The spirits of Christmas: drinkable homemade gifts – recipes | Food


Clementine cordial

This will keep for three weeks in the fridge, so it’s not one to leave under the tree in the run-up to Christmas.

Makes About 375ml

450ml freshly squeezed clementine juice
50ml lime juice
500ml water
500g caster sugar

Put all the ingredients in a deep pan, bring to a boil, and simmer on a medium heat, stirring regularly. Once the liquid has reduced to a quarter of its original volume, turn off the heat and leave to cool, then pour the cordial into a sterilised bottle(s), which must have an airtight lid.

Instructions for gift tag Keep in the fridge and drink within a week of opening. Mix 25ml cordial with 25ml cranberry juice and top with either cava or sparkling water. Garnish with a slice of clementine or orange.

Chestnut brandy syrup

This needs to sit for at least two weeks before it’s consumed. Once jarred, it’ll keep for at least three months, and probably a lot longer, so long as the jars are properly sterilised.

Makes 3-4 jars, depending on size

500g fresh chestnuts
500g demerara sugar
500ml brandy
(nothing too fancy)

Score a cross on the bum of each chestnut, then roast in a high-sided pan or wok over a high heat until they split, which is a sign they’re cooked. Tip out of the pan, leave to cool, then peel.

Put the sugar and water in a large saucepan over a low heat. Warm gently until the sugar dissolves, then turn up the heat to medium and simmer until reduced by half. Turn the heat back down to the lowest possible setting and let the syrup cool a little, but not completely (otherwise it will set solid).

Add the peeled chestnuts and brandy to the just-warm syrup, stir thoroughly to combine, then decant into sterilised jars, as if making jam (Kilner jars would look especially pretty, if you have some). Leave for two weeks, turning the jars 180 degrees every day to rotate the contents and make sure everything combines nicely.

Instructions for gift tag Add the syrup to coffees, give a twist to an old fashioned or manhattan by adding a teaspoon, or substitute for brandy in a classic champagne cocktail. Spoon the macerated chestnuts and syrup over Christmas pudding, warm mince pies, vanilla or coffee ice-cream.

Festive punch

This will keep for three weeks in the fridge, so be sure to tell the recipient.

Makes 750ml bottle

1 cinnamon stick
sprig fresh rosemary
200ml dark rum
300ml cranberry juice
50ml apple juice
100ml orange juice
50ml pomegranate juice

Poke the cinnamon stick and rosemary sprig into a sterilised bottle – a flip-top bottle with a rubber-sealed lid is best. Pour in the other ingredients, seal and shake gently to mix and infuse. Keep chilled.

Instructions for gift tag Keep in the fridge and drink within three days of opening. Pour over a glass of ice, stir well, top with soda water and garnish with festive fruit.

Spirit of Christmas

This one will keep for at least three months, assuming the recipient doesn’t drink it all over Christmas.

Makes 500ml

1 tsp mixed spice
1 small handful
1 long strip orange zest
1 long strip lemon peel
3 cloves
200g caster sugar
500ml vodka
(nothing too fancy)

Put all the dry ingredients in a sterilised bottle(s), then pour in the vodka. Seal with an airtight lid, shake well to combine, then leave in a cool, dark place for a week, so the flavours meld, turning the bottle on its head and back once every day.

Instructions for gift tag Keep in the freezer, so you can enjoy an ice-cold shot as a pick-me-up after dinner. It’ll keep almost indefinitely.

Recipes by Claire Strickett and Bert Blaize, authors of Which Wine When: What to Drink with the Food you Love, published by Ebury at £9.99. To order a copy for £9.29, go to


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