The silly season is once more upon us, and aside from all the tacky things like family and love and generosity and togetherness, it is a time for indulgence in food and drink. Should you find yourself in need of some ideas, below are some of the beverages you might find me serving or enjoying, and even some pairing suggestions for how best to appreciate them.
Lager – The chameleon. Pick something with a light fruity edge along a crispy body. Fits everywhere, hard to go wrong. Pairs especially well with salt, smoke and fire, as well as fist-fighting your least favourite relations.
IPA – Go for something with enough malt to provide a strong backbone to a good, fruity hazy or bitter, dank hop profile. Pairs especially well with long overdue catch-ups
Belgians – complex and diverse, there are a lot of different beer styles to cover here. Spice and dark fruits either dried or fresh, toffee and caramel or, conversely, intense sourness. Pairs well with a bit of beer wankery, if you have a penchant for havering with a friend who also likes to flex their beer knowledge a little.
Whisky – dealer’s choice for if you prefer the smoky, sweet or grainy, single malt or blend, Scotch or whiskey. Best served after dinner, pairs well with the hours after midnight and D&M’s.
Another whisky – best served directly after the first. Pairs well with a hangover-based future regret
Sessionable pale ale – not too rich or intense, a good all-rounder be it backyard BBQ, formal meal at the table, casual friend catchups or work functions. Goes especially well with the marathon, not the horse-race that is the holiday season
Shots – again, dealer’s choice for whatever tickles the nostalgic reflex; whisky, tequila, vodka, Jaeger. Pairs swimmingly with a desperate, white-knuckled grip on one’s youth and the reluctance to ease that grip; also hangover-based future regret
Champagne – Bubbles: the other chameleon. Fits everywhere – before, during or after the meal. Pairs well with seafood, canapes, dumplings, unexpected sunstroke.
Sundry liqueurs* – Baileys, port, sherry, Frangelico on ice with lime, whatever floats your boat. Best served after the meal and the adjournment to the other room, pairs well with seldom seen elderly relatives, and belated quality time. Note – sweet but potent liqueurs present several pitfalls to try and avoid. They may spoil or curdle in the bottle if left on the shelf for too long, they may sour, or in some cases even crystallise into something akin to drinking a mouthful of bittersweet, crushed glass. They may also be responsible for said elderly relative casually and unflinchingly taking you with them on a harrowing journey through the heart of darkness as they reminisce about the world of their youth, a world which you can’t possibly imagine or relate to and one of which you never knew the details, or maybe only heard darkly and fearfully hinted at. Also pairs well with a little leftover ham or slices of cold, salty roast pork
*Including digestives and fortifieds
Cocktails – delicious if you’re out at a bar in the leadup to or aftermath of the holidays. Bitter, dry or fruity, cocktails pair very well with most salty snacks as well as the shocking revelation that you just paid thirty dollars for this
All the miscellany of beers in your fridge – a depth best plumbed, explored and depleted in the fugue days between Christmas and New Years
Novelty seasonal ales – you know the ones; Christmas cake flavoured ambers, plum pudding stouts or leftover pumpkin ales from Halloween and the like. The good ones are best served between the main meal and just before the dessert, pairing well with traditional Christmas sweets. The bad ones pair magnificently with fleeting excitement and lingering disappointment and are best served after all the other booze is gone.
Mulled Wine – glüg, glühwein, vin chaud, whatever you want to call it, it comes hot and spiced, perfect for Christmas time. Best served at a Christmas market in a different hemisphere, where it snows occasionally. Pairs well with robust and salty European morsels.
G&T – the cleanser. Best served on a scorching hot day to replace vital fluids, or after the hops have built up and the tongue needs a scraping. Liquid refreshment, and an oasis of civilisation in the chaos and barbarism of a busy family Christmas. Pairs with cucumber, citrus, herbs and the longest, hottest part of the afternoon, as well as tiny delicate sandwiches. See also: Pimms.
Sauternes – any dessert wine, really. Specifically paired with fois gras, and other rich, fatty and overly indulgent foods that one in western Europe may associate with Noël or Yuletime. Also pairs well with the fleeting concern that any minor twinge in your foot may be gout from hedonistic excess and over-consumption.
Hot chocolate – the very heart of Christmas: when it’s cold. Not usually the case here. Best served with marshmallows and a spike of booze, ideally over ice, as the evening winds down.
If you would like some genuine advice for what to serve, when and how, below is a link for a much more ably prepared piece for serving beer at Christmas time. It had initially been my intent to write something like this with some genuine advice, but then I realised I probably wouldn’t be adding much to the narrative that hadn’t already been covered. Interesting to note how much the world of beer has changed in even the past 8 years or so, though the styles and breweries mentioned herein are pretty timeless.