Christmas with Pippa: Drinks and decorations (2024)

By Pippa Middleton


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A Christmas canapé party requires suitably festive drinks, mulled wine being a classic. Turn to our centre spread for more ideas

Christmas with Pippa: Drinks and decorations (1)

Christmas with Pippa: Drinks and decorations (2)

Mulled wine
Serves 8
Peel 4 oranges and set aside the peel. Juice the oranges into a bowl, then stud the orange peel with 20 cloves. Pour 2 bottles of fruity red wine such as merlot into a saucepan with a pinch of ground ginger and 4 cinnamon sticks, then add the orange peel and orange juice. Measure out 140g (4¾ oz) of soft brown sugar and add a little at a time – the amount of sugar you need depends on how sweet you like your mulled wine, so taste as you go. Simmer gently for 10 minutes until the sugar dissolves (do
not allow to boil), and serve warm.

Made-to-measure martinis

Set up a martini bar so guests can make their own drinks. Or, for ease of entertaining, prepare the bases of a selection of martinis in jugs ahead of time (there are several recipes in my book), then just shake over ice and strain before serving.

Christmas with Pippa: Drinks and decorations (3)

♥ On a side table set out the basic ingredients: bottles of vodka, gin and dry vermouth that have been chilled in the freezer; dishes of cucumber, olives and citrus fruit for garnishes, and a small jug of chilled ‘dirty’ water (the olive brine, essential for mixing dirty martinis).
♥ Make sure you have a co*cktail shaker, strainer and stirrer, as well as plenty of ice.
♥ Chill martini glasses to give them a lovely opaque look by putting them in the freezer along with your gin and vodka.
♥ Your guests can opt for shaken, stirred, poured, clean or dirty. Typically, a classic martini should be stirred, not shaken, as the gin can ‘bruise’ and become bitter, but of course James Bond has popularised what was traditionally known as a Bradford martini.
♥ Have a menu card handy with notes on how to mix various kinds so guests can experiment (a friend might like to take charge and make them for everyone).
♥ See below right for my classic martini. Or try these favourite alternatives:

For 1, shake 40ml (1¼ fl oz) pear vodka, 60ml (2¼ fl oz) cloudy apple juice and a teaspoon of sugar syrup with ice cubes and serve in a martini glass with a squeeze of lime, garnished with a slice of pear or dried apple crisps. If you can’t get hold of pear vodka, use plain vodka and the syrup from canned pears – use the fruit for garnish. Make in a jug for larger numbers.

To serve 4, mix together in a jug 200ml (7fl oz) vodka and 160ml (5½ fl oz) passionfruit juice, together with 40ml (1¼ fl oz) pineapple juice and the juice of 1 lime. To serve, shake hard in a co*cktail shaker filed with ice cubes, strain and pour into chilled martini glasses. Serve immediately
to ensure a frothy top, and garnish with a few passionfruit seeds.

For 1, fill a co*cktail shaker with ice and pour over
40ml (1¼ fl oz) dry gin,
20ml (¾ fl oz) Cointreau,
2 teaspoons of sugar syrup, the juice of half a lemon and
1 egg white. Shake well and pour into a chilled martini glass or a champagne coupe. Garnish with lemon peel.

Drinks party dos and don’ts

Don’t be intimidated by the logistics of catering for lots of guests; with some simple tips they can be enjoyable occasions to host as well as attend

Christmas with Pippa: Drinks and decorations (4)

♥ Do set up a bar area away from the entrance to your party to encourage guests to move into the space. Make sure the bar is well stocked with a little more than you think you’ll need (many wine merchants will trade on a sale or return basis). Cover the table you’re using with a large cloth to hide supplies underneath, provide a slosh bucket for dregs and a bin-liner taped to the side of the bar for rubbish.

♥ Do offer drinks on a tray as people arrive to cut waiting time at the bar. Have a few soft drinks along with the alcoholic options, and use garnishes of different citrus fruits to differentiate between drinks.

♥ Do mark glasses for your guests at smaller gatherings, so they don’t lose track of their drink (easily done!). Buy glass tags online or make your own to fit the theme of the evening. Write guests’ names with glass paint that comes off in the dishwasher, or use pretty twine or ribbons in a rainbow of colours (at Christmas my mum has a ribbon tied to hers because she’s always losing her own glass and takes everyone else’s!).

