Are you short of cocktail ingredients? Perhaps you haven’t had the chance to go food shopping or couldn’t find everything you planned to buy. Or maybe you stocked a bit too much at the beginning of the pandemic. Here’s how you can create Christmas drinks using your emergency larder, which surely is full of many weird and wonderful ingredients.
Start by raiding both your liquor cabinet and your pantry. Think about what kind of drinks you’d like to create: hot drinks, fruity long drinks, short and strong classics…
Things you can use for drinks:
Honey/ Maple syrup/ Sugar
Spices (cinnamon, star anise, cloves, black pepper, cardamom, garam masala…)
Coconut milk/ cream
Flavoured oils (coconut, sesame, rosemary…)
Concentrated lemon juice
You can create a simple syrup using sugar and water. Use brown or muscovado to change the flavour profile or add spices to create a winter syrup. You can even flavour the syrup using dried or canned fruit. Honey can be added directly into hot toddies, or loosen it up with hot water. Maple syrup is fantastic in whisky cocktails.
There’s more on how to use various sweeteners in cocktails in my previous article – Essential Guide to Cocktail Sweeteners.
Dried fig syrup
Cut the dried figs in half and simply add sugar, water and figs to a saucepan. Muddle the figs gently to release more flavour. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat, cover with a lid and leave to sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain and store in the fridge.
You could also use any other dried fruit for this. Mango, pineapple, papaya…. Don’t forget the flavoured tea!
Note: Don’t waste the juice from canned fruit. This can be used to sweeten cocktails or mix with still or sparkling water to create a juice.
Create infusions using whatever spices, vegetables, herbs or dried fruit (ideally sugar-free fruit) you have available in your larder. Even coffee beans, tea or chilli flakes can be used, just be careful not to leave them to sit for too long. Candy cane-infusion would also make a fantastic ingredient for many Christmas drinks.
Infuse Campari with star anise or dried fruit, add coffee beans into rum, Earl Grey tea bags into gin or fat-wash your spirit with extra-virgin olive oil. You can find more about infusion times and ingredients from my previous article here. It features various vodka infusions, but you can adjust these to any spirit or liqueur.
Fat-washing a spirit will add both flavour and a silky mouthfeel to your drinks. You can use animal fats such as lamb, duck or bacon fat (just fry the bacon and collect the oil) or oils that are already in a liquid form: extra-virgin olive oil, truffle, sesame or coconut oil. Even peanut butter or butter can be used.
If using a non-liquid fat, you just need to heat it up (pan or steam) so it becomes liquid. Collect the fat into a jar, add the spirit of your choice and give it a good shake. Leave it at room temperature for a few hours before placing it in the freezer overnight.
The next day the fat will have set on top of the liquid and you can just poke a hole in the fat layer to strain the spirit. Use a fine strainer or a coffee filter. Sometimes the spirit may need to be filtered two to three times to remove all the solids (especially when using animal fats).
When using peanut butter, soften it slightly. Steam works well here. Mix in the spirit and shake or stir well. Keep the mixture at room temperature, shaking occasionally. Leave it overnight and strain well the next day.
Note: When you use butter, there are two outcomes. Butter contains milk solids so when it is melted, mixed with spirit and kept in the freezer, the outcome is cloudy yet very creamy. If you want it to be clear rather than cloudy, you just need to heat the butter longer to allow all the liquid to evaporate before mixing in with the spirit.
Store the infused spirit in the fridge. When using animal products, you should use it within a day or two to avoid the risk of any bacterial build-up. Vegetable fat infusions can be stored for up to two weeks.
How much fat do you need?
Obviously, this is something you might have to experiment with to find the right ratios. But as a starting point, I would recommend 80g per 500ml if the oil has a strong flavour or 160g per 500ml for milder ones. Always use fresh fats; now is not the time to skimp on quality.
gin + extra-virgin olive oil (this would work nicely in a Martini)
vodka + truffle oil
bourbon + bacon fat
whisky + sesame oil
rum + butter
If you do happen to have bottles of ginger beer, tonic water or sparkling water or perhaps cartons of juice stocked somewhere, that’s your work half done. But if you’re running short, don’t worry, there are still many ways to create mixers. Or just opt for shorter drinks.
Tea bags – Brew a pot of berry or other flavoured tea, sweeten it with sugar, honey or even juice from canned fruit. Allow to cool and voila, you have a mixer.
