Top Bar


My unedited, uncut Femail New Year’s Eve article


FEMAIL NEW YEAR’S EVE – 30th December

It’s party time and I like to keep things very straightforward when planning New Year’s Eve – a choice of cocktails to start the evening off with and then some Champagne, one great value, but classy red wine and one crisp, but elegant white wine.  You can embellish this neat list of drinks with a few beers (bottled not canned!) and my top pick of the English ales is Shepherd Neame’s Spitfire Kentish Ale (widely available £1.49 500ml) and my favourite lager is Estrella Damm from Barcelona (widely available £1.22 330ml).

No all you need to do is make some room in your fridge for your ‘bar’, or better still buy a large plastic tub or bin from a DIY store and fill it with ice!  Hire glasses if there are loads of you – your local wine shop should be accommodating particularly if you’ve spent some money with them.  Have a great evening!


All wonderfully tasty, celebratory and classy.  Limit yourself to one or two to get the party started.


If the Martini is the Godfather of all cocktails, a Cosmopolitan must be the heir to his empire.

Preparation – You should store your vodka in the freezer along with your Martini glasses if possible – this keeps everything ice cold.

Recipe – per person

5cl good quality vodka

1cl Cointreau

2cl cranberry juice – Ocean Spray normal, not the “diet” version

A tiny drop or two of limejuice

Ice cubes

A cocktail shaker

Method – Cut a thin twist of lime zest and wipe it around the rim of the Martini glass, then, pour all of the ingredients into the shaker, shake vigorously, and strain into the glass.



Named after Count Camillo Negroni, this is the perfect aperitif cocktail as it is bitter and sweet in equal measure.  You can add soda water to the base cocktail to mellow it out and make it into a long drink, if you wish.

Preparation – You need a tumbler for the straight Negroni or a highball glass if you want to turn it into a long drink.

Recipe – per person

3cl good quality gin

3cl Martini Rosso

3cl Campari

A slice of orange

Ice cubes

Soda Water (optional)

Method – Half fill a glass with ice, pour in the ingredients and stir.  Garnish with a slice of orange and add soda for the long version.


Sloe Gin ‘n’ Tonic

There is nothing more wintry than sloe gin and whether you have made your own or have some of the Gordon’s version this is a superb tipple.  A crisp aperitif – a Sloe Gin and Tonic is a winner with all palates.  Garnish with lime, a sprig of fresh mint and square ice cubes and you are sorted.


Bloody Mary

A well-made Bloody Mary is a joy.  A “Bloody Mary mix” tomato juice with indifferent vodka is grim.  This is how to do it properly.

Preparation – You will need long (highball) glasses.  And if you prefer to assemble this cocktail by eye (and taste) for a group of drinkers, rather than for just one glass each, a large glass jug is also necessary.

Recipe – per person

5cl good quality vodka

125cl tomato juice – Libby’s is a good brand

a few drops of Worcestershire sauce

a few drops of dry sherry

½ tsp lemon juice

pinch of celery salt

pinch of black pepper

a few drops of Tabasco

celery stick (optional)

ice cubes

Method – Place all of the ingredients into a shaker and shake briskly, then strain into a glass.  If you are making a jugful, add the Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco last and adjust to taste.  These two ingredients bring out the fiery, spicy palate, so go steady and allow brave drinkers to doctor their own glasses if necessary.



There are many different versions of a Manhattan – Brandy Manhattan, Dry Manhattan, Comfortable Manhattan, Rum Manhattan, Perfect Manhattan and so on.  My one is the plain old Manhattan Manhattan, so good I named it twice.

Preparation – You will need a tumbler.

Recipe – per person

5cl Canadian Club whisky

2cl Martini Rosso

four drops of Angostura bitters

ice cubes

cherry on a cocktail stick (optional)

Method – Assemble all of the ingredients and give them a quick shake.  Pour over ice into the tumbler and decorate with the cherry.


Sparkling Wine Cocktails

These all taste great and also look fantastic and they are lighter in alcohol than the cocktails, too.  I would recommend making up a few different versions and giving your guests a ‘cocktail menu’.


