Fed up with fizz? Elodie Cameron, from Thirsty, shares some must-try alternative Xmas tipples
We all love to drink seasonally and, of course Christmas is the ultimate season for indulging. Many of us drink wine or fizz with the key festive dishes, but sometimes you just fancy something a little different.
As is well known in these parts, at Thirsty we are partial to a brew or two – yes, we love beer! The great thing about beer is that brewing schedules come and go with the seasons which means that the beer suits the food we are eating and the weather outside. This also means that breweries can work with seasonal ingredients either in terms of the grains used or the flavours added. A great example of this is stouts: dark and rich with a luscious mouth-feel that is well suited to winter, they are characterised by flavours of chocolate, coffee and roasted malts. In particular we love milk stout at this time of year – these dark, thick ales have sweet notes of chocolate and coffee. They’re not actually sugar-sweet, but are more akin to the sweetness you will find in a milky dessert as they are made with lactose, the sugar found in milk – hence the name. These sweet notes are an excellent complement to the bitter notes that come from the hops and barley.
As part of our ongoing love of all things Scandinavian (a part of the world that does Christmas pretty well too), we are already enjoying Jule Maelk (Christmas Milk) from To-øl in Denmark, even though at the time of writing it’s only mid November. We just can’t resist the dark chocolate, espresso, candied fruit and vanilla. You can’t get much more Christmassy than that!
My second suggestion is just what you need on a cold winter’s night – something warming and spiced. Because we all love the classic Christmas combination of apples and spices, plus a tot of rum – it has to be mulled cider. This is the winter warmer at its best, whichever recipe you use; star anise or cloves with your cinnamon, or a glug of sloe gin with sugar or honey. Perfect after that Christmas stroll along the Backs or a windy walk with the dog. You’ll be following a long tradition: this is a drink that has been popular since the 17th Century when Samuel Pepys referred to the pleasures of drinking a ‘mulled sacke’. However we won’t commend the traditional addition of eggs! What we do recommend is that you pop over to Chesterton Road where our rum-spiced Mulled Cider is at the ready (£4.50 by the glass).
Last but not least, we all need a treat at Christmas, and my favourite indulgence has to be a plate of cheese with a glass of Sebastiano Passito from Riecine (£33). Forget the port, this dessert wine is only made in good years when the grapes are left to dry, concentrating all the luscious honeyed character. Yes, this wine is sweet but
not overly so; the caramel and citrus notes balance perfectly and the acidity cuts beautifully through the fat and richness of cheese. Alternatively, this is equally good with a dark chocolate dessert, especially if there are also nuts. Merry Christmas!