Bitter-sweet bubbles and a festive punch
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a glass of bubbles. I like to give mine a splash of festive colour with cranberry juice, plus a grown-up hint of woody, aromatic thyme. You can leave the bitters out, but they add complexity, helping to balance out the sweetness of the cocktail.
When it comes to the punch, don’t be put off by memories of student parties, made by lobbing in every bottle of spirit around—punch has a long and rich history, and a well-made one is the perfect party drink. You’ll need to make this ahead. It’s lovely both hot and cold.
The Christmas thyme fizz serves 6; the punch should serve 10-12.
For the Christmas thyme fizz:
3 tbsp caster sugar
150ml cranberry juice
Juice of 3 oranges
6 thyme sprigs, plus more to garnish
6 dashes of Angostura bitters (optional)
1 x 750ml bottle prosecco or other fizz, well chilled
Cranberries, to garnish
For the clementine and nutmeg gin punch:
Zest of 8 lemons, plus juice of 6
130g caster sugar
1 x 750ml bottle of London dry gin
Lemon wheels, to garnish
Cinnamon stick, to garnish (optional)
For the Christmas thyme fizz: put the sugar into a cocktail shaker and pour over a splash of boiling water, mixing until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cranberry and orange juice. Bash the thyme sprigs gently with the bottom of a glass or end of a rolling pin and drop into the shaker.
Add the bitters, if using, then pack the shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Use a strainer to pour out roughly equal measures of the juice into 6 champagne glasses. Top with the fizz and stir. Garnish with a cranberry or two, and a sprig of thyme—I like to hold my thyme sprigs briefly in contact with a flame from a match, so some of the essential oils are released.
For the clementine and nutmeg gin punch: first, use a vegetable peeler to zest your lemons and clementines. You want as little of the bitter pith as possible.
Put the zest into your punch bowl, or other large bowl. Add the sugar, stir vigorously, and cover. Leave for as long as you can—ideally at least for 4 hours, or overnight, if you’re very organised. This helps extract all the delicious oils from the citrus.
Add the gin, the lemon and clementine juice and 900ml hot water, and stir to start dissolving the sugar. Grate in the nutmeg and stir again. If serving hot, serve straight away. If you want to serve it cold, refrigerate until cool, and pile in lots of ice before serving. Lovely garnished with lemon wheels.
Recipes: Leah Hyslop