The ‘Royale’ Family

Kir Royale

Recipe – Simply, sparkling white wine or Champagne and Crème de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur).  Use a very dry, neutral, but well made sparkling wine (I don’t think that Champagne really adds an awful lot of flavour to this cocktail) and the best cassis that you can find, because that’s where the impact is.  Use a Champagne glass and dribble in the cassis – a couple of teaspoons should colour and flavour the wine nicely, but some people prefer a little more.  My pick of the sparklers this year is NV Crémant de Bourgogne, Cave de Lugny, Blanc de Blancs, France £10.99, Waitrose and the best cassis comes from Dijon in France and it’s fairly widely available in delis and specialists.  As an alternative, you could make a Framboise Royale (with raspberry liqueur) or even a very modern Pomegranate Royale with pomegranate juice and drop a few fresh pomegranate seeds in each glass.  The POM brand is widely available and as we all know pomegranate juice is very good for you – this is a delicious twist on an old favourite!



Recipe – Prosecco (the sparkling white wine from the Veneto region of Northern Italy) and peach juice.  Invented in the famous by Harry’s Bar in Venice, in 1934, this is a delicious cocktail and, once again, the quality of the fruit component is crucial to the outcome.  Tesco Finest Bisol Prosecco (£9.99) is a nice wine and Sunraysia makes a nice peach purée (£2.50, widely available).  But for great results you are better off using a blender and whizzing up some really ripe peaches yourself into pulp!  Then just add the two ingredients together in a Champagne glass to your very own specifications.


Bibendum Restaurant’s Champagne Cocktail

Recipe – This is my one and only favourite recipe for this time honoured classic.  Use the Champagnes that I recommend on this page because they are great value.  Take a Champagne glass and drop a small brown sugar cube into it.  Then pour in a dribble of Cognac and a dribble of Cointreau (literally a couple of teaspoonfuls) until the cube is covered.  The cube will dissolve and then drip two drops of Angostura bitters into the glass and top it up with Champagne.  Garnish with a twist of orange zest and then run another slice of orange zest around the rim of the glass and then discard it – heaven in your glass.


Buck’s Fizz

Recipe – Easy as pie and while it is not a new cocktail, it is one of the most refreshing and because you use only a little Champagne it is economical, too.  Just pour top quality freshly squeezed orange juice into a Champagne glass and then top up with Champers.  Pour slowly to avoid it frothing over.  Half and half is about right, but guests might want to err one way or the other, so do ask.


Red Rascal

Recipe – This is a highly decadent cocktail which I discovered in Australia.  They drink ice cold sparkling red wines at Christmas because it is so hot and they decorate this delicious and unique style of fizz with raspberries or strawberries.  These cocktails look incredible and it satisfies red wine drinkers at the same time as keeping with the theme.  Buy NV Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Shiraz, Australia (£9.99, reduced to £7.49, until 3 January, Sainsbury’s) and then fridge cold berries to the glass.  Jacob’s Creek might be a massive brand, but it doesn’t half make incredible wines and this sparkler is one of their finest!


Two great value Champagnes, one Red & one White

There is no need for a long wine list at Christmas – just one superb, great value Champagne and two totally over-delivering wines – these are the best value of the year!

NV Oudinot Brut, Champagne, France (£23.00, reduced to £18.00 until 1 January, Marks & Spencer).  M&S has long championed this beautifully balanced wine.  Floral and not too rich this is the perfect all-purpose, all-palates Champagne for New Year’s Eve.

NV Waitrose Brut Non Vintage Champagne Magnum, France (£39.99, reduced to £31.99 until 3 January, Waitrose).  A richer style and in Magnum format (two bottles in one!), too, if you divide this price by two it is a stunning value Champagne!  This wine not only tastes delicious but it looks imposing, too!

2010 Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay, Cave de Lugny, Burgundy, France (£6.17, Asda).  To my mind the most beautiful style of white wine on the planet is white Burgundy.  It is nigh on impossible to find great value versions of the Charodnnay grape in its most famous region but this delightful Mâcon is sensational. With a touch of richness and honey, but no oakiness at all, this is a star.

2009 St. Hallett, Gamekeeper’s Reserve, Barossa Valley, South Australia (£9.99, reduced to £6.66, until 3 January, Waitrose).  One of the most revered names in the Aussie wine scene St. Hallett makes wondrous wines.  Gamekeeper’s is a juicy, wintry red with seriously complex briary notes with a twist of spice on the finish, too.  Not too heavy or brooding, this is the perfect wine for all manner of food and the reduced price is gob-smacking.