hill after finally finding my way, and entered a dilapidated in-progress restoration, with an immaculate kitchen in the middle. The walls were exposed brick, but not in a good way, and the ceiling was stripped back to metal beams. Two long tables dominated each side of the room and candles lined the wooden stairs up to a large bathroom-come-coatroom-come-storage room. I was handed a glass of Réserve de Sours Sparkling Rosé NV (£19.99 Marks and Spencer). This was fresh, crisp, dry on the palate and elegant with plenty of red fruits, especially raspberries, but managed to miss the canapes.

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Wirra Wirra and Jackson Estate wine dinner at the Pantechnicon, Belgravia: Jackson Estate

I was recently invited to dinner with Paul Smith, senior winemaker at Wirra Wirra in Australia and John Stichbury, founder and managing director of Jackson Estate in New Zealand. Over dinner at the Pantechnicon, we sampled around 10 wines from the two companies.

While I may have been sat next to Paul Smith, senior winemaker at Wirra Wirra (review here), who may have been topping up my glass with more Wirra Wirra than Jackson Estate (those cheeky Aussies), I did manage a stealth glass (or three) of John Stichbury’s wonderful wine.

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Wirra Wirra and Jackson Estate wine dinner at the Pantechnicon, Belgravia: Wirra Wirra

I was recently invited to dinner with Paul Smith, senior winemaker at Wirra Wirra in Australia and John Stichbury, founder and managing director of Jackson Estate in New Zealand. Over dinner at the Pantechnicon, we sampled around 10 wines from the two companies.

I was sat next to Paul Smith, senior winemaker at Wirra Wirra, who told me some of the many tales and stories from Wirra Wirra’s history. Many of these anecdotes have made their way into Wirra Wirra’s wine names.

Although we sampled the wines over dinner at The Pantechnicon in Belgravia, Paul said it was much more important to enjoy the wines with great conversation, great friends and food, rather than being concerned with specific food and wine pairings.

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Pairing food and beer

While at Jamie Oliver and Alex James’ ‘The Big Feastival’, I met beer connoisseur (and creator of the best pork scratchings in the world), Rupert Ponsonby. After joining him for a cheese and beer pairing, I interviewed him on the art of pairing food and beer for Yahoo Lifestyle.

Rupert Ponsonby at The Big Feastival

Rupert Ponsonby at The Big Feastival

Disaronno Film Series launch – The Graduate

From food and music, to drink and film.

Dan and I enjoying our Disaronno. Image from the Disaronno Facebook page.

Put down the popcorn and step away from the bucket of coke, Disaronno would prefer you to enjoy classic movies in a slightly more sophisticated way. After attending the launch of the Disaronno Film Series 2012 at Hackney Picturehouse last week, it has made me wish all cinema screenings came with a splash or two of the Italian liqueur.

‘Silent Witness’ actress Emilia Fox launched the night and the series, which features five of her favourite BAFTA-winning films screening at Picturehouse cinemas across the UK between 11 September and 2 October.

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