CHRISTMAS is just 16 days away. I thought I would drop that into the conversation early on just in case the fact that we are now nearly half-way through the ‘silly season’ as the lead up to Christmas has euphemistically become known, has somehow managed to bypass you.
If it has, I offer my hearty congratulations. But where have you been hiding since September? Wherever it is, I want to go.
December is the busiest time of the year for most restaurants, and we are no exception here at Food Social.
Our festive lunch and a la carte menus are proving very popular, featuring as they do a plethora of locally sourced seasonal dishes, not all of them paying homage to turkey.
There’s a healthy smattering of fish as well as game birds, some Asian-inspired offerings featuring one of the season’s most prevalent spices, ginger, as well as homemade and hand-rolled pasta.
Also going down a treat among our diners is our extensive selection of cocktails. Over the years we have found that cocktails are becoming increasingly popular.
We have also found that getting a good one is rare. We have stuck to the basics, studied old recipes and decided that they taste better when made the way they are supposed to be.
One of our most popular is the cheekily named Fog on the Thyme, a Food Social original, made with Northumberland produced Jack Cain’s gin, fresh thyme, angostura bitters and Fentimans lemonade.
It’s lighter on the alcohol than many other cocktails (our Long Island Iced Tea contains five hefty measures of different spirits), but over indulge and it could still leave you feeling a little worse for wear the following morning.
This set me thinking about non-alcoholic, healthier cocktails. The run-in to Christmas is a long haul, especially if you are out partying nearly every day, and there is only so much wine and other liquor a person can drink before they begin to feel frayed around the edges.
Then, of course, there is the matter of drink-driving (or not as the case may be).
While everyone else is getting merry someone has to keep a clear head. And sparkling water, fizzy pop and fruit juice can quickly lose their appeal.
But there is something undeniably fun, sexy and sassy about a cocktail – even a healthy non-alcoholic one packed with fruit and spices.
They make us feel shaken but not stirred like Sean Connery as James Bond (the epitome of suave coolness) or liberated and sophisticated like the girls from Sex and the City.
A non-alcoholic cocktail means you can still look the part, but craftily beat the morning-after pain of a hangover. They are also a good source of vital immune boosting vitamins and taste good too, so you can carrying on sparkling throughout the festive period without feeling you really have burned the candle at both ends.
We’ve come up with a selection of refreshing, feisty and vigorous alcoholic free cocktails this season.
They’re not on the official cocktail menu, but just ask and we will do our best to make you happy.
Of course, if you would like a pint of the aptly named Brain Haemorrhage Cocktail with peach schnapps, grenadine and Irish cream it will definitely be a case of buy now, pay later.
David Kennedy is chef-proprietor of David Kennedy’s Food Social @ The Biscuit Factory, 16 Stoddart Street, Shieldfield, Newcastle, NE2 1AN, (0191) 260 5411, www.foodsocial.co.uk. Open 12pm-2pm and 5.30pm-10pm Monday-Saturday and 12pm-3pm Sunday.
EASY EGG NOG
Everyone loves egg nog and this is a nice cocktail but non-alcoholic tipple to round off an evening in pleasant company.
2 eggs, beaten
40g caster sugar
555ml semi-skimmed milk
5ml vanilla extract
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
Blend together the eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, nutmeg and the cinnamon stick.
Warm on a low heat, remove the cinnamon stick and serve with toasted marshmallows on the side.
PASSION FRUIT SURPRISE
We use a lot of Fentimans botanically brewed beverages in our cocktails here are Food Social.
The lemonade is especially nice with its blend of lemons, ginger root extract (very seasonal), speedwell and juniper extracts.
The passion fruit and blood orange gives this drink a festive red hue and with that bit of fizz from the lemonade is a refreshing thirst quencher.
Passion fruit and orange puree are readily available from the major supermarkets.
50ml passion fruit puree
50ml blood orange puree
25ml cranberry juice
Juice from two wedges of fresh lime
Juice from a wedge of fresh orange
Dash of Fentimans botanically brewed Victorian Lemonade
Place the fruit purees and cranberry juice into a cocktail shaker or blender.
Squeeze in the juice from the fresh lime and orange. Shake or blend well together.
Just before serving add a dash of the Victorian lemonade for a botanical infused fizz.
Pour into a cocktail glass. Cheers!