Christmas is coming! It’s that time of year once again for over-indulging, merriment and of course, your favourite tipple. With gin-based drinks still hugely popular, we’ve teamed up with Sipsmith to bring you 4 Christmas gin cocktails to enjoy with family and friends. Because let’s face it, everything is better with a splash of gin.
First things first, keep you guests’ drinks topped up in style by using the correct tools and following these simple techniques.
HOME BAR TOOLS
This is the essential kit for creating great cocktails at home (and what you can make do with at a pinch).
- Mixing Glass – For stirring drinks. Mixing glasses are generally purpose-built for the task with a wide opening for large ice cubes and a pour spout. Just about any wide-mouthed pitcher would work, or even a large glass, beer mug or stein.
- Bar Spoon – A long-handled spoon for measuring ingredients and stirring. Wooden spoons work at a pinch, but use them the wrong way round for stirring.
- Shaker – There are two common types: the two-part and the three-part. Two-part shakers are much easier to open after shaking. They are either a pair of metal ‘tins’ or one metal tin and one glass that fit together.
- Hawthorne Strainer – A flat strainer adorned with a spring, it fits the top of a shaker tin and is used for straining shaken drinks. You can substitute a tea strainer, but it is a bit fiddly.
- Julep Strainer – Looking like a large spoon riddled with holes, it rests on top of the ice inside a mixing glass and is used for straining stirred drinks.
- Fine Strainer – Used for double straining, to remove any small ice chips or bits of mint or fruit.
- Jigger – This is a liquid measure, used to ensure that drinks are consistent. Just about any shotglass can work, providing you know how much liquid it holds.
- Knife and Chopping Board – A small knife does well for cutting lemon and lime wedges and wheels.
- Vegetable Peeler – This is the best tool for cutting elegant lemon and orange twists and is far safer than using a knife for the job.
- ‘Mexican Elbow’ – Fresh juice is always better than store-bought. Use a juicer to squeeze your fresh citrus juice.
- Stirrer – Not essential, but an elegant stirrer is the perfect addition to any G&T.
SHOP BAR TOOLS
Now you’ve got your equipment ready, next it’s time to make sure your drinks trolley is stocked up. And thankfully for you, bartender Salvator Calabrese has noted down everything you’ll need in his book ‘The Art Of The Cocktail’.
STOCKING YOUR BAR
When it’s time to stock up your bar, think about what you’re actually going to use. If you’re throwing a cocktail party, it’s best to choose a select list of cocktails to offer your guests, unless you want to spend a fortune. Certain key spirits, mixers and garnishes are used in many different drinks, so work out your menu and shop accordingly. The following are the most commonly used spirits:
- Gin – This is essential as it features in so many different cocktails.
- Vodka – This flavour-free spirit is incredibly versatile and can be combined with virtually any mixer.
- Rum – Rum brings an exotic flavour to any drink. Some cocktails call for light rum and others for dark, so check before you shop. A Christmas rum punch is a great option if you’re not feeling a rum Christmas cocktail.
- Tequila – Not for the faint-hearted, this ancient spirit should definitely be on the mixologist’s list.
- Mixers & Garnishes – Although spirits are the stars of the cocktail world, they would fail to shine if it weren’t for the presence of mixers. The same holds true for garnishes, because some cocktails simply don’t work without the essential maraschino cherry or citrus twist.
THE IDEAL ORDER
Before you get started, it is worth knowing the basic order of cocktail-making steps that will set you off on the right foot.
- Chill or warm the glass as required.
- Prepare any garnish or decoration.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the cocktail shaker.
- Add ice if required.
- Mix the ingredients using the technique specified.
- Strain or pour into the prepared glass.
- Add any garnish or decoration.
With these tools, techniques and ingredients, you’ll soon become a cocktail master at parties. Get practising now with Sipsmith’s 4 gin based cocktails. And what makes them even easier? Each cocktail only contains 3 ingredients, meaning you’ll spend less time making and more time enjoying.
1. Gin Manhattan
Yes, this drink really did exist long ago. It will appeal more to someone who appreciates a classic Manhattan than a classic Dry Martini – and to just about anyone who enjoys a good cocktail.
- 50ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin
- 25ml sweet vermouth
- 1 dash of Angostura bitters
- 1 maraschino cherry
Combine the ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a marachino cherry.
2. Green-Eyed Swan
The Green-Eyed Monster features equal parts Green Chartreuse, gin and sweet vermouth. By swapping the sweet vermouth for pineapple juice you have a fresh, fruity twist on this aromatic drink.
- 35ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin
- 35ml Green Chartreuse
- 35ml fresh pineapple juice
- 1 pineapple leaf
Combine all the ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a pineapple leaf.
3. Gin Paloma
The Paloma originally consisted of Tequila, lime and grapefruit soda, but this version of course includes gin, which partners perfectly with all of the citrus flavours in the original recipe.
- 50ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin
- 10ml fresh lime juice
- 100-150ml fresh pink grapefruit juice
- Salt and a grapefruit twist
Moisten the rim of a rocks glass or tumbler with a little grapefruit juice and dip it into a saucer of salt, to coat the rim. Fill the glass with ice and add the ingredients. Lift to combine. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.
4. Limoncello Collins
Limoncello is surprisingly under-utilised as a mixer in cocktails. However, it is every bit as good a mixer. It is also easy to make. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are lots of good recipes online.
- 25ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin
- 25ml limoncello
- Soda water, to top up
- A lemon twist
Combine the gin and limoncello in an ice-filled highball glass. Top with soda water. Lift. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Now you’ve got your cocktails sorted, it’s time to get your glassware up to scratch.
These tips and recipes were taken from the following two books:
Home Bar Tools and 4 Christmas cocktail recipes extracted from: Sipsmith: Sip: 100 gin cocktails with only three ingredients is published by Mitchell Beazley, £15.99 (octopusbooks.co.uk)
Stocking your bar and the perfect order copy extracted from: The Art of the Cocktail: From the Dali Wallbanger to the Stinger Sargent, cocktails with an artistic twist is published by Ilex Press, £10.00, www.octopusbooks.co.uk