♥ Don’t go it alone. Enlist help to make things run smoothly. Get a few friends or family members to help you greet guests and take their coats, top up and clear away glasses, hand round food, man the bar and keep the kitchen tidy.

♥ Don’t offer too wide a selection of drinks that require different sorts of glasses. For example, if you’re serving Champagne or sparkling wine in flutes, use only one other type of glass for soft drinks, wine and co*cktails.

♥ Don’t forget the ice. Properly chilled drinks make such a difference. Buy bags of ice cubes, or fill trays with water well before your party and make plenty in advance. Clear space in your fridge for wine the night before, and for large quantities of bottles use a sink filled with ice. Adding salt to ice and cold water
will lower the temperature and chill bottles more quickly.

♥ Don’t lose the corkscrew. Attach it to the bar on a string (have a few spares).

♥ Don’t underestimate how much food you’ll need. Plan quantities per person (see canapé planning, right) and stagger when and where you hand them out so you don’t run out too early or end up with lots of leftovers.

Christmas with Pippa: Drinks and decorations (5)

Glamorous glassfuls

Classic Champagne co*cktail
For each co*cktail, place one brown sugar cube in the bottom of a Champagne flute and soak it with two dashes of Angostura bitters. Add a tablespoon of brandy, top with Champagne or sparkling wine and stir to dissolve the sugar. Garnish with a knot of orange rind. To make many of these in advance, add the sugar cubes, Angostura bitters and brandy to each flute and wet with just a little Champagne. When you come to top up, this will prevent the Champagne fizzing over.

The best vodka martini
There has been so much written about this legendary co*cktail in a seemingly endless quest for the perfect mix. For gin-based versions, the classic garnish is an olive or three, or a co*cktail onion (this is called a Gibson). I prefer a vodka martini, simply garnished with lemon.
For each martini, slice pieces of rind from a lemon, around 2.5cm (1in) in length and 1cm (½ in) wide (one per drink). Fold the rind in half lengthways over a frozen martini glass to catch any escaping zest and rub the folded edge around the rim of the glass before placing it inside. Fill a co*cktail shaker with ice. Pour a capful (about a tablespoon) of vermouth into the shaker and put on the lid. Shake gently and strain away any excess vermouth so that the ice is only covered in it (there should be no liquid left in the shaker). Pour 90ml (3¼ fl oz) frozen vodka into the shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 to 20 seconds. Strain into the glass and serve immediately. Garnish with a lemon twist.

THE TRICK The lick of vermouth will take the edge off the vodka so you don’t get that horrible shudder when you sip it, but too much makes the martini sickly. Try varying the amounts of the ingredients and you’ll see what I mean. It is a glass of vodka after all, and there’s a fine line between sublime and undrinkable.

Evergreen decorations

Christmas with Pippa: Drinks and decorations (6)

Christmas wreath
A wreath can make a welcoming first impression when hung on a front door. Regularly mist with a water sprayer every few days and the wreath will last you well into the New Year. Laid flat, it also makes a good table-centre decoration.

1 Soak a ring of florist’s foam in water and attach a loop of ribbon for hanging. Gather together your foliage – rosemary, thistles, bay and sage, along with eucalyptus, spruce or ruscus, work well. Create the shape of your wreath by pushing similar lengths of foliage, as well as some thistles, into the ring until it is evenly covered.
2 Add groups of roses around the wreath, making sure they are spaced evenly so that it looks balanced.
3 Finish the wreath by adding wired bundles of cinnamon sticks and dried fruit, such as apple or orange slices, then hang on the door with a wide bow.

Christmas with Pippa: Drinks and decorations (7)

Christmas with Pippa: Drinks and decorations (8)

Christmas with Pippa: Drinks and decorations (9)

A festive berry ball
Hang your berry ball above a door or suspend it safely from a ceiling fitting. You can replace the berries with mistletoe for a romantic twist. To ensure maximum freshness, water the centre of the ball every few days over a sink or outside, keeping it damp. Allow to drip before hanging inside again. It should last a couple of weeks.
1 Wrap a ball of florist’s foam with chicken wire and secure the seams with cable ties or
wire. Soak the ball in water.
2 Using a loop of ribbon, hang the ball up to decorate. Using foliage such as mistletoe, eucalyptus or olive, mark out the top, bottom and sides to create the shape and size of your ball.
3 Fill in the rest of the shape with foliage of similar lengths until the ball is covered. Add clusters of seasonal berries to inject a bit of colour.


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