We've extolled the virtues of Ballantine's Christmas Reserve since it was first released last Christmas- a brilliantly blended whisky from the Sandy Hyslop stable, with all the hallmarks of Christmas thrown in for good measure: Notes of clove, cinnamon, orange peel and rich sherry. It's warming, rich and definitely as festive as hell.
We love to throw flavours and ideas around in the lab (or the 'kitchen' as it is known in most houses) and this Christmas has been no exception. Inspired by possibly the best Mint Julep we've ever had during the Caskstrength Christmas lunch at the JW Steakhouse on Park Lane, we set about concocting a Christmas Cake-inspired julep of our own...
After playing around with different ingredients, we came up with the following recipe, involving a specially made Christmas sugar syrup made thus:
Christmas Sugar Syrup: 2 parts boiling water to 1 part demerara sugar. I made around one litre of this. Stir and once the sugar is dissolved, throw in a few hand fulls of mixed dried fruit (my bag cost around 60p from Morrisons), a cinnamon stick, a shake of nutmeg and a dash of almond flavouring. Leave to cool overnight and strain in to a jug or bottle. This gloopy, dark syrup should taste (and smell) of liquid Christmas cake.
The Caskstrength Mint Julep:
Take a julep cup from the freezer and fill with crushed ice. Add two parts Christmas sugar syrup, one part Ballantines Christmas Reserve, a cap of Monin Pain d'Epices Gingerbread Syrup and stir five times. Top with a dash of angostura bitters, a dusting of cinnamon and some orange zest, or if you're feeling particularly fruity, some orange slices. The perfect Christmas cooler.
And if that's not enough festive flavour, we invited London bar owner Fredrik Olsson of Kosmopol around to the Caskstrength bar to show us a few of his festive cocktail creations, using Ballantine's Christmas Reserve. take a gander at the video below for some rocking' (around the Christmas tree) creations.
Now you may have noticed that such was the power of the Christmas goodness contained in the cocktails, that Joel and I were practically reduced to speaking in Christmas songs.
So as additional bonus - if you can correctly identify three of the classic Christmas songs we mentioned in the piece, we'll send you a bottle of Ballantine's Christmas Reserve! We have three bottles up for grabs.
Send in your answers to: email@example.com
Usual rules apply: include your name, age and most importantly, your address and location in the email. Comp is only open to those over the legal drinking age in your country... Sorry, but them's the rules!
The competition closes at midday on the 28th December, so get counting and we'll select the lucky winners.