Three cocktails for the festive season

Invisible gin punch at The Everleigh, Fitzroy.
Invisible gin punch at The Everleigh, Fitzroy. Photo: Supplied

Indeed Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but if you want to be more specific about it, that period between Christmas Eve and the new year is the most magnificent.

That period when you have no idea what day of the week it is, only how many people are coming over for a barbecue that evening and which relative's house you're visiting the next day for lunch.

Travis Howe from the Carlton Wine Room: 'There's something pretty special about the aniseed of pastis paired with citrus.'
Travis Howe from the Carlton Wine Room: 'There's something pretty special about the aniseed of pastis paired with citrus.' Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Booze is the key to these leftover ham and salad days, and not just wine.

Beer is already a staple of most Australian fridges but it's nice to have a pre-batched cocktail or punch chilled and at the ready.

The gobsmacking amount of spirits and liqueurs available in 2018 also means there's a non-wine drinks match for all festive foods.

Quay head sommelier Shanteh Wong says pavlova can work with all manner of drinks.
Quay head sommelier Shanteh Wong says pavlova can work with all manner of drinks. Photo: Nikki To

Three cocktails for the festive season


Michael Madrusan, The Everleigh, Fitzroy

There's something fun and innocent about sharing a drink. We're not talking about the stingy, "there are three of us, but we're only going to have one sip each" scenario. We're referring to that seemingly endless supply of boozy goodness that got everyone giddy at your last garden party.



700ml gin
450ml fresh pineapple juice
240ml lemon juice
500-700ml ginger beer
pineapple and lemon slices to garnish


Add gin, pineapple juice and lemon juice to a punchbowl with large blocks of ice. Top up with ginger beer to taste.

Garnish with pineapple and lemon slices. Serve in a rocks glass with ice.


Robert Krueger, Employees Only, Sydney  

This refreshing, fruity and bittersweet punch simultaneously satisfies a hot summer's thirst and hints at the festive season's traditional woodland aromas with zesty juniper and rosemary.


700ml gin
700ml Aperol
750ml creme de cassis
juice of 10 lemons
1.5L sparkling wine
rosemary sprigs and lemon slices to garnish


Keep all ingredients chilled for at least 4 hours prior to the party. When ready to serve, combine gin, Aperol, cassis and lemon juice in a large punch bowl with lots of ice and stir well.

Add sparkling wine and lightly stir. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and lemon slices. Ladle into individual cups to serve, adding an additional rosemary sprig if desired.


Michael Nicholian, Continental Deli, Bar & Bistro, Sydney

Ideal as a Christmas lunch digestif or late-night tipple before bed. Go easy on super perfumed spices and add to taste  it's up to you which notes you want to be more prominent and by all means add any other Christmas spices you like. You can also omit the syrup, bitters and water and store undiluted in the freezer to neck as a shot.


700ml cognac
100g toasted desiccated coconut
1 cinnamon quill
zest of 1 orange
2-3 cloves
2-3 cardamom pods
100ml of 2:1 sugar syrup (see note)
30ml Angostura bitters
200ml purified water


Combine cognac, coconut, cinnamon, orange zest, cloves and cardamom in a large pitcher or jar. Allow to sit for 48 hours.  

Add sugar syrup, bitters and water and stir. Store in the fridge and drink straight or keep at room temperature and serve over ice.

Note: 2:1 sugar syrup is made by dissolving 150g of sugar in 75ml of water.

Festive food and drink pairings

Natural oysters

With beautiful Sydney rock oysters I am always thinking about freshness, so I'd choose something that works with the brininess of salt water and has acidity to compliment the creamy heart of the oyster. Chilled daiginjo sake has that clean, crisp, slippery sort of texture and works well with seafood. A spritz is hard to go past on hot summer days, however, and Australia is producing an array of excellent and diverse vermouths. Try a blanco style like Regal Rogue Lively White with a small touch of soda and some sliced fennel and lemon. Shanteh Wong, head sommelier, Quay

Barbecued prawns

Get your hands on the most expensive bottle of pastis you can afford and pour it in a tall glass with lots of ice. Drink it with a little bit of lemon and sparkling water on top. There's something pretty special about the aniseed of the pastis paired with citrus, and prawns are a nice way to bring the two flavours together. Travis Howe, head sommelier, Carlton Wine Room

Glazed ham

With the smokiness of ham I'd choose something with a touch of spice and a little bitterness. Amari are great for their balance of sweet, bitter and herbal so I would drink an Amaro Montenegro over ice with a slice of blood orange. Or just sit back with a local IPA – Australia's beer game is better than ever. SW


The great pavlova can work with all manner of drinks. Acidity is key for me when trying to find harmony with desserts, so I'd be inclined to drink a delicious but not too sweet cider like Eric Bordelet Granit, which has all the acidity and elegance of a great wine. Or a Pommeau from Normandy – the blend of apple juice and brandy would highlight the fresh fruit and still have a touch of sugar. SW

Christmas pudding

Go with something that tastes like Christmas cake. A nice little Aussie fortified wine like muscat is classic. If you want go abstract, take a look at something like a big brooding stout. A strong drink for a strong cake. TH