Some people will try to tell you otherwise (Christians), but we all know the true meaning of Christmas: to eat more than is sensible or healthy, and to wash all this food down with silly amounts of alcohol. Just in time for the Top Gear Christmas special – or else a game of Pictionary that drunkenness unnaturally expands into a bitter, attritional, gut-wrenching grind.
I love it. You love it. We all love it. But what the flaming hell are we all drinking?*
(Warning: some of the observations that follow are dangerously similar to the musings of a pretty shit stand-up.)
HARVEYS BRISTOL CREAM SHERRY
Sherry is a nice enough beverage, alright, but there’s no doubting its primary Christmas role: to be the first drink of the day – and to be consumed in a tiny glass tailor-made for the purpose, regularly topped up either slightly more, or slightly less, depending on the relative accuracy of mum’s estimated dinner time. It isn’t broke, so no one’s trying to fix it… least of all the elderly who like to “start small” on their own path to Noël merriment and booziness.
And sherry is also, of course, a delightfully English aperitif – an ouzo, of sorts, only for gentler folk who are terribly fond of saying “sorry,” and who don’t have hairy knuckles.
WARNINK’S ADVOCAAT WITH LEMONADE
The tyranny of cool might ludicrously lead you to think that other, lesser cocktails have something more to offer the discriminating palate – are somehow James Bond to Warnick’s oddball Mr. Bean. But the tyranny of cool is wrong, speaking frontier gibberish and howling at the moon. A Warnink’s Advocaat with lemonade is sunshine yellow, luscious, and endlessly drinkable; a gloopy Christmas treat delicious enough to keep even Santa himself from a sleigh full of toys. The ‘snowball,’ indeed, is an easy mistress and asks but one thing in return: drinking her, you absolutely must, in equal measure, both insist upon, and wildly exaggerate, the importance of adding a glacé cherry first.
Guinness is necessary to imbibe over the Christmas season because, weirdly, Advocaat is not a drink that publicans can always be relied upon to stock. Fortunately, however, it’s also incapable of ever being either an inconvenience or an imposition. It is available everywhere (in the US, in nearly as many places as Newcastle Brown Ale), and is never anything less than unimpeachably perfect.
Moreover, as an added bonus for greedy over-eaters everywhere (and this time of year, of course, that’s everyone), Guinness is further known for its subtle, ‘behind the scenes’ hardening of stools – a useful counterbalance, therefore, to the unfortunate, intermingling effects of brandy butter, Brussels sprouts, and the pub’s over-abundant supply of Twiglets and crisps.
Mulled wine has the curious distinction of being a drink that no body makes and everybody drinks. Which is even stranger still given that making it surely can’t entail more than two simple steps: (1) add potpourri to red wine, and (2) heat. Naturally, it’s stubborn old tradition, and tradition alone, that makes any of us suffer such a thing – and yet that first mulled wine sip of the year (never more than two weeks removed from Christmas Day) does somehow leave you wanting more. Albeit, only because someone insisted on drinking it outside – for “the full effect” – and it’s so freaking cold it’s the sole thing keeping your rictus grin from dying.
Just as December 25th is basically just a regular day with added gorging, tinsel, and Christ, so too is Irish coffee something old-hat with a little extra jazz. Jazz, that is, in the form of Auntie Such-and-Such’s Christmas present to world-weary dad. Usually whiskey, sure, but other things instead if need’s must, like brandy, or rum, or Bailey’s – whatever’s lying around once the coffee’s done, and is ready to be a sloshy bit of slurring in a cup otherwise half-full of pep. After all, there’s no earthly reason why staying up and sobering up need go hand-in-hand. Not with another episode of Peep Show to watch over on Dave. (And remember: the very blood of Christ Himself is booze, and booze is made for drinking.)
Does anyone drink Cinzano as the sleigh bells outside are ringing? Actually, more to the point, what exactly is Cinzano? I must admit, I’ve absolutely no idea… but isn’t it just the thing you reach for come Boxing Day when the good stuff (above) is running low or gone? You know, essentially it’s still Christmas and the woozy fug of celebrating mustn’t under any circumstances be lifted until fatty Santa has well and truly fucked off back to Lapland. And that’s about the 28th.
Anyhow, chin chin and all that. And Happy New Year too.
*And what would Jesus drink? Yep, that’s right folks – find out soon in a special, festive edition of Ask Jesus: A Very Liturgical Mailbag!