The Squiffy Season

22/12/2011 by Victoria Moore

It isn't Christmas if you don't have a glass in your hand, says Victoria Moore, be it filled with spiced apple juice or something stronger

There are really only two occasions on which it is acceptable to drink at breakfast. One is on an aeroplane, when you can persuade yourself that any time zone goes. The other is Christmas Day. Then again, I always like the theory of languishing in dressing gown amidst a pile of presents while sipping a glass of fizz more than I do the practice.
 
A glass of riesling – sweetish, lowish in alcohol, dancing through my mouth in a way that makes me think of light shining through shards of glass – is a much better way to wake up. But even more than that, I prefer a cup of tea, sipped as you inhale the smell of pine needles. 
 
After all, if you’ve done the festive season at full tilt, there may have been many evenings of cocktails: in my case, a riot of Campari mixed with clementine juice, sloe gin sours, Sidecars with a festive scent of orange and Cognac, vodka stirred with pomegranate seeds and cranberry purée (all recipes in my book How to Drink at Christmas). I could go on.  
 
There will be, in the sleepy days between bank holidays, fiery tots of whisky and ginger, quite a lot of buttered rum and when all that becomes too rich and too much, icily cold shots of vodka, paired with smoked fish, poured in glasses frosty from the freezer.  
 
So Christmas Day itself is partly about pace, partly about ritual and partly about the annual argument over what goes best with turkey: I say pinot gris, everyone else says they want to drink red, so that’ s usually what we do. Though having said that, usually someone cracks open the Champagne at about two 
in the afternoon. It’s early for dinner. But it’s not breakfast time. And it is Christmas. 
 
 
SIDECAR
 
1 part freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 part Cointreau
1½ parts Cognac
 
My version of this cocktail uses a little more brandy than is traditional, and I find it quite savoury 
and strong enough for the evening. The presence 
of brandy makes it particularly suited to winter 
and firesides, but it is too good not to make in summer as well. It’s important to use a spirit 
of drinking quality, but there’s no need to go expensive. Shake all three ingredients hard with 
ice, then strain into martini glasses. 
 
 
SPICY APPLE JUICE
 
1 litre apple juice
150ml water
5 cloves
2 allspice berries
A few gratings of nutmeg
½ cinnamon stick
 
This drink is also good for children, who love the sweetness of apple juice. If you’re making mulled cider (also in my book) for the grown-ups, you can have this in a pan alongside, which will make them feel involved. For children who don’t like spices, serve warm apple juice spiked with blackcurrant cordial instead. Put all the ingredients into a pan and heat gently. Ladle into glasses as required. 
 
 
Victoria Moore's How to Drink at Christmas is out now, published by Granta.
 
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