Festive Cocktails

At this time of year, when everyone gets into the party spirit, it’s good to have a couple of “go-to” cocktails in your repertoire to give your entertaining a lift. Cocktail making has a touch of magic about it, a mixture of alchemy and theatre, so this could be your chance to really impress. Let's face it, this is a great time to show off!

Here are four recipes I’ve used that have proved popular with guests. Any one of them could be served as the curtain-raiser to a festive dinner. Coupled with a few smart canapés like sliced smoked duck, parmesan palmiers or devilled quails eggs, they will really impress. Remember they’re strong in alcohol, though. Don’t be tempted to offer more than one top-up if you want your guests to remember the rest of the meal.

White Lady 

This is a lovely, sophisticated drink. It’s sharp and fresh, and the white foam on top gives it the perfect look for the season. It’s one of the oldest recipes I use, appearing in Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930. You can still get hold of that book, and it’s well worth it. 

1 tablespoon egg white
1 measure lemon juice
1 measure Cointreau or Triple Sec
2 measures gin

Place all the ingredients in a shaker with plenty of ice. Shake hard and vigorously until your hand can no longer stand the cold. Strain into a cocktail or saucer glass and garnish with lemon.
Some people are wary of raw egg white. If that’s you, there are two possible solutions: either leave it out, but that will leave the cocktail without its characteristic “head,” or buy your eggs from a more reputable source. I’ll leave that decision to you.

Italia ‘60
This is the newest cocktail in my repertoire. It was created by the bar staff at Harry’s Dolce Vita in Knightsbridge just a few weeks ago, to mark Italian Cuisine Week. Their starting-point appears to be the old French 75 (the cocktail that appears in the very first photo I posted in this blog, back in August). This variant makes use of Italian gin and Prosecco to conjure up the glamour of the Italian summer, and the addition of basil is inspired.

35ml O’ndina Italian gin
15ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
4 fresh basil leaves
Shake and fine strain the above into a coupe glass
Top with Prosecco and garnish with a sprig of basil

Image courtesy of Campari UK

The Therapissed
I created this cocktail to celebrate the graduation of a friend’s son in Art Therapy. It takes inspiration from the classic Champagne Cocktail but with the addition of orange and ginger flavours. I love ginger, so The King’s Ginger liqueur is a regular feature in cocktails I create. The therapist in question has given his seal of approval and kindly consented to my publishing the recipe.

Moisten one side of a sugar cube with Angostura bitters, then turn it over and moisten the other side with orange bitters. Place the sugar in the bottom of a flute glass.
Add 20ml of The King’s Ginger liqueur and 15ml of Cognac
Top up with dry, sparkling wine

César Ritz
There are several cocktails named after the celebrated hotelier, all very different. This one is a cherry-flavoured variant on a dry Martini. It’s not quite as strong as a Martini, and a little sweeter, so it may suit more tentative drinkers. It’s worth sourcing a jar of posh cherries, such as those produced by Luxardo. The colour is more natural, and the syrup sits in an attractive layer on the bottom of the glass.
I have found that a 25ml measure makes enough cocktail for 5 or 6 of my small glasses.

1 measure cherry brandy
1 measure kirsch eau de vie
2 measures dry vermouth
6 measures gin

Stir well with ice in a tall jug, then strain into coupette glasses and garnish with a luxury maraschino cherry.

Next time: aperitifs and canapés for a more formal dinner party


  1. I love reading this. So well written Paul. X

    1. Thank you for your generous comment. I hope you enjoy trying out my suggestions over Christmas.

  2. I always enjoy your posts, they are so interesting and informative. They always inspire me to try something new.

    1. That's so heartening to hear! Keep trying new things and let me know what you think.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.


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