Best drinks to buy this Christmas
If getting a bottle of wine seems too easy, try gin, tequila, whisky or cream liqueur
Come Christmas, it's easy to fall back on a bottle of nice wine for the drinks lover in your life, but after a few years in a row, another bottle of Merlot may come to feel a bit repetitive.
So if you have exhausted every conceivable grape and are looking to experiment with some new spirits, liqueurs and cocktails, here are some great alternatives to put under the tree for your favourite booze anorak.
Clase Azul Añejo tequila
Clase Azul Añejo – an ultra-premium tequila from Mexico – is made from 100% nine-year-old traditionally roasted agave before being rested for 25 months. The flavour is truly out of this world, competitive as a sipping experience with some of the world’s finest whiskies, with notes of vanilla, almonds and caramel. The distinctive Talavera-style decanter that it comes in, adorned with a 24-carat gold charm on the neck, is the icing on the cake.
70cl, £607, thewhiskyexchange.com
Bulleit Frontier Whisky bourbon Tattoo Edition
It’s not hard to see why Bulliett Frontier Whisky’s bourbon is a three-time gold medal winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It’s smoother than its 45% ABV suggests, with the smokey aroma more commonly associated with a scotch. You may also detect a slight hint of toffee, too. A truly unique take on American whiskey.
There’s also a handsome limited Tattoo Edition, designed by Jess Mascetti from New York’s East Side Ink tattoo parlour, available in time for Christmas.
Bulleit Frontier Whisky bourbon Tattoo Edition, £21.90, Amazon.co.uk
Belfast-based distiller Jawbox is named after the deep, square kitchen sink which was the centre of social life in many Northern Irish homes. Its signature small batch gin is packed with 11 different botanicals - a surefire conversation starter for any gin fan.
70cl, from £25, jawboxgin.com
Neptune Rum is an insider favourite, named Best British Rum Brand at the industry’s Golden Barrel awards in October. Their signature gold rum is distilled in Barbados, picking up notes of fruit and spice which make it the perfect accompaniment for a Christmas pudding.
70cl, £37.95, NeptuneRum.com
Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve
This single malt Scotch is selectively finished in cognac casks, lending it a rich, fruity flavour with sweet and spicy notes - perfectly suited to long evenings in front of the fire.
70cl, £48, Whiskyshop.com
Glen Moray Fired Oak 10-year-old single malt whisky
This whisky, with a flavour that is at once both intensely sweet and notably smooth, was created by master distiller Graham Coull following the rise in popularity of American bourbon in Britain. The result is a whisky that is perfect for those with a slightly sweeter tooth.
70cl, £39.99, thewhiskyexchange.com
Colonsay Gin Wild Thyme 909
This limited-edition of 909 bottles celebrates Celtic folklore and classic London Dry Gin, full of peppery notes and sherbet.
50cl, £42, wildthymespirits.com
Berkeley Square Gin
This refined gin, associated with one of London’s most affluent areas, Mayfair, comes in a beautiful bottle reflective of its birthplace.
The gin has four key ingredients – kaffir lime leaves, lavender, sage and basil which are infused into the spirit in a hand-wrapped muslin cloth over a 48 hours period. Elegantly delicious.
70cl, £76.95, masterofmalt.com
Ableforth's Bathtub Gin
This multi award-winning gin is made using a very high quality copper pot-still spirit, and infused with juniper, orange peel, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Bathtub Gin has been lavished with praise and awards from the International Spirits Challenge, the International Wine & Spirits Competition and the World Gin Awards, and each bottle is hand-wrapped, twined and waxed making it a perfect Christmas gift.
70cl, £33.00, Ocado.com
Spytail ginger rum
Spytail is infused and blended from Caribbean rum in a family run distillery in the Cognac region of France. With hints of cinnamon and lashings of finger, it is best over ice, with coke or ginger beer – a refreshing tipple for the festive season.
70cl, £24.99, Amazon.com
Dead King Gin
That Boutique-y Gin Company has has teamed up with fragrance specialist Lizzie Ostrom for a range of aromatic gins. The Dead King, infused with herbs and botanicals used to embalm the pharaohs, is a particular standout.
50cl, £42, HarveyNicholls.com
Manchester Gin Raspberry Infused
A delicate yet slightly sweet gin, this is perfect for a refreshing G&T, or added to a glass of champagne.
50cl, £34.28, masterofmalt.com
1832 Wolgan Gin
This gin, produced by Australia’s ultra-luxury resort in the Blue Mountains, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, was created in collaboration with Mikey Enright the owner of one of Sydney’s leading gin bars, The Barber Shop, and Ian Glen, distiller at the historical Stone Pine Distillery in Bathurst. The resulting spirit features botanicals from the valley in which the resort lies – lemon-scented tea tree, coriander seed, finger lime, juniper berry and angelica root. A delicious taste of the Australian bush and not a bad price at $135 (£77) plus freight.
