Cold weather, long nights and big tips – the festive season can be a mixture of highs and lows, but it can also be an opportunity to have fun with flavours! Simon Aukett shares great tips for creating easy festive flavours this busy season.

NAUGHTY OR SPICE?

This season brings an opportunity to play around with some unique flavours that are tailored to the colder weather or sentiments of the season (warm and fuzzy, if you hadn’t noticed). It’s a fun challenge that rolls around every year. ‘How do I get more creative with hot buttered rum?’ typically enters my mind around August or September.

For me, some of the key flavours that fill the ‘festive’ category are warming and soothing, or what we tend to call ‘winter spices’ or ‘mulling spices’. There are a few easy ways to implement these flavours to existing recipes, so you can easily turn a classic or local favourite into a seasonal sipper.

WHO MADE THE LIST?

So, let’s consider these ‘winter spices’ and how we can use them in our drinks…

This loose term refers to a group of central characters: cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice (pimento), star anise and cloves. Today, all these components are easily found in the dried herbs and spices sections in most supermarkets. Warming, gentle spices punctuated with sweet notes (from the star anise and cinnamon) is what you’re looking to capture and translate to the flavour profile of your drinks.

TINGLE ALL THE WAY

Now we’ve got the what and the why, it’s time for the how. I’m going to outline two approaches to using these spices and the first (and easiest) method is simply mulling the spices.

Mulled wine is very popular in Europe around the holidays and a comforting, easy-to-make mix option for the colder months. To make this delicious concoction, it’s as easy as adding your assortment of spices to a pot with some red wine and sugar and heating them up. I’ll usually include a few orange slices to add some depth and flavour, and some rum for a little extra warmth. It’s a really cheap win, too. You don’t need fancy wine because all the flavour and character is coming from the spices, the wine is just the vehicle to get it there. Put this on a festive menu and your bar team (and bottom line) will love you for it – it’s so easy to batch at volume and store.

If this doesn’t float your boat, then you can easily incorporate these winter flavours in drinks via a simple syrup. In a similar process to mulling, take your spices and add to water and sugar in a pot, bringing it to a simmer. After a few minutes, the heat will have extracted the flavours. Let this cool and you have a delectable ‘winter spice syrup’ to add some festive flavour and complexity to any of your drinks.

COCKTAILS

Mulled Wine

RECIPE

Alcohol content: 118.50g per batched amount

METHOD

Winter Old-Fashioned

A festive twist on a classic, Johnnie Walker Black Label’s smoky backbone and creamy vanilla notes are heightened and enhanced by the warming character of the winter spice syrup, creating a winter edition of a crowd favourite.

Garnished with the expected orange twist but adding a star anise to pull through those spicier aromatics and add further festive layers.

RECIPE

Alcohol content: 15.8g per serve

METHOD

Winter Spice Syrup

RECIPE

METHOD

IN A NUT[MEG] SHELL

The festive season is a time of celebration and merriment during typically colder, darker nights. Guests are looking for a way to embrace one and escape the other. By using this blend of winter spices with other cues, we can entice nostalgic memories of festive seasons past and create an experience that satisfies these desires in our guests.

Through preparation and batching in larger volumes we can reduce the amount of stress on the bar team when those large parties start rolling in. Offering groups a shareable welcoming drink buys staff both time and kudos – test out mulled wine or similar cocktails in tea pots or bowls and provide to groups upon entry.

By combining these flavours into a wine or syrup it offers the bar team, and therefore the guests, an opportunity to explore new taste combinations easily without needing to prepare many different ingredients.

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