Christmas is the perfect time for a cocktail. There's something so very bright and cheery about this drink with its colourful liquers, sparkling glasses, fruity additions and quirky adornments such as twizzle sticks and flowery umbrellas.
You could try a Harvey Wallbanger in Harris, a Boilermaker in Belfast, a Screwdriver in St Ives or a Naked Lady in Norfolk. According to Wikipedia the first know use of the word cock-tail was in 'The Morning Post and Gazetteer in London' in 1798, although the Oxford English Dictionary records it as originating in America in 'The Farmer's Cabinet' on April 28, 1803, "Drank a glass of cocktail—excellent for the head ..."
The dictionary definition of 'cocktail' is NOUN: an alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or spirits mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice or cream. Whatever the definition, there is something in the alchemy of a cocktail that brings its very own magic, and therefore makes it the ideal drink for a Christmas celebration. Again according to Wikipedia, the first 'cocktail party' was held by a Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri, held at noon for an hour. These days you can drink cocktails at any time of the day, though early evening before dinner is the traditional time.
Half the fun of a cocktail is in the performance that goes into its creation. I had a fascinating lesson in making cocktails at the Cavendish Hotel in London. To make a perfect drink, every element needs to be right. This includes selecting the right type of gin/vodka/whisky and other alcohol, finding the best non-alcoholic mixer and choosing an appropriate sweet or sour extra, such as a twist of lime, a plump olive or a ripe strawberry. Then there's the glass. Should it be a stumpy tumbler, an elgant flute, a curvaceous bowl or a classic 'martini' shape? Shaken or stirred? Decisions, decisions - but whatever the ingredients, the final drink needs to be one that you sip, relish every mouthful and which leaves you feeling happier after you have drunk it than you were before. Needless to say, you need to watch the seductive appeal of a cocktail or else you may end up feeling a lot worse!
So, wherever you are over the festive season, make time for a Christmas cocktail - but do bear in mind these words from the immortal Dorothy Parker,
“I like to have a martini, Two at the very most. After three I'm under the table, after four I'm under my host.”
Cheers and have a very MERRY Christmas!
You can read more of Zoë Dawes‘ entertaining articles on her travels around the UK and abroad in her award-winning blog The Quirky Traveller where she shares her favourite stories, tips and photos. Follow her on Twitter @quirkytraveller and ‘like’ her page on Face Book. More Visit Britain articles by Zoë Dawes