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10 Christmas ideas (Pt 1): Food and drink

The media used to be in the habit of quoting how many shopping days it would be until Christmas. Perhaps in these Covid-ridden times it might be more accurate the add the word, online.

But it matters little whether you plan to shop in person or digitally, the fact remains that there is little more than a month to go to get your Christmas plans in order and, sadly, as I write, the planning will be a whole lot more difficult. We’re in the middle of a second lockdown and there are no guarantees that the restrictions will be lifted (although I will be amazed if they are not). So, do you get in the Advocaat so you can make Aunt May her favourite Snowballs? Or the pigs in blankets for dad? Maybe it would be safest just to think about yourself.

Here, in no set order, we make 10 recommendations of the food and drink you might want to consider to add to your Christmas cheer.

1 City of London Distillery gin bundle

A personal recommendation this. Earlier in the year for Father’s Day my youngest son took me on a City of London Distillery tour in Bride Lane just off my old Fleet Street stomping ground (I think they can be booked on Virgin Experiences). I ended up coming away with a couple of bottles and very good they were. Anyhow, there is an offer currently available through The Drop Store. For 20 quid you can get a standard 70cl bottle of gin (choice of eight); plus a pack of eight Fever Tree mixers; plus a branded bowl glass. The gins alone are £27. This offer represents a saving £18.50. A great gift or keep it for yourself. I plan to do the latter. I have two lots arriving today. The only doubt is whether I will get to Christmas before breaking them open.

2 Enjoy a Slosh of Cheddar Port

For decades, Brits have had the tradition of drinking port, the fortified, sweet wine after lunch on Christmas Day. Enjoying slices of cheese with it has also become a tradition, and so, The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company has now introduced ‘Cheddar with a Good Slosh of Port’, as a fantastic addition and boost to your Christmas Day. The cheese (costs £5.35 for a 190g portion) and is made from the company’s award-winning traditional cheddar, which is the only cheddar cheese made in the village of Cheddar, Somerset. Unlike most ‘flavoured’ cheddars, this claims to be unique, as it’s made by steeping the young curd in good quality ruby port, then the large cylindrical truckle moulds are filled, pressed and left to mature. The taste is gently sweet with a pleasant aftertaste of port. The subtle, marbled appearance is also beautiful, complimenting the Christmas cheese board, or you might want to pop it into a cheese lover’s stocking.

3 SaucyBitch hot sauce

SaucyBitch Hot Sauces are the perfect way to spice up this Christmas.   At only £5.99 per bottle and £17 for a Festive Selection Pack this is the perfect Christmas gift for anyone who likes to spice up their turkey.  These artisan vegan sauces are stocked in the Luxury Brand LVMH store Le Grande Epicerie de Paris and also in  America’s premium luxury department store Neiman Marcus in 46 cities from New York to Beverly Hills, making them the ultimate Hot Sauce treat for any discerning Christmas Condiment Connoisseur.  The eye-catching French Bulldog labels are the coolest addition to any kitchen cabinet and come in an array of collectible colours.

Available in five flavours:

Hot Stuff – a ballsy take on a classic hot sauce. It is packed with premium red jalapenos, habaneros, birds eye and romano chillies, then rounded off with a generous hit of garlic. It has a medium spicy heat so it appeals to all lovers of hot sauce.

Smokin’ Hot – a rich, lavish London take on one of the UK’s favourite sauce flavours – chipotle. Rich and intense it blends chipotle with molasses and liquid smoke imported straight from Tennessee’s finest barbecues to give it that authentic smoky taste. This is the ultimate sauce for any chipotle lover and is perfect for all occasions.

Sweet Heat – a luxurious version of the classic Thai Hot Sauce – Sriracha.  This fiery version is packed with garlic and an intense chilli sweetness to give it a sizzling kick.  Fermented chillies are used, making it suitable for vegans. This is the perfect Hot Sauce for noodles, kebabs or using as a dipping sauce.

Triple XXX – a seriously hot sauce for those who think that hotter equals better. There is a higher concentration of fermented Hot Habanero and Scotch Bonnet chillis to give this more bang for your buck.  This extra hot sauce was created for our customers who like their sauces HOT but still want to be able to use it on their favourite foods rather than use it to remove paint.  Perfect with pizza, stir fries and meat dishes.

Mellow Yellow – a fruity yellow hot sauce that is perfect for lovers of sweet chilli who prefer it mild.  The heat comes from the renowned Fatalii Chilli while the sweet comes from a mix of succulent pineapple and sweet juicy mango all finished off with a citrusy twist of lemon.  This sweet and fruity sauce gives a milder lingering warmth and is perfect with fish dishes, stir fries, chicken and everything else.  A must-have for any kitchen.