Canned fruit – Blend the fruit and juices with a little water and strain if needed. Or skip the water and puree it for a fruity Daiquiri.
Juice from can – Mix with still or sparkling water
Canned tomatoes – Blend to create a juice for Bloody Mary. Add water if it feels too thick. This can also be strained to get rid of any solids. Spice it up to your liking.
Coconut milk – Versatile ingredient that can be added any tiki cocktail.
Chickpeas – Use the liquid from the tin to replace egg white in cocktails. Shake together with all the other ingredients to create a smooth foam.
Brine – Add olive brine into a Martini or pickle brine into Bloody Mary.
Spicy Red Wine Hot Chocolate
2 cups long-life milk
Dark chocolate chunks*
1 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp brown sugar
A pinch of salt
Marshmallows, whipped cream, chocolate shavings or cinnamon stick for serving
In a pot over a medium heat, combine milk and chocolate chunks and whisk constantly until chocolate has melted. Add spices and red wine. Keep on the heat until hot throughout. Do not allow to boil. Taste and add spices where needed. Top up with marshmallows or whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
*You can replace dark chocolate with 3 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder.
You can make a large batch of chai at home and store it in the fridge. Heat up with milk of your choice whenever you fancy a warming drink. To spike it, just add a measure of your chosen liquor or liqueur.
6 black tea bags
4 cinnamon sticks
12 cardamom seeds
10 slices of fresh ginger (can be replaced with ground ginger)
Honey (go easy on the honey if you are planning to use the honey tequila later)
Add everything into a slow cooker for 4hrs on low heat. Strain, cool down and store in the fridge.
To build the actual spiked drink, I heated (almond) milk and chai together, poured into a mug and added 25ml of Cazcabel Honey Tequila. Stir before serving.
Chai Old Fashioned
This drink is created using the above chai recipe.
50ml bourbon or scotch
A bar spoon of runny honey or maple syrup
Three dashes of angostura bitters
20ml homemade chai tea*
Stir all ingredients in the glass part of your shaker. Strain over an ice-filled tumbler and garnish with orange peel and cinnamon stick.
*There are alternatives to using homemade chai in this cocktail. You could reduce some of the tea into a syrup using sugar. If using syrup, just replace the honey with chai syrup. Adjust to taste. The second option is to use the chai tea to make ice cubes.
Prohibition Old Fashioned
During Prohibition the smell (and taste) of whisky was easily disguised by using orange, cherries and other fruit. In fact, during Prohibition, Islay whisky was the only whisky legally allowed into the US as it could go under medicine due to its high iodine level. Many served these whiskies as Old Fashioned cocktails with extra orange to disguise the strong aroma.
Cherries from canned fruit salad
Canned orange or peach slices
60ml Peaty scotch (you can replace with bourbon or rye)
A few dashes of angostura bitters
Put the sugar cube in the bottom of a tumbler and wet with bitters. Muddle it well, add fruit and muddle some more. Finally, add scotch and ice. Give it a little stir and enjoy.
50ml of pureed peach
This is super-simple. Just puree some tinned peaches or use ready pureed mix. Add it into a Champagne flute and gently top up with Prosecco. Ideally the puree would be chilled.
Note: If the peaches come with sugary juice, add some of that when blending. For unsweetened puree, add a little sugar syrup into it before mixing with Prosecco.
See two variations here. One is made in a slow cooker, another using fruit juices.
50ml vodka or gin
1 bar spoon of orange marmalade
15ml orange liqueur*
15 fresh lemon juice (or 5ml concentrated)
Shake all ingredients well with ice and double strain into a Martini glass.
*The orange liqueur could be replaced with other liqueurs such as peach, blood orange, even limoncello. Alternatively, muddle some orange skin with the spirit before shaking to add flavour without using a liqueur.
Spicy Mango Margarita
50ml dried mango-infused blanco tequila
15ml red chilli syrup*
10ml Cointreau (or anything else with orange flavour)
25ml lime or lemon juice
Salt & chilli flake rim
Create the salted rim on your Martini glass. Shake all ingredients with ice and double strain.
*I had red chillies in the freezer, but you could make the syrup using chilli flakes or even jalapenos from a jar.
Will you try to create festive drinks using your larder? What do you like to drink during the holidays?