Drinks of the Month

As the festive season approaches, here are a few of our favourite drinks, suitable for celebrating with or plonking on the table with the turkey, tinsel and nut roast.
We'll be adding to this selection, so check back, let us know what you think, and do suggest other drinks you think we should take a look at.

Courage Imperial Russian Stout

The alcohol percentage on this one is downright frightening at 10%. But that's how Catherine the Great of Russia liked it, and she got what she liked when she made demands of her courtiers in 1795.

A bit of background here: Russian Imperial Stout is a strong dark stout dating back to the 18th century when it was produced at Thrale’s Brewery in London to export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. The high alcoholic strength was necessary to prevent the beer from freezing in the temperatures of the Baltic Sea on its voyage to Russia and along with a high degree of hop, it has the keeping quality of a fine wine.

10%; limited availability at the moment – it's only just been relaunched in the UK – but you will find at the wonderful Beers of Europe and beerritz.co.uk

Traquair Jacobite Ale

Brewed to commemorate 250 years since the Jacobite revolution, Traquair's Jacobite Ale is rich and malty, full of spiced dried fruits, and oodles of food matching potential. 


Henneys Vintage 2011

Created by former-Bulmers cidermaker, Mike Henneys, Vintage 2011 is the cider that took the all-important pork round in the first Cider vs Wine Contest at The Thatchers' Arms earlier this year.

It was up against pretty stiff opposition in the shape of a rich, Portuguese red, Quinta Do Crasto 2010, and the dish, to be fair, also included a tangy sausage, tomato and mixed bean cassoulet.

Henney's Vintage 2011, Herefordshire; Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tesco; Henneys.co.uk; £2.09/50cl;

Belvoir Elderflower Cordial

Throw off the thoughts of Winter with this very essence of Spring, Belvoir's Elderflower Cordial. Serve chilled with plenty of ice and either a sprig of mint or the neatest sliver of fresh ginger to give this delicate floral-infused drink a little lift.

c. £4; available delicatessens, food halls, farm shops & major supermarkets; or online

Pixley Blackcurrant & Ginger Cordial

Seriously blackcurranty with the the merest zip of ginger, this is rather like adult Ribena, with the ginger calming the sweetness. Made with 60% blackcurrant juice from Edward Thompson's fruit-haven of a farm, the ginger quotient of Pixley's Blackcurrant & Ginger has been upped since its first appearance in 2009.

This is lovely when cold and cold-defying when warm. I'm now looking forward to the Pixley cocktail suggestions – Gin & Pixley anyone?

RRP: £3.19/50cl, Waitrose & fine food retailers

Port and a Storm

Talisker fan James Forbes heads to Opium, a Chinatown speakeasy to meet two new members of the family, Storm and Port Ruighe in the company of Diageo’s Global Scotch Whisky Ambassador, Donald Colville

Less a tasting, more a “sensory experience”  – burning peat, brine and dry ice sea fog effects, glasses filled with coffee, pepper, vanilla and strawberries – were all on hand and Donald used these to prompt the mood and flavours of the whisky we were tasting...

Kamm & Sons Ginseng Spirit

Bitters are very much in vogue. Their distillation of myriad specially chosen botanicals into a liquid that can transform a drink, soft, spiritual or otherwise, with just a splash, are finally being appreciated.

This little brown bottle, which looks decidedly antiquated and medicinal, contains some home-grown bitters crafted by enterprising bartender and drinks consultant Alex Kammerling.

Previously of London’s 69 Colebrooke Row, that hotspot of cocktail creativity, Alex has been devising this recipe in his north London flat for some time now – around five years I believe! The end result is a liquid that’s been infused with over 45 botanicals, and is an aromatic and complex as you might imagine.


Once Upon a Tree The Wonder

Another delightful first from Simon Day at Once Upon a Tree, this is the UK's first "ice" pear wine. Using techniques from the wine world, he froze the pear juice, concentrating it before fermentation. Simon chose Conference and Comice pears for their sweet yet subtle pear character, instead of traditional perry pears with their tannic character.

£19.95/37.5cl, direct from Once Upon a Tree shop, online & a variety of stockists, see web

English Wine Tasting 2014 highlights

Earlier this year English wineries gathered a stone's throw from Parliament Square to share their wines with the drinks trade. Following a good, if challenging at times, harvest in 2013, the still wines didn't disappoint, and the sparklers once more showed why England is becoming such a force on the fizz world stage.

Here are my highlights, as prepared for Imbibe, the magazine for restaurants, pubs and bars.