THE EDIT • December 2020
With a December of merry nights in on the cards, it’s about time we turned our attention to that most important of festive features: the drinks cabinet. So whether you have gifts for others or a treat for numero uno on the mind, we bring you the tipples and trends defining Christmas this year
Battle of the Negronis
You heard it here first: Negronis are the Christmas cocktail for 2020. Perfect those with a (bitter)sweet tooth...
What’s it all about? Made by East London sophisticates and pioneers behind the bottled cocktail craze. Arrives in the kind of bottles you’ll want to keep as flower vases once you’ve polished off what’s inside.
The star of the show: Black Lines now has six cocktails in its repertoire (if you include the just-about-to-launch Espresso Martini) but we think the Negroni sums up the brand best – classic, old-school, all-round quite handsome.
How does it taste? Thoroughly grown-up. The careful balance of London dry gin, Campari and Spanish sweet vermouth comes alive with a few orange peels.
NOgroni by Æcorn Drinks
What’s it all about? Æcorn is the world’s first range of non-alcoholic aperitifs, founded by Claire Warner, the former head of spirit creation at Belvedere. Warner teamed up with Seedlip founder Ben Branson and the rest is history.
The star of the show: While Æcorn’s three bottled aperitifs get all the attention, its NOgroni feels like a DNA match for the real thing.
How does it taste? The magicians behind this little bottle mixed the Æcorn Bitter and Æcorn Aromatic with some Seedlip Spice 94 to create a deliciousness worthy of a lot more than its £12 price tag.
The ‘ginnaissance’ has played host to its fair share of crazes, but our inner patriot has a soft spot for ‘local’ gin, made in, and inspired by, some of the tiniest corners of the UK...
Salcombe Distilling Co
What’s it all about? One of the only distilleries in the world accessible by boat, producing small batch, award-winning gins in bottles that are as pretty as Salcombe, Devon, itself.
The stars of the show: Start Point, its flagship gin inspired by the voyages of the Salcombe fruit schooners, and its knockout pink varietal, Rosé Sainte Marie. Although, the Voyager Series, dreamed up with guest collaborators, is pretty special, too.
How does it taste? As good as it looks. Serve the Start Point with pink grapefruit to create the ultimate Start Point & Tonic.
Great Orme Gin
What’s it all about? A family-run business working in the foothills of Snowdonia. You’ll spot its gins in shops all over Wales – just look out for the label with the Kashmiri goat, famous for roaming Llandudno's mini-mountain (and its streets during lockdown).
The star of the show: It has three bottles but, to honour the Great Orme, go for the signature, infused with thyme, gorse and blackcurrant, all found on the mountain.
How does it taste? Refreshing, like a gulp of North Wales’ high-altitude air. Top tip: add some of sprigs of thyme into the glass and leave a while before adding ice.
Elemental Cornish Gin
What’s it all about? Another seaside gem, and another family business. Nicki and Joe Woolley bottle, label, and seal each bottle of Elemental (made with 12 secret botanicals and Cornish spring water) by hand in their Cornish distillery.
The star of the show: We love a classic, but Elemental’s most experimental flavour is its best: the Cornish Apple Gin, infused with tart apple and sweet elderflower.
How does it taste? Perfect in a gin appletini. Simply shake up with some good quality apple juice, a hit of lemon and ice, and garnish with fresh apple to serve.
It’s not Christmas without the pop of a cork now, is it? Here are the best bottles to bring some fizz to the festivities....
Hattingley Valley Wines
What’s it all about? If you’re lucky enough to have travelled in British Airways’ First cabin, you’ll be well acquainted with Hattingley Valley Wines, whose Blanc de Noirs and Pinot Noir blend is served on board. Think, rural English winery with a regal edge.
The stars of the show: The Classic Reserve NV ticks all the Christmas boxes: looks great (a fancy box is always nice), doesn’t break the bank (£35) and tastes...
How does it taste? Like drinking a tall flute of the Hampshire countryside: sweet, light, full of character. Just as good as the French counterpart.
What’s it all about? One of the few Champagne houses that is still family owned. Very French, with a long history (200 years and counting) of producing some of the world’s most lauded French Champagne.
The star of the show: Who doesn’t love a good rosé? Try the blush pink and frequently award-winning Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut NV.
How does it taste? Perfect when chilled, and without even a hint of bitterness, thanks to all that just-picked berry fruitiness.
The best of the beer
Think there’s no more wheel left to reinvent when it comes to the nation’s favourite tipple? Think again, as craft beers continue to enjoy their moment in the sun...
What’s it all about? Literally, seven beer-loving brothers, born and bred in Manchester who, between them, have put the Northwest’s craft beer scene firmly on the map.
The stars of the show: The Bumper Beer Case is a frankly unbeatable Christmas present for the hop-happy lad or lass in your life: 24 beers, each label funkier than the last.
How does it taste? Every beer in the bundle is easy on the eye, but also incredibly easy to drink. Plus, brewing nerds will have a field day with the Cast Off Pale Ale, Throw Away IPA and Sling It Out Stout – all brewed using Kellogg’s cereals.
What’s it all about? The cult craft beer creators responsible for British Airways’ very own centennial beer, the Speedbird 100, a bittersweet IPA that’s big on candied tropical fruit notes and high-altitude impact.
The star of the show: Though our loyalty, of course, lies with the Speedbird, there’s a reason that Punk IPA shook up the industry when it was released back in 2007. Get it as part of a bundle, along with Brewdog’s other ‘Headliners’.
How does it taste? A renowned balance of bitterness and sweetness, with citrusy hops aplenty.
Big Drop Brew
What’s it all about? One of the best, if not the best, non-alcoholic beers on the market, convincing even the staunchest of pint sinkers that they could go teetotal.
The stars of the show: Big Drop has a lot of beers. All offer delicious substitutions to their alcoholic counterparts, but we have a soft spot for the Paradisa Citra IPA, UK winner of the Speciality IPA category at this year’s World Beer Awards.
How does it taste? Like any other fruity, hoppy, standard-strength beer but with added notes of smugness for the hangover you’ll be avoiding.
Blends and bourbons are all well and good, but single malts – distinguished by their puritanical barley use – will always have that little extra ‘something’...
The Macallan Red Collection
What’s it all about? A Speyside distiller whose name alone inspires oohs, aahs and various other sounds of approval from dads across the nation.
The stars of the show: Anything you get from Macallan is basically guaranteed to please (see previous sounds of approval), but the new Red Collection – home to some of Macallan’s oldest bottlings ever released – is a true collectable.
How does it taste? You know it’s going to be good but, with bottles starting at £11,300, it’s not for every day. For a Macallan with a less hefty price tag, the Edition No. 6 (£96) is a total crowd-pleaser.
What’s it all about? For starters, it’s Irish. Single malt may have got its start as a Scottish phenomenon, but Knappogue brings just as much celtic charm to the table.
The star of the show: The whiskey is bottled at 12, 14 and 16 years. All of them are silky smooth, but we say, on this occasion, the older the better.
How does it taste? All the sweeter for 14 years in bourbon barrels and a final two in Oloroso sherry casks. ’Tis the season, so put a splash of it in your hot toddy.
The biggest emerging trend of 2020 has to be botanicals – the all-singing, all-dancing, all-natural ingredients steadily finding their way into the heart of gins, wines and even whiskies...
What’s it all about? The botanical spirit for whisky lovers, taking its name from Neachneobhain, the Celtic queen of spirits.
The star of the show: The Botanical Spirit is Nc’nean’s limited edition debut and ‘promising start’ product. Its newly released Organic Single Malt, meanwhile, could well redefine whisky production – creamy yet summery and 100 per cent sustainable.
How does it taste? Mature, especially for such a young whisky. Best enjoyed neat or in a highball with sparkling water and mint.
What’s it all about? Enviably cool surf types turned botanical boffins have distilled fresh plants found along the Cornish coastline into their first baby, Pentire Adrift.
The star of the show: The brand’s statement spirit makes patrons out of first-timers, and for good reason. Herbaceous, clean and, for something so delicate, surprisingly gulpable.
How does it taste? We love it stuffed with rosemary and a small slice of lemon – perfect complements to the sea-salty notes.
What’s it all about? Back on the other side of the UK, Feragaia is a proudly Scottish distiller that balances 14 botanicals (no mean feat) into one darkly botanical spirit.
The star of the show: Feragaia has perfected the journey of its flagship. First, zingy, then herby, and finally, that peppery, almost leafy finish.
How does it taste? Better with ginger ale than with tonic, and exceptional in a mock mojito for those who are happy to get some fresh mint and lime involved.
Bring on the cocktail umbrellas, as we welcome in a little (much needed) sunshine to happy hour...
What’s it all about? Belizean single estate rum, meaning – in this case – a pure rainforest-to-bottle product. Champions of no waste, zero impact production.
The stars of the show: Copalli have three signature bottles: an award-winning white rum, an amber rum rested in bourbon barrels and a cacao-infused rum with dark chocolate notes. You can snag all three at Master of Malt.
How does it taste? For the ultimate winter warmer, pop a drop of the brand’s cacao rum into your hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream and chocolate flakes. Failing that, use it instead of vodka in your Espresso Martinis. Blissful.
What’s it all about? In this case, the better question is ‘What is she all about?’ Ellie Webb wanted to cut back on drink, but refused to concede on fun – and that’s how her non-alcoholic drinks brand, Caleño, was born.
The stars of the show: Named after Los Caleños (the people of Webb’s native Cali, Columbia), this teetotal spirit has two iterations: Light & Zesty and the recently unveiled Dark & Spicy.
How does it taste? Both concoctions make fantastic use of pineapple and have tropical notes aplenty. For the ultimate ‘pretend it’s summer’ cocktail, pair the Light & Zesty with pineapple juice, lemon, sugar syrup and mint.
El Bandarra Al Fresco
What’s it all about? A taste of Barcelona, which, quite frankly, is just what every British winter needs.
The star of the show: The El Bandarra Al Fresco will go down a treat with anyone who loves Spain. Even the bottle is a nod to the Barcelona tapas bars of yesteryear, which would write their menus on the windows to attract passers-by.
How does it taste? We went full spritz with this one: 100ml of the Al Fresco aperitif, a good glug of Prosecco, topped up with soda. Delicious.