Whether you're gearing up for an awkward office party or getting cosy with loved ones, Christmas won't be quite so jolly without a festive tipple
From celebratory dinners to swinging office gigs, good drinks are as much a Christmas necessity as a succulent turkey and scrumptious mince pies. And with Hong Kong's increasingly sophisticated bar scene going from strength to strength - Central's The Old Man is currently ranked Asia's best bar - there's a wealth of alluring options to choose from.
Out and about
If your festivities are taking you out on the town, start by the harbour at the InterContinental Hong Kong. "Christmas is my favourite time of the year. It's amazing," enthuses InterCon's resident mixologist Sabrina Cantini-Budden, who has designed an entire miniature menu especially for the season.
Anyone with a sweet tooth will delight in the sugar cane rush, an irresistible mix of cognac with cherry and mint liqueurs. If your preferences are for something more comforting during the winter months, order the lobby lounge Christmas delight. Available hot, neat or on the rocks depending on your taste, this combines cinnamon-infused Irish whiskey, ground coffee, condensed milk, cream, and vanilla and almond essence.
Does your morning pumpkin spice latte lack oomph? Stockton's Suraj Gurung, Maximal Concept's group mixologist, has spiked the contemporary winter classic. At the Wyndham Street speakeasy he is serving a pumpkin spice espresso martini made with organic spiced vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur, chocolate bitters and a home-made pumpkin spiced syrup.
"All the ingredients will warm you, and the scents lend a Christmassy vibe to the place," Gurung informs us. "At the same time, the espresso will help keep you awake so that you can keep on partying."
Maintaining the trend for warming winter tipples, M Bar at the Mandarin Oriental has added a special hot buttered rum cocktail to the menu. This combines hot buttered rum batter with Plantation Original Dark rum, distilled water and chocolate bitters garnished with baked almond and cinnamon powder. "It's very rich in texture, has an element of warm spices for your palate, and can be enjoyed at any time of the day during the holidays," says Slamet Haryadi, mixologist at M Bar.
Instead of a dedicated Christmas menu, Dining Concepts is offering customers bespoke cocktails this season. "Actually, I don't like hot drinks," laughs Alberto Aldave, the group's drink manager. "I prefer to listen to the customers and create something according to their profile."
Aldave has a range of tricks up his sleeve, ready for all customers. His suggestions include swapping whiskey for brandy in a warming Irish coffee, or exchanging the sugar cube in an old fashioned for a home-made syrup made with cinnamon for a festive kick.
Impressing guests at home
For those who prefer to celebrate at home, there are plenty of possibilities. For beer lovers, Christopher Wong, co-founder of HK Brewcraft and manager of Hitachino HK Brewery, recommends seasonal offerings from a couple of exceptional Danish breweries. First, from To Øl, a gypsy brewery that operates out of breweries with spare capacity, its 1 Ton Of … Christmas sour-fruit ale. "This is a Berliner Weisse packed with no less than 1,000kg of cherries, redcurrants and prunes," says Wong. "It's tart and fruity enough to get your palates ready for a huge Christmas meal."
And for dessert? Wong suggests Ris a la M'ale, a hearty fruit beer by Mikkeller, a microbrewery based in Copenhagen. Inspired by a traditional Danish dessert of the same name, Wong describes this as "tart, fruity and sweet. It's essentially a Christmas dessert in liquid form".
Sai Kung liquor store The Bottle Shop has plenty of options for anyone in need of something stronger. Co-founder Danny Wong suggests Forest Distillery's Earl Grey Forest Gin - a handcrafted product created with botanicals picked from a local forest in England - for a "guaranteed conversation starter" when the bottle is brought out.
Whisky lovers, get your hands on Compass Box's award-winning The Spice Tree. "A sipping drink for friends after dinner," says Wong, "this whisky should put a smile on everyone's face with its classic malt Scotch character, warmth of spices, sweetness of vanilla, and fullness on the palate".
No festive season is complete without some good bubbly. Fortunately, Veuve Clicquot has prepared its La Grande Dame 2008 just in time for Santa's visit. This year's bottling has the highest percentage - 92 per cent - of pinot noir ever used in the company's history. It presents notes of dried fruits, ripe white fruits, and subtle toasted notes of hazelnut and praline.
If you're after something a little more inventive from your bubbly, Wong recommends Arteis & Co's Brut Rose 2007 champagne which is - you've guessed it - a rose-champagne fusion. "This elegant champagne rose exhibits blood orange and red fruit notes like strawberry and raspberry coulis," he tells us. "Exactly what Christmas calls for!"
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