4 Hiver Beer

This Christmas, the company behind the UK’s first all-natural, all-British honey beer has two fantastic gifts to entice beer (and bee) enthusiasts. Hiver Beer was born out of one woman’s lifelong passion for beekeeping, sustainable produce and craft beer. For the ultimate Christmas present, Hiver is offering vouchers for an Urban Beekeeping and Honey Craft Beer Tasting (RRP £43.50) in the heart of London. Guests will discover the secrets of urban beekeeping and enjoy a tutored honey beer and food matching session with the experts from Hiver. 

Tour visitors will gain an understanding of the importance of British bees and why Hiver’s founder, Hannah Rhodes, wanted to create a brand that supported them, and the people dedicated to caring for them.

Perfect to sit beneath the tree – or to sip and enjoy during the festivities – The Hiver Craft Beer Selection Gift Box (£12.00) gives people a chance to enjoy a new taste – one that’s both sustainable and entirely unique! Each gift pack comes with recipes, bee facts and festive food matches, making it perfect for beer and bee lovers, as well as foodies! Delivered in a stylish recyclable gift box, this is the ultimate introduction to an exciting, all-British beer. 

The set contains three diverse, fresh and entirely natural beers from this award-winning company: Hiver Honey Blonde (4.5%), Hiver Amber Beer (4.5%), and Hiver Session IPA (4.9%). Sure to satisfy, each one offers different notes and flavours for different festive occasions. 

Amber Beer works fantastically with Christmas pudding, bringing out the raisin quality in this easy-drinking and honeyed ale, the Session IPA is perfect with honeyed carrots and parsnips, as well as the spice and pepper of root vegetables, which hold up nicely against the hoppy digestive biscuit character of this all-English IPA. For the main event, Hiver’s Honey Blonde is the ideal choice to enjoy alongside your Christmas dinner. This refreshing flagship blonde works beautifully against the light gamey notes of turkey, as well as the saltiness of pork chipolatas!

Each Hiver Beer is brewed with the finest British honey from urban and rural beehives, resulting in an incredibly fresh, smooth and easy drinking experience. Kent Apple Blossom, Kennington Urban and Yorkshire Heather honeys are added during the fermentation and conditioning processes. Since the honey is brewed in, rather than added later on, it brings a refreshing note, rather than an overpowering sweetness. The beer is ‘fresh’ and unpasteurised, which enables the subtle, raw honey flavours to shine through with each sip.

With its 4.5% ABV, Hiver is perfect for all festive celebrations. Flavour-wise, this medium-bodied beer features a low bitterness, while the honey adds a creamy mouthfeel to create a moreish, clean and refreshing finish. A hint of citrus brings depth and balance to the nose, without overpowering the delicate honey esters. The beer went on sale earlier in the year at Waitrose stores.

5 Aldi’s 30-month-old Christmas Pudding

 Christmas Puddings are an essential for the dinner table come the big day. Aldi has just released a lavish new Specially Selected 30-month-old Christmas Pudding (£9.99), serving eight people for less than £10. So, shoppers can pull out all the stops this festive season, without breaking the bank. This classic pudding is packed full of luxurious ingredients: Turkish sultanas, finest Greek Vostizza currants (so good they have an appellation-like wine), juicy plums, tart cranberries and brandy-soaked cherries. Not to mention the generous helping of rum, brandy, port and aged Armagnac!

However, it doesn’t stop there! The most important ingredient is time – 30 months to be precise. Made by the oldest pudding maker in the world, the pudding slowly matures and mellows giving incredible depth of flavour and complexity. No wonder it’s been commended in the Christmas Quality Food Awards 2020! Available in store now for just £9.99.

6 Emissary Prosecco

A clear favourite among Brits during the festive season, the UK remains the largest consumer of prosecco outside of Italy – and this year the progressive British prosecco brand, The Emissary, has launched a product made for celebrating. Unveiled in July, The Emissary Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut is a gift for discerning wine lovers and a sophisticated Christmas table addition – rich and complex with extra fine, velvety bubbles, it is made from only the finest selection of grapes grown on The Emissary’s family-run vineyard in Italy’s ‘DOCG Asolo’ region (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin).

Founded by London-based Ed Smith to introduce a distinguished, superior quality prosecco to a new generation of UK wine drinkers, The Emissary Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut is the second product to join the premium portfolio of 100% vegan and environmentally-friendly prosecco. The debut product, The Emissary Prosecco DOC Treviso Spumante Extra-Brut launched in 2018, and a rosé product, The Emissary Prosecco DOC Rosé Treviso Millesimato 2020 will be launching in January 2021.

