Winter Warmers - Classic Festive Drinks with a Twist

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Fancy adding a fresh twist to the usual traditional Christmas drinks this year? Besides the usual winter warmers such as mulled wine recipes, there are some brilliant lesser known drinks, from modern cocktails and fusions to old favourites and forgotten classics.

Here at the Feathers Hotel in Ledbury our chefs and bar staff always believe in keeping things fresh for each season, as you can see from our ever changing menus. Here are some great festive drinks chosen by us that are easy to make and full of Christmas cheer:

Mulled Ale:
Spicy mulled wine is ever present at Christmas in Britain, but mulled beer can also be delicious. It was once popular in parts of England and even more so in Wales, where it is known as “Wassail”. Interestingly, mulled beer also remains a popular traditional winter beverage in many parts of Europe including Poland and Germany.

To make your own, we would advise using a mid-strength traditional ale or bitter (forget lagers!). A nice clean, malty ale works best, but avoid those that are very powerfully hopped. Try infusing in a suitably large pan with a level tablespoon of sugar for every pint or so of beer, along with cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves and a dash of something stronger if you must. You could also try adding some honey or ginger, which complement beer beautifully. Fruit is another possibility, although you don’t want overkill on the flavours. In Poland, for example, cherries are sometimes used to pep up this most warming of winter drinks.

Mulled Cider:
Living in such a major cider producing region as Herefordshire, it would be bordering on sacrilege not to create a tasty brew of mulled cider when the nights grow cold and Christmas approaches. There are many recipes and you can be quite creative here, but we would opt for a quality traditional cider or scrumpy, along with cloves, cinnamon and star anise.

Some sugar is also a must to balance the mix- but do introduce a little at a time to avoid a very sickly sweet finished drink. A glug of Calvados or brandy will create an even richer concoction and perhaps an extra glow to the cheeks of your guests.

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Egg Nog:
An unfortunate sounding name for this most comforting and medicinal of special winter drinks. Eggnog is often thought of as something American, and we certainly owe our cousins across the pond for making the stuff popular in modern times. It was the English who first made it however, originally with ale and egg yolks, unlike the present day version, usually laced with bourbon or rum.
There are stacks of recipes these days. We would suggest starting with the classic formula(try this basic recipe from before perhaps pepping up in your own style: Vanilla pods go beautifully with the eggs and milk; grated orange or lemon zest on top also add a Christmas tang. Or if you’re feeling really heathen, you could mix in a little Bailey’s Irish Cream. Last but not least, as many eggnog connoisseurs will tell you, it works even better when left to settle in the fridge overnight before consumption.

Sloe Mulled Wine:
This autumn has been a rich one for harvesting fruit- and sloes are no exception. Homemade sloe gin can be wonderful stuff in its own right- but have you ever considered using it to pep up your mulled wine? It works an absolute treat in place of your usual slug of spirit, adding an extra depth and richness to an already potent brew. You could also use some other fruits left over from a good harvest, such as blackberries or raspberries. Delicious!

Excellent Festive Food and Drink in Herefordshire

Here at the Feathers Hotel in Ledbury, we love to get into the Christmas spirit with both a nod to tradition and a twist from our award-winning chefs! Expect a real log fire, wonderful mulled drinks and Christmas ales, besides a superb menu of festive favourites. See our restaurants page and Xmas & New Year section for more details on our current menus and some of the best Christmas parties and lunches in Herefordshire!

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