I'll be honest with you. I'm no wine connoisseur. Not in the slightest. I know if I like the taste ... or not, but I'm unlikely to notice the subtle aromas of rubber, chocolate or cigar smoke. I prefer my drinks without bubbles (although sometimes a glass or two of Prosecco is rather lovely) and if my tipple is meant to be cold, I want it icy cold. I love a Gin & Tonic (loads of ice and a hefty squeeze of lime) and I like the idea of a cocktail (especially if someone else is in charge) but other than that I don't really go for spirits - apart from a glass or two of Amaretto over ice in the light of the Christmas tree. Ooh, and a good Irish coffee - I'm going to establish this as a new festive tradition, I think.
It's easy to overlook the liquid refreshments in the frenzy of everything else, but this is also an area that is ripe for delegation or to get ticked off your list way ahead of time.
Here are my top tips for making sure you've got festive drinks covered -
- Work out who's coming - And be sure you have a rough idea of what they drink - red, wine, beer, cider, spirits ... festive drinks come in all shapes and sizes.
- Don't forget the children - They'll drink anything, especially if it's loaded with sugar, fizzy and in a can. The addition of a straw gives even the dullest drink a new lease of life but maybe less so beyond the age of 5. A 'make your own cocktail' bar for the children with juices, mixers, umbrellas and more of those dazzling straws will keep them happy for a little while.
- Keep your choice of drinks simple - I often go for the New World whites (a little easier on the palate) and a Merlot (everybody likes those). Oh and there's nothing wrong with choosing a wine because it has a gorgeous label. Shallow is the new deep.
- Make sure you've bought enough - We've all been at that gathering where the wine has run dry. But do also factor in that most guests will (hopefully) bring at least one bottle.
- Buy at least 2 bottles of each wine - It's annoying to find that you love a particular wine and then discover that you only bought one bottle.
- Buy wines with screw tops - Life's too short. And it's easier to keep it fresh when you don't finish the bottle in one sitting.
- Don't forget to buy mixers - For us it's tonic water, ginger beer and lemonade.
- You'll need some soft drinks too - I'm a fan of nice cordials like these lovelies from Belvoir. Just add sparkling water and some ice.
- Make space for chilling drinks in the fridge - There are lots of tips for how to create fridge space here or if you are challenged in that area, grab some cool boxes and fill them with ice and then halfway up with water. Then drop the bottles into the ice bath to chill.
- Don't forget the ice - You'll need plenty. If freezer space is at a premium, ice cube bags are handy because you can squeeze them in the gaps between all your other frozen goodies.
- Hide the special wine - If you've chosen something special (aka expensive), say, for Christmas dinner, be sure to hide it so that it doesn't get accidentally glugged ... or worse, used for cooking. Been there.
- Keep a few lemons and limes handy - That G&T and those jugs of water will thank you for it.
- Make sure you've got enough glasses for the number of guests and the drinks you've bought - Especially champagne flutes ... we never seem to have the right number.
- Delegate the drinks - If you're looking after the food, why not delegate drinks to somebody else? I would.
- Don't forget coffee and tea - especially if you have visitors who drink something that you don't. I always need to buy in tea bags for that reason.
- Embrace Hot Chocolate season - and be sure to have everything you need + all the toppings
So there you have it on festive drinks. Enough to keep the thirst away. Anyone for a top-up?
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