All Emissary Prosecco is low in sugar, fresher and more versatile than most other sparkling wines, providing instant elevation to Christmas brunches, creative cocktails and well-balanced festive menus, without being overpowering. As a contemporary brand designed with social occasions in mind, The Emissary comes in a heavy black glass bottle with statement branding, making it a distinctive and timeless gift for those who like to celebrate in style.

Both of The Emissary proseccos make for a delicate and light aperitif or after dinner drink, and can be enjoyed throughout the Christmas feast as a complement to canapes, cheese courses, fish dishes and turkey.

Cocktail Suggestion: The Emissary Winter Fizz

Place 20g of pomegranate seeds into a jug. Pour in 75ml of gin and add the zest of half an orange. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight for the flavours to infuse. When ready to serve the cocktails, pour a bottle of The Emissary Prosecco DOCG between six glasses and then split the infused gin between them. Garnish with peeled orange skin and enjoy.

7 Bird & Blend festivi-teas

It’s time for the festivi-teas to begin! Bird & Blend the UK indie tea company is on a mission to spread happiness and reimagine tea this festive season with its 2020 Christmas range. From Tea Advent Calendars, Christmas Movie Snacks, Tea Gift Boxes to Hampers and even Doggy Advent Calendars, the British tea brand known for creating delicious and creative blends has the perfect Christmas gift for the tea lover in your life! Here are its offerings. All are available to buy in Bird & Blend stores and online at

Bird & Blend – Tea Advent Calendars:

Bird & Blend’s Tea Advent Calendar is filled to the brim with limited edition Christmas teas, boasting wonderfully festive flavours including; Gingerbread Chai, Eggnog Rooibos and Peppermint Cream Oolong. RRP: £36

12 Days of Matcha

Enjoy a new matcha flavour each day with Bird & Blend’s brand new compact countdown calendar, featuring 12 days of energy-boosting matcha tea. Flavours include Mulled Wine, Mint Humbug and Nordic Berry.RRP: £30

Bird & Blend – Christmas Gift Boxes:

Tea & Chocolate Gift Box

These full-sized tea-infused Only Coco bars were launched in March 2020 and are now part of a brand new gift box!

Christmas Pudding Gift Box: 

A combo of two9 classic festive blends and brand new Panettone! Special edition tea blends flavoured like your favourite Xmas treats including: 20g x Christmas Cake, Mince Pie and Panettone. RRP: £13.00

Bird & Blend – Christmas Movie Themed Snacks:

Popping Xmas Movie Night

Enjoy Christmas movie night fun with two mouth watering popcorn flavoured tea blends! x10 Butter Toffee tea bags & 10 x Sweet ‘n’ Salty tea bags! RRP: £12.50

Xmas Movie Night – Snack Edition 

Your favourite movie snacks as limited edition tea flavours! 20g x Butter Toffee, Cherry Cola Festive Fizz, Poppin’ Xmas – Sweet & Salty, Movie Rebels, Mr Frosty. RRP: £19.50

Bird & Blend – Christmas Hampers:

Tea & Chocolate Lovers Hamper

It’s a dream come true for tea and chocolate lovers! Wicker hamper filled with 1 x Earl Grey Creme, Dark Chilli Chai and 1 x Mulled Cider 50g Loose Leaf Tea, Earl Grey Creme, Dark Chilli Chai and Mulled Cider 100g Chocolate Bars, 1 x pack of tea sacks and a perfect tea spoon. RRP: £35.00

Gifts for your pet

Doggy Advent Calendar 

Brand new for 2020, this is the perfect Christmas countdown for both you and your doggo! The Doggy Advent Calendar features 12 dog treats and 12 festive single serves of tea for the owner. RRP: £25

8 Divine Chocolates

Here are Fairtrade Divine Chocolate’s new Christmas launches. From iconic advent calendars to irresistibly luxurious, barista-style salted caramel hot chocolate – Divine’s new range has something for everyone. The great thing about choosing Divine this Christmas is you know it is a company that uses business as a force for good. Being one of the highest rated B Corps in the UK – you can be safe in the knowledge that Divine does everything in its power to ensure they have a positive impact on the environment, farmers, communities and employees. 

So when you choose Divine Chocolate this Christmas, you aren’t just choosing mouth-wateringly good chocolate, you are also choosing to make a difference around the world. A cocoa co-operative of family farmers in Ghana owns a stake in Divine, which means the farmers receive a share of the profits they help to create, giving them more to invest in their families, farms, and communities. So have a guilt-free Christmas this year and enjoy some delicious Divine choc knowing the wealth of the nation’s favourite treat is being shared appropriately.

NEW Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate (RRP: £4). Available: Divine online, Oxfam, Wholefoods 

Did someone say barista-style Salted Caramel Hot chocolate? Both thick and irresistibly luxurious, Divine’s salted caramel hot chocolate joins the equally delicious winter spiced hot chocolate already included in their range. Just add milk or your favourite milk alternative to create the perfect cup of cosy goodness. Vegan friendly, this new launch is swirling with creamy caramel and sprinkled with a touch of delicious sea salt. 

Limited Edition Winter Spiced Hot Chocolate (RRP £5). Available: at Oxfam & Wholefoods and Amazon.

Included in the tantalising tasty festive line-up is their vegan winter warming spiced hot chocolate. This hot chocolate is a wonderful blend of ginger and cinnamon and will make you feel like you’re sitting in front of a cosy fireplace. Add a couple of spoonful’s into milk or your favourite milk alternative for a creamy cup of goodness.

NEW Divine Bauble (RRP £6.50). Available: Booths & Wholefoods

Next on the festive list we have Divine’s Milk Chocolate Pretzel Bites presented in a gorgeous reusable and recyclable Christmas tin bauble. The perfect gift, these are deliciously crispy pretzel bites smothered in silky smooth milk chocolate. Pop one in your mouth and you’ll be reaching for more!

Divine Advent Calendars 

Nothing says Christmas quite like a Fairtrade Divine Chocolate advent calendar. Whether you open it first thing in the morning, have it as a lunchtime treat or enjoy it after dinner – it makes the Christmas countdown even more exciting. The theme of this year’s advent calendars is ‘sustainability’ – so you don’t just get a delicious chocolate each day, you also get to learn about sustainable cocoa farming. Choose between Divine’s dark vegan or smooth milk.

Luxury Vegan Advent (RRP: £5). Available Ocado, Oxfam, Traidcraft, Waitrose and Wholefoods 

Divine’s smooth dark chocolate calendar brings a touch of class to the proceedings, thanks to its elegant design and the irresistibly delicious 70% dark chocolate hearts it has hiding behind each door. Designed by the illustrator & author, Stephen Waterhouse, each window gives you an interesting animal fact – so you don’t just get a chocolate treat you also get an interesting fact to boast to your friends & family.

Milk Chocolate Advent (RRP £5). Available: Booths, Libertys, Ocado, Oxfam, Traidcraft and Wholefoods 

Also designed by the illustrator and author, Stephen Waterhouse, Divine Chocolate’s Fairtrade milk chocolate advent calendar will have both adults and children eager to count down the days until Christmas day. Behind each window reveals how to say ‘merry Christmas’ in different languages, and of course includes a mouth wateringly delicious milk chocolate treat.

Milk or Dark Chocolate Coins (RRP £2.20). Available at Oxfam and Amazon

A Christmas stocking isn’t complete without Divine’s signature shiny coins. Choose between their irresistibly smooth milk chocolate coins or their vegan friendly, dark chocolate coins wrapped in seasonal red and green foils. As with all of Divine’s range – the chocolate is Fairtrade and tastes seriously good!

Giant Milk Chocolate Coin (RRP £2.20). Available at Waterstones & Oxfam and Amazon

This smooth milk chocolate coin will make a giant treat for children and adults alike. Made with cocoa grown by Kuapa Kokoo farmers in Ghana, the coin is a reminder that Divine champions a fair deal for farmers.

NEW Limited Edition Flavour Sharing Bars (RRP £2.29). Available at Oxfam, Amazon, wholesalers and independent stores.

And finally, Divine welcomes back its much-loved limited-edition bars. Choose between smooth milk chocolate with Winter Spice or the vegan friendly deliciously tangy clementine – these bars are bound to get you in the Christmas spirit.

9 Yeo Valley Half Fat Crème Fraiche with Salted Caramel or Vanilla

Launching ahead of Christmas, Sweet Crème Fraiche in Salted Caramel and Vanilla flavours aims to inspire people to create delicious desserts with little effort. As a healthy alternative to using double cream with only 15% fat compared with 50% and made with British organic milk, it’s the perfect way to add extra indulgence to desserts or home baking. Cooking from scratch and baking have remarkably increased this year due to people spending more time at home and there’s demand for more convenient products. Simply add a dollop to puddings for that finishing touch. The Crème Fraiche varieties are priced at £1.40 [on promotion for £1 in Sainsbury’s from December 9-29]. They go on sale from November 21.

10 Snow Globe Gins

We started on gin and we will finish the same way. Snow Globe Gin has put together some festive cocktails using its orange and gingerbread gin liqueur – perfect for the run up to Christmas. Snow Globe is stocked at Harvey Nichols, selected Fenwick stores and Costco. Presented in an exquisite Italian-made Snow Globe Bottle, the product contains edible 23kt gold leaf and a lamp on the base for illumination. For an extra wow factor, simply give the globe a gentle shake and turn on the lamp switch on the base to see the twinkling gold leaf cascade around the Christmas scene inside.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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