Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? The high street is packed, Wizzard is on repeat ad nauseum, and pop up Christmas markets have appeared across the land. Close your eyes and you can smell the heady scent of freshly roasted chestnuts and overpriced, astringent mulled wine.
You see, when it comes to wine, I prefer mine unheated and without bits floating in it. The rest of the year we manage to drink it properly, chilled whites and room temperature reds. We obsess over wine thermometers, carefully decanting and insisting it needs time to “breathe”. So what is it about December that renders us completely senseless?
Look, I get it. You’ve been out all day, you’re laden with bags, it’s cold. Someone offers you something warm and slightly alcoholic and you jump at the chance, convincing yourself you like it, that it’s Christmassy and will help you unwind.
Except you and I know deep down that the wine is cheap and vinegary and the only reason they’ve put cinnamon and cloves in is to trick you into thinking it tastes passable. Add into this the fact that it’s either too hot, burning off the precious alcohol, or lukewarm, which surely defeats the whole purpose of making you warm and toasty.
I know you must think me a grinch but come on people, there are plenty of other Christmassy drinks to get you in the seasonal mood.
Let’s start with Sherry. Make like your gran and grab yourself a bottle of Pedro Ximinez for the true taste of Christmas – sweet, fruity and honeyed on the tongue, it’s like a liquid mince pie. You can pick up a half decent bottle at the supermarket for under £8 and it’ll last for a year in the fridge, unless you’re like me and drink the bloody lot between Christmas and New Year. Also tastes amazing poured over vanilla ice cream for a quick dessert.
Or what about, Eggnog? I must admit that when a friend arrived on my doorstep with a bottle of homemade ‘nog, I nearly called 999, fearing she’d lost the plot completely. Then I tasted it and oh my gosh, I’m hooked on that alcoholic custardy nectar.
Then there are Espresso Martinis. Heading out after work and just need a quick fix to help you get through 5 hours of Keith from accounts giving it his best Taylor Swift on the karaoke? Knock a couple of these babies back and you’ll never sleep again.
And of course there is just the usual, Fizz. Come on, it’s Christmas and you can get a bottle of award-winning Prosecco at your local Spar for a tenner. Compare that to £6 a glass for the mulled stuff and you can see you’ve got a bargain. Add orange juice and feel fancy with you Buck’s Fizz as well as staving off scurvy a little longer whilst you eat your body weight in cheese and biscuits.
Just to make things a little confusing, Mulled Cider. Look, I know what I said about drinks with bits in but mulled cider is just better than mulled wine, okay. For a start, it’s less vinegary, the sweetness of the apples being played up by the cinnamon sticks and spices. Cider doesn’t suffer as much in the warming process and any drink which requires you to add brandy is a hit in my book. It’s just better, okay!
So instead of following Sir Cliff’s advice and reaching for the mistletoe and wine this December why not try something new and maybe step into Christmas with a new tradition.