From health-conscious twentysomethings to old-school booze hounds, the Christmas-party drinks list can be a minefield. Here’s how to navigate it
If you want one show-off fizz to get the evening going, try English sparkling wine, which is bang on trend. It’s lighter and fresher than champagne, usually better-priced and proudly local – a factor that should particularly appeal to millennials.
Prosecco is, of course, the more obvious sparkler of choice. Cheap, fruity and frothy, it’s the drink that launched a thousand book clubs, and is especially popular with women – though blokes are increasingly happy to drink it. If you’re looking for a similarly priced alternative, cava is a decent bet and generally better-made than it used to be.
On the grapevine
Things get trickier when it comes to choosing still wines that will keep everyone happy. There’s not, after all, a lot of common ground between old-school burgundy lovers and the rosé-leaning crowd. But don’t worry: it can be done.
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With whites, steer away from anything too oaky (anathema to rosé lovers) or too light-bodied (which won’t please traditionalists). Southern Italian whites are a good option. They have enough body and fruit to work with the food (and make old-school winos happy) but they’re usually unoaked, so won’t alienate those wanting a fresher style. Grillo, from Sicily, would be my first pick.
Your classic Christmas red is either bordeaux (erratic in quality) or burgundy (soaring in price) – impractical for an office do. Fortunately, though, there’s a third ‘b’ – beaujolais – that ticks all the boxes. It’s recognisable, attractively priced, is a great match with the food and, when done well, is one of the most likeable of wine styles. If you fancy an alternative, pinot noir is a good bet. It’s grown everywhere, but my suggested supplier country would be Romania, which represents amazing value. Both beaujolais and pinot noir are on the light-bodied side, which chimes with current tastes in wine style.
Talking of fashion, so-called ‘natural wines’ (made with minimum intervention in the winery) are super trendy but a little too ‘Marmite’ for the Christmas party. Don’t be tempted.
The idea of having beer at the office do may strike some as being a bit, well, downmarket. Happily, there is a simple and voguish solution for this. Craft beer and cider are huge and you really should have a few decent bottles available. The cognoscenti will tell you that it’s all about sours, but in truth these are real ‘love ’em or hate ’em’ brews. New England IPAs are a fun, fruity, interesting style that’s going bonkers at the moment.
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As for cocktails, no venue is going to be rustling up 50 old fashioneds for a big party, and mojitos are, frankly, a bit passé. The good news is, with gin still in fashion, you can get away with a pimped-up G&T offering – a range of gins, a range of tonics, big glasses and plenty of ice will keep 99% of your guests happy.
Lead photo by Tom Medwell