Festive cocktails

By Bro Mike , Wine Correspondent

What’s in a name?

Some say the word “cocktail” was coined by a French poet who said about the mixed colours, "the many bright colours resembled birds feathers especially that of a peacock tail". Some say up-scale bars in America trying to make their colourful bottles even more special tied feathers to the bottles sticking up like a Cocks tail. Others say a mixture of liquors was given to fighting Cocks in cock fighting rings to enhance their performance and it was called "Cocks Ale".

However cocktails got their name, their popularity shot up during the American Prohibition years as many illegal barsmixed special drinks to hide the dubious quality of the Moonshine they were serving. Later Canadian bartenders invented the "Shooter" to be swallowed in one gulp because of it was so cold you wanted to get some alcohol into you as fast as possible. Whatever their origins cocktails are here to stay and making, mixing and drinking them has become a part of our sophisticated, modern lifestyle. There are now thousands of cocktail recipes and there is no right way or wrong way to mix a drink, if it looks good and tastes good then it is GOOD, so “Happy Mixing".

Mixing Cocktails:

Whilst having the right equipment (you can get simple cocktail sets) the right glassware and garnishes and how to treat ice cubes is very important to making a good cocktail it is primarily about the mixing of various spirits, liqueurs and other ingredients to create a tasty drink with a lovely presentation.

Some tips:

Shooters with many levels of coloured liquors look great and take some skill to make. You must get the liquors in the right order the heavier ones to the bottom. Follow the recipes carefully and the trick to making them not blend into each other is to pour the next layer into the glass gently over the back of a small spoon so the surface tension is not broken.

Champagne blends well with any fruit juice or exotic juice to make a refreshing cocktail. Do not use in a shaker as it will have the same effect as shaking a can of soft drink.

Vodka is an odourless and tasteless versatile liquor and mixes well with fruit Juices, soft drink and even vegetable juices and is the base of many cocktails and can be mixed with most things to create interesting drinks.

Cognac is really just brandy so use a cheap substitute in recipes that call for Cognac.

Measuring ingredients, there is no set in stone way to make any cocktail, so experiment with the quantities and ingredients. Most recipes are in fluid ounces, note an American fluid ounce is different to an English fluid ounce and some recipes just say 2 parts something, one part something else. The amount does not matter only the proportions. If you use thimbles, coffee mugs or even buckets it will still taste the same as long as they are in the right proportions. So 2 parts X and one part Y means put in twice as much X as Y, using whatever you want as a measure. Make cocktails to your taste, the recipe is only a guide.A Blender is the ultimate tool for cocktail mixing they are fairly cheap and mix quickly, but try to use it only for making cocktails. Keep it away from your partner when they are making a cake.

Whilst there are thousands of cocktail recipes here are some with a festive theme you may wish to try out:

Dead by Christmas

I just threw this one in because of the name.

Fill a highball glass with ice. Then add:

1 ounce of Strawberry liqueur

1 ounce of Absinthe

1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice

a splash of soda water

Just stir and enjoy. By the time you recover, it will be New Year's Eve.

White Christmas

This is a great drink for anyone who likes creamy cocktails -- like me.

1 ounce of white Creme de Cacao

1 ounce of good Vodka

1 ounce of white Creme de menthe

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain your White Christmas into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cherry and play some Bing Crosby tunes.

The Grinch

They named this drink after a slightly sour green man. Do you know any?

The ingredients:

2 ounces of Midori liqueur

1/2 ounce of fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. of simply syrup (sugar and water)

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strained into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish this pretty green drink with a maraschino cherry.

The Silent Night

Isn't this a bit sacrilegious? Oh well drink up.

Use a highball glass filled with ice for this one. In a shaker, mix the following:

1 ounce of Tequila

1 ounce of blue Curacao

1 ounce of orange Curacao Triple Sec

1 ounce of pineapple juice

a squirt of fresh lime juice

Shake well and enjoy a lovely nights’ sleep.

Drinking in moderation is recreational and mixing cocktails can be great fun with your friends but always use your common sense as many cocktails may not taste strong but have considerable alcohol, so savour them slowly and limit yourself to 2-3 over an extended period.