Fiona Beckett If you’re going to drink less, make sure you drink better
I know it’s an unfashionable view these days, but January is not a time for abstention. Moderation maybe, but no booze at all? That makes an already miserable month even more dismal.
My suggested strategy, as I’ve expounded before, is a single drink, preferably just before retiring to bed so you won’t be tempted to have a second. Unless your relatives have drunk you out of house and home over the past week or two, there may well be some unfinished bottles of port or sherry around the house, so drink ’em up (a glass at a time), because they won’t keep until next Christmas.
Whisky you could, of course, save until Burns Night, though if there’s a month to drink whisky in, I reckon it’s January. I’m particularly keen on Crabbie’s 46% non-chill filtered cask strength
which is designed specifically to complement Crabbie’s ginger wine in a whisky mac, but is equally good on its own.
In fact, ginger drinks generally tick that warming box, from ginger beer, if you’re not drinking, to ginger liqueurs, such as
which is available even on Amazon for £23.49 at the time of writing. If you’re lucky, you may also find a bottle of Aldi’s rather fancy gin liqueur, which is perhaps more lemon and ginger than gingerbread, but a good seasonal substitute for a G&T all the same.
It’s also the right time of year for other dark spirits and cocktails. Bring on dark, sugary rums and smooth, suave cognacs to swirl and sip in front of the fire. In fact, I like all kinds of brandy (a shame Aldi isn’t doing its cheap calvados this year), including underrated Spanish ones – if you’ve got some cash to splash after Christmas, treat yourself to a bottle of González Byass’ rather glorious
I would also be tempted to abandon hoppy ales for a few weeks and instead dive into what the beer world has to offer by way of winter warmers: substantial stouts, porters and barley wines. I’m loving the idea of
Ginger, Eight-YearOld, The King’s The Infusionist Gingerbread Lepanto. Siren’s Broken Dream Breakfast Stout
(6.5%), the 2018 Camra Champion Beer of Britain, for a weekend brunch instead of a chilly glass of prosecco.
And for those who are still drinking wine, there are plenty of hearty reds around the £6-£7 mark right now, southern Italy and Sicily being particularly good hunting grounds. Morrisons does a cracking £6 (14%) in its The Best range that’s perfect for battered, post-Christmas budgets.
15ml dry white port – we use Niepoort White Rabbit
5ml orgeat (almond) syrup – we use Monin 1 strip lemon peel, to garnish
1 bourbon cherry
– we use Jack Rudy – to garnish
Winter is about whiskies and long conversations around a warm fire. This is a scotch-based twist on the old fashioned, an old-school cocktail that’s having a bit of an on-trend moment. The inspiration came from a regular at Scarfes, who always asked for an old fashioned. We wanted him to discover new cocktails without straying too far from his favourite, and this is what we came up with.
Stir together all the liquids in a mixing glass, pour into a chilled rocks glass over a large cube of ice, garnish and serve.
Yann Bouvignies, head bartender, Scarfes Bar, Rosewood, London WC1