Kirsty McLuckie conjures up the Christmas spirit with tasty concoctions
Cocktails come and go, but in the last few years there has been a emergence of gin as one of the most popular drinks, whether it is served simply, or as a base for a more imaginative concoction.
Scottish gins are at the very forefront of the revival with small-batch distillers across the country producing high-quality products, each unique in their range of ingredients.
Inspiration for flavourings come from the local area, and gin tasting is beginning to take on the sophistication and variety of the other celebrated Scottish spirit.
Even the classic gin and tonic has been elevated with the introduction of flavoured gins and artisan mixers. New garnishes of cucumber, rhubarb or even kaffir lime leaves, are recommended to complement the flavours present in the spirit.
While other drinks may have more of a wintery image – think a revivingly warm brandy or a dram by the fireside – gin mixes with spice particularly well and is an excellent starting point for festive cocktails.
For a real Christmassy twist, you can make your own mulled gin, full of the flavours of the season and in time for the big day.
In a preserving jar, add sugar, cloves, a cinnamon stick, allspice and orange rind to a 70cl bottle of gin and set aside. Stir every day and in two weeks it will be a glorious bronze colour and ready to sieve, bottle and sample.
Then serve at your leisure with a simple tonic to appreciate the evocative seasonal flavours.
Some Scottish gins have an intense zesty flavour, which can team very well with the citrus and dark fruits at the festive time of year.
For a bramble cocktail, mix gin with lemon and orange juice plus elderflower cordial and pour over crushed ice before topping with crème de mûre – a blackberry liqueur.
Garnishes of a sprig of rosemary and an orange slice make this a sophisticated pre-dinner festive drink.
For a Christmas Day aperitif, gin pairs well with cranberries and adding a warming spice such as ginger will turn it from a summer drink to a winter one.
For a festive cranberry crush, simmer whole berries with sugar, a cinnamon stick and a little water until they pop and release their juice.
Strain and chill and when cool, muddle the syrup with some fresh ginger before adding the gin and a squeeze of lime juice.
Double strain and serve over ice, perhaps with a little tonic or soda, depending on how you like it.