The best thing about Christmas, other than having your friends and family around you, is having your friends and family around you while they eat and drink themselves silly. Also, the eating and drinking will make you more favourably disposed to the oddballs who you only meet for Christmas. 

So here’s a list of my favourite warm cocktail recipes to spread Christmas cheer, along with my cheat’s version of Delia’s boozy Christmas Cake – if like me, you remember to only marinate yourself for 12 months in anticipation of Christmas, and forget to marinate the dried fruit. Your quick fix to be the hostess with the mostest (or host, but that doesn’t rhyme, so who cares).

Youtube/Original Naked Chef

MULLED WINE

Ingredients

• One bottle of Merlot or Shiraz (Use one of the Sula red wines)

• 250 ml of brandy. If you don’t have brandy you can use dark or white rum

• 250 grams of brown sugar

• 2 cloves

• 2 large cinnamon sticks

• 2 star anise

• 2 bay leaves

• Half a litre of orange juice

• 2 peeled and chopped oranges (preferably Malta orange or Mandarin oranges)

• The zest of the 2 oranges

Method:

• Heat a pan on a low flame.

• Pour in the wine. Then the brandy/rum. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves.

• Add the spices and bay leaves. Keep simmering. Make sure the wine doesn’t boil or the alcohol will evaporate, a fate worse than death.

• Add orange juice to taste. (Decide how strong you want the mulled wine to be and add as much juice as you want to dilute the alcohol.)

• Then add the chopped oranges and the zest, cover the pan, and let the liquid simmer for at least five minutes more.

That’s it. Make sure to serve the mulled wine warm, if not hot. You can reheat the wine on a low flame.

HOT BUTTERED RUM

Ingredients

• 500 ml dark rum such as Old Monk or Captain’s Morgan

• 250 gms brown sugar

• 2 tsps nutmeg powder

• 500 ml hot water

• 4 cinnamon sticks

• 200 gms melted butter

Directions

• Heat the water to boiling.

• Place the cinnamon sticks in the water and stir in the sugar and nutmeg.

• Stir in the rum.

• Pour into individual glasses and pour a teaspoon of the butter on top of the glass.

As a garnish, you could add an individual cinnamon stick in each glass to double up as a stirrer.

Just in case you don’t drink alcohol — my heartfelt sympathies to you -– here’s the perfect teetotal option. An old Anglo-Indian lady used to sell bottles of this every Christmas in Kolkata. I don’t know if she’s still around, but I did learn how to make it. You can make it and keep it in the fridge for months on end.

GINGER WINE

Ingredients

• 750 gms sugar

• 1 litre water

• 400 gms ginger, peeled and sliced

• 16 cloves

• 20 green cardamom pods

• 4 large cinnamon sticks

• 1 nutmeg chopped (in large chunks, not grated)

• Juice of 6 to 7 limes

Method

• On a medium flame, heat the water and sugar until the liquid takes the texture of syrup.

• Lower the flame and add the ginger, clove, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Simmer for 20 minutes.

• Remove from the flame, add the lime juice and let it cool.

• Strain the liquid through a linen or muslin cloth.

• The liquid should be clear.

• Bottle it and drink as you would wine.

• If you like a sharper ginger flavour, as I do, just add more ginger.

Youtube/@Titlis Busy Kitchen

CHEAT’S CHRISTMAS CAKE

Ingredients

For the dried fruits:

450 gms currants

250 gms raisins

100 gms dried plum

100 gms mixed chopped candied peel

200ml brandy/ dark rum

For the cake:

225g plain flour

¼ level teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated

½ level teaspoon ground mixed spice

225g dark brown soft sugar

4 large eggs

225g butter

1 tspn baking powder

3 tbsps Honey

zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange

100 mls brandy – to be used post-baking

Method

The earlier you soak the fruits in alcohol, the better. Try and do this the night before, if not, at least 2 hours before preparing the cake.

Put all the fruits in a bowl with the brandy/ rum, cover with a cloth and leave to soak.

When you’re ready to bake the cake, pre-heat the oven to 140°C.

Mix the flour and spices into a very large bowl.

In a separate bowl mix the sugar, eggs, butter and honey until smooth and fluffy.

Now add this mixture to the flour and spices and beat till the batter has no lumps.

Fold in the fruit mixture, chopped nuts and the grated lemon and orange zests.

Pour the cake mixture into a prepared cake tin. Cover the batter with parchment paper and bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4 to 4 and half hours.

Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, before removing it from the tin.

Make holes on the top of the cake with a toothpick and pour a tablespoon of brandy or rum into each hole. Wrap in foil, till you serve it.

Eat, drink and you’ll definitely make merry this Christmas week.

(Feature image source: Reuters | Twitter/@villandry_UK)