70cl, £77 plus freight, nipofcourage.com
Starward Solera whisky
Australian whisky took the world by storm when Tasmanian distillery Sullivan's Cove was named the world's best single malt whisky at the World Whiskies Award in 2014. Since then Sullivan's Cove has been joined by other excellent Aussie drams, like this bottle from the southern Australian mainland, which is produced surprisingly quickly for its quality. Solera scooped gold at last year's World Whisky Awards, and one suspects more accolades lie ahead.
70cl, £50.55, thewhiskyexchange.com
Chase Marmalade Vodka
Smooth and creamy, Chase vodka is marinated with marmalade and ribbons of peel from Seville oranges - so a perfect taste for Christmas.
70cl, £35.95, 31dover.com
A Scottish gin that successfully accentuates the full flavour of the botanicals used and produces a fantastic, juniper-led, premium quality gin.
50cl, £36.47, masterofmalt.com
This little-known distillery closed in 1985 but its subtle, sweet and award-winning single malt was already hatched. Only 3,972 bottles were released.
70cl, £1,250, thewhiskyexchange.com
Pickering’s Sloe Gin
This wonderfully smooth, slightly spicy gin will get you in the festive spirit, abounding as itdoes with flavours of red cherry and toasted almonds.
35cl, £22.50, craftgins.co.uk
The first gin from Japan’s legendary Suntory distillery features six botanicals thatprovide a whistle-stop tour of the four seasons.
70cl, £30, waitrosecellar.com
Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac
Drinking this premium cognac takes you on a global taste tour, taking in the likes of ginger,cigar, cinnamon and berries.
70cl, £2,400, 31dover.com
Elements Eight Republica Rum
A premium blend of two single rums, the Cuban gives earthy, dry flavours that go well with the woody, sweeter Panama rum.
70cl, £30.41, masterofmalt.com
This Speyside single malt is comprised of only two single casks, which have matured together for almost 50 years.
70cl, £5,499.90, thewhiskyworld.com
Gran Patron Platinum
This high-end tequila is produced from the highest-quality Weber blue agave plants grown in the Highlands of Jalisco. The agaves for this distinct tequila are hand selected for their high sugar content.
70cl, £225, thewhiskyexchange.com
Appleton Estate 30 year-old Jamaica rum
This beautiful, complex blend, created by Master Distiller Joy Spence, features notes of vibrant vanilla, toasted oak, ginger and warm cinnamon with a smooth and long, spiced honey finish.
70cl, £399, thewhiskyexchange.com from December
Coole Swan combines single malt Irish whiskey, Belgian white chocolate and fresh Irish cream in a cream liqueur that delivers a velvety and fresh taste experience. Mary Sadlier named the drink after WB Yeats’ poem The Wild Swans at Coole about the search for lasting beauty in a changing world and says that’s what she’s tried to create with the creamy tipple. It’s best served neat or over ice.
70cl, £24, John Lewis
Hotel Chocolat - Chocolat Cream Liqueur
Hotel Chocolat’s Chocolat Cream Liqueur is inspired by the bar at the brand’s Saint Lucian cocoa plantation, and designed to let its “70% dark chocolate to really sing out”.
Best enjoyed straight from the fridge, over ice.
50cl, £25, Hotel Chocolat
The best way to enjoy the much-loved Advocaat is in a seasonal Snowball cocktail. You’ll need 50ml Warninks Advocaat, 10ml Fresh Lemon, 75ml Cloudy Lemonade and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Pour the Warninks into a large coupe glass, then top it up with cloudy lemonade and fresh lemon. Add the ice cream so it floats on the cocktail. Serving with a spoon is optional, and depends on whether you want to watch your guests attempt the ice cream sans-cutlery. Deliciously festive.
70cl, £14.95, The Whisky Exchange
English Whisky Co. Norfolk Nog
You don’t get much more Christmassy than this tasty combination of English single malt whisky and cream. The English Whisky Co. says its Norfolk Nog is best enjoyed “outdoors on a cold and blustery day… it’s perfect for long walks or a day fishing”. But don’t worry if your Christmas plans don’t involve exertion beyond completing an enormous festive dinner - the Nog goes down pretty well with your feet up next to a log fire.
50cl, £19.99, English Whisky Co.
If you find yourself drifting into a Christmas slump, then Kahlúa, a rum and coffee liqueur, is the perfect antidote. The Mexican tipple has become the best selling coffee liqueur in the world thanks to its uniquely appealing tastes of bittersweet coffee bean, vanilla and sweet butter.
It is also an essential part of an Espresso Martini. To whip up a festive version, pour 25ml of Kahlúa and 25ml of vodka into a shaker and shake thoroughly. Add 10ml cinnamon syrup, 10ml gingerbread syrup and 25ml of espresso. Finish off by serving in a cocoa powder dusted glass for the perfect final touch.
70cl, £12, Waitrose
Tesco Finest Salted Caramel Cream Liqueur
This twist on the classic Irish cream liqueur went down very easily, with the single malt whisky coming gently through flavours of salted caramel and Ballyrashane double cream.
70cl, £10, Tesco