When it comes to December, there are better options out there than an egg nog latte. And, whether one’s inclination is vinous, spirited or virginal, here’s a guide to best hydration practice, and some one-off events, during this eminently thirsty time of the year.Read More
Where to Drink in London This Christmas
Hot chocolate, festive wine, imitation Bailey’s — and more
1. Cascara at Le Café Alain Ducasse
London N1C, UK
Midway along the largely anonymous, largely amorphous mass that is Coal Drops Yard, is Le Café Alain Ducasse. It’s a saving grace, and a new high for high-end coffee in London. Here filter is made behind the swooping zinc counter with all the ceremony of a martini. The coffee — between £3–£15 — is extremely fine but try the cascara (the caffeinated cherry, of the coffee bean) ground in a huge marble pestle on the counter, and served up like whisky. Best consumed with Ducasse’s single origin ganaches from next door.
2. Winemakers Deptford
Head down to Winemakers’ South London outpost in Deptford which reopened, after a pause for breath, last month. Serious wines, curios and oddities, including grower champagnes from Jérôme Lefèvre of Eliane Delalot and Oliver Horiot. Soups, broths, herrings and game birds to mop up the juices.
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3. Islay Cream at The Clove Club
White Christmasses may be thin on the ground but cream-based drinks certainly aren’t. Amid the veritable drifts of sweet, sickly and cloying, Rob Simpson’s silkily aloof Islay Cream — available at the The Clove Club Bar — looks deceptively like a glass of milk, until that peaty burn of Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte drags its drinker somewhere deep. Chase it up with the sloe gin.
4. Stonerolled Tea at Prufrock Coffee
A new kind of tea latte, developed in 2017 by Mayfair’s Postcard Teas. There are three options — green, black and oolong, all blended from teas individually roasted and then ground to a fine powder between granite stones. Finished with milk, in cortado (4oz), flat white (6oz) and latte (8oz) sizings. Green best short; oolong and black can take more milk. Aromatic, moussey and savoury — if a Brandy Alexander could be a cup of tea.
5. Ir-ish Coffee at Aside
Innovative creations from the constantly questing minds at Peckham’s Aside. Owner Rob Dunne is also director at Old Spike Roastery, so watch out for drinks with coffee as an ingredient. A vegetal Vesper made with green-coffee infused vodka; a nutmeggy, whisky-cream capped Irish coffee; an espresso martini.
6. Pump Street Bakery Hot Chocolate at Lyle's
Lyle’s is known for its extremely good take on caffeine, which becomes even better in December when Anna Higham’s pies — mince and quince — hit the bar counter. But the Pump Street hot chocolate, made with a ganache base, is less known. Take alongside a slug of bourbon, or keep it clean, before heading out into the night.
7. Mystery Malt at Cub
In among the concoctions at Cub — think tinctures of chicken feather or a beeswax Old Fashioned — there’s a December mystery malt being sold off by the £10 dram. All in aid of charity CALM, which provides support for men in mental health crisis. It’s only the most recent in a long line of powerful initiatives from this extremely conscious kitchen and the wider Mr Lyan community.
8. Mulled Cider at Marksman Public House
Spiced old fashioneds and mulled cider are bar specials this month. Hunker down in a dark corner with a couple of these and a warm suety pork pie. Pies are weekend only, and sell out by mid-afternoon, so time a beverage accordingly.
9. Newcomer Wines Christmas Party
London E8 3DE, UK
Austrian wine importer Newcomer is putting on a party at its wine bar/shop on 16 December, together with the like-minded Kiffe My Wines and Totem Wines. Salivate at walls lined with the extremely on-trend bottles of Christian Tschida, Preisinger et al., but pass on through to the garden for mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.
10. Green Mandarin Negroni at Quality Wines
Quality Wines — the wine bar arm to The Quality Chop Shop and House — is barely out of the crèche, but already serious business. From Nick Bramham’s parmesan biscuit on in, via chopped liver toasts, fish soups with a rouille, partridge and cannolo, Gus Gluck’s wines are on hand to oil proceedings. Wines are in the name but there’s also a very good negroni hiding out in the wings, making devilishly good use of preserved green mandarin.
11. Tomato Eau de Vie at Bright
Bright’s bar has recently-ish snuck in some after-dinner drinks. Laurent Cazottes’ haunting, umami, 72 Tomates is a deeply savoury eau de vie from countless tomato varieties — or indeed, 72 — steeped in brandy. Or, there’s the vertigo-inducing Empirical Spirits’ Fallen Pony blend — koji and fermented barley wash blended with distilled quince